The Blue-Collar Gospel

Here, from America’s Newspaper of Record, is a story that touches my heart.

Blue-collar work, whether it’s planting shrubs, pounding nails, tuning engines or laying bricks, can be just as rewarding as carrying a briefcase. In fact, it can be a whole lot more rewarding, if you’re not the sedentary type, or if the alternative is a corporate purgatory of cubicles brimming with spreadsheets and quiet desperation.

Boston landscaper Joe Lamacchia (When did “gardener” beome “landscaper”? What was wrong with “gardener”? It’s an honest old English word — the OED has a citation from AD 1300 … Never mind …) loves his blue-collar work and wants to proselytize.

“We don’t all want to sit in cubicles, pushing paper, working in middle-management jobs, traveling around the country for business meetings,” he writes. “I want more people to think about the alternatives and realize that you can be proud about going into a trade. A blue-collar career can be a choice that you feel good about as opposed to a fallback option.”

Joe has a website to spread the message, and now he also has a book out:  Blue Collar and Proud of It.

We’re on our way to 400 million people in this country by 2050. That’s a lot of apartments, houses, roads, bridges, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of the country’s falling apart at the seams. The secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood, was on the radio a couple months ago and said, “America’s become one big pothole.”

There’s a lot of work … It’s an exciting time. I tell people, if you’re 35 and you’re in the cubicle, don’t wait 10 years, because right now is the time.

This is of course heretical. Current orthodoxy dictates that every American has four years of college (and the corresponding quarter-million-dollar millstone of student loans) as his birthright, followed by that paper-shuffling bogus job in cube #479. For blue-collar jobs, we import people. If God had intended us to skip college and go work with our hands, why did He create Mexico?

Following on from similar books by authors preaching the blue-collar gospel — Charles MurrayMatt Crawford — this gets us a little closer to bursting the preposterous, middle-class-bankrupting, nation-wrecking education bubble (43,300 hits on Google for “education bubble”).

[Post reporter]  You like to cite a 2004 study in the UK, where blue-collar workers were found to be the happiest of all employees. What do you think is behind that?

[Joe]  It’s a nice life! If you’re a skilled craftsman, you can pick up your tools and go work anywhere you want. We’re not living out of a suitcase, we’re not out at the airport. We’re home in the evening for our kid’s Little League game, for our daughter’s play. These are great jobs.

I think about this a lot; partly on behalf of my bright, personable, and healthy, but deeply un-academic son, who I think, barring some dramatic character change during his high-school career (just started), would likely be happier and more useful to society in a trade than in a cube. Also on behalf of myself, though. With luck I have twenty years of working life ahead of me. I have no inclination to retire, being ungregarious and having no taste for golf, bridge, Florida, or watching TV. Writing doesn’t pay worth a damn. I have re-wired my house, and believe I’d make a capable and happy electrician. Have I left it too late to start? How long are the apprenticeships? Any readers in the electrical trade care to offer advice? Or give me a pass into the union?

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