Get Any Job That Teaches You to Show Up on Monday

Politico offers a headline calculated and designed to make you hate Newt Gingrich more than you already do: Newt: Fire the janitors, hire kids to clean schools. And when you click it open and actually read it from top to bottom, you find the former House Speaker is making all kinds of sense, no wonder they want him gone. Hey Politico! Yeah, there is someone I trust a little tiny bit less than I did three minutes ago, but it ain’t Newt Gingrich.

He added, “You go out and talk to people, as I do, you go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job between nine and 14 years of age. They all were either selling newspapers, going door to door, they were doing something, they were washing cars.”

Annoy a Liberal: Succeed“They all learned how to make money at a very early age,” he said. “What do we say to poor kids in poor neighborhoods? Don’t do it. Remember all that stuff about don’t get a hamburger flipping job? The worst possible advice you could give to poor children. Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday. Get any job that teaches you to stay all day even if you are in a fight with your girlfriend. The whole process of making work worthwhile is central.”

Newt is still in recovery mode with me after the couch commercial with Pelosi. Diggin’ himself out of a hole, but doing a very respectable job of it. His comments here, from the tippy top all the way to the bottom, make rock solid perfect sense. And he’s calling out a problem that, if unattended and allowed to fester further, can be expected to do us incalculable damage. There’s a mindset that is creeping in, in fact has been creeping in for a number of decades by now, that “kids” should not be doing anything at any time of the day that they wouldn’t choose to do, even if they’re getting paid to do it, and if ever they’re deprived of the option of just getting up & walking off to something they’d prefer to be doing then that’s some kind of abuse. Therefore, work just has to be completely out of the question.

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Ironically, I notice it’s common for girls of tender age to be working at something, although their problem is a little bit different. They get stuck in retail. We love the idea of girls going to college to get an education that will make them independent, but name a course she can take that will lead to a promising, practical career, and you will have hit on an idea that is still anomalous today. We still have it in mind that girls should go to college — to take silly stuff for their coursework. Not engineering or architecture; and, if that is the case, only because it’s some kind of a “program” or other event that’s supposed to inflate the reputation of somebody else, not because she’s shown an aptitude for it. You have a daughter who’s coming of age, you want her to work, if she’s pretty you just make sure word reaches something somewhere with a phone or a cash register, and you’re done. The businesses want pretty girls by the phones and cash registers. The point is not that things are easy for girls, by any means, or for their parents; the point is that you have to get creative and imaginative with boys. Cradle to crypt, our males are given stronger and more plentiful incentives to be lazy.

I’ve noticed over the years we have a lot of people who talk about “rooting for the underdog” who, when you get to know them a little bit better, you find they’re just describing the way they relate to people. For instance, you ask them about the friends and acquaintances they have and ask them to describe each one, you’ll get back a whole bunch of weaknesses. She’s allergic to shrimp. He has PTSD. They’ve both been out of work since last January, she just scored something part-time but I’m worried sick about him. Their kid just got busted for a DUI. That one has ADD, that other one is an insomniac, he’s got dyslexia, she’s screwing every guy in town. It’s a wonderful way of looking at life if you want life to be a soap opera, and I guess maybe that’s what’s going on here.

But what’s the stereotype of soap opera watchers? Housewives, retirees, unemployed people who have reached some state of contentment with being unemployed. They’ve got some system of subsistence going, that had to be set up in the first place and therefore required some nominal level of problem-solving skill; perhaps most taxingly in the case of the housewives. But they’re all done with that and are tuning in now for some “junk food TV.” As for what they do while they watch the soaps, the stereotype is divided between those who are folding laundry and those who just veg out. But the stereotype is united on the idea that their brains are all turning to mush, and I consider the stereotype accurate on this point. Watching soaps turns your brain to mush. Looking at people as fascinating little portraits of weakness and dysfunction, turns your brain to mush. We are wired to become whatever we watch.

People look at other people as vessels of strength, when they must. See, that’s the lesson. Once again, our challenges mold and shape the way we look at life, and the profile of aptitudes and talents we develop in response to those challenges. The prospective employer who is hiring someone to do a job, and has a tough time finding the right person for whatever reason, nurses a fascinating amalgamation of hope and despair. Hope, out of necessity — this thing has got to get done, it’s well within the perimeter of known human achievement, therefore there has to be someone out there who can do it. Despair, because of the seemingly endless journey involved in finding that person, the sheer quantity of frogs that have to be kissed to find the prince, you might say. But through the process of interviewing people and seeing one candidate after another who isn’t up to the task, without even being consciously aware of it he’s being given an incentive to ask the most productive of questions in human relationships: What can you do? It’s the antithesis of the soap-opera-viewer’s way of looking at life. Some people can tell you what their friends can do, and other people can tell you what their friends can’t do. He can fix my car. He can build brick walls. He can wash windows. He’s my butcher, he’s my baker, he’s my candlestick maker. Versus…the aforementioned…he can’t drive, she can’t spell, he can’t eat salty food, he can’t do math, she has a phobia, so-and-so doesn’t like such-and-such and won’t eat it.

Liberalism is not a political ideology. It is a whole different way of looking at life and the people who live it. It is despair.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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