Working Class Pride
Work is a necessity
Work is both a human and economic necessity. It is the foundation of contemporary society. Our houses, schools, hospitals, and farms are all the result of human labor. Our art and technology are all developed through work. Products and services designed to improve our quality of life have come into being as a result of labor. To participate in work is a very human and positive experience. The attitude that work is distasteful arises from straining our minds and bodies through the sale of our labor in exchange for wages. When this is necessary, work seems dull and unimaginative. Work is not inherently oppressive, however. Someone once called play the work they are not required to do. Meaningful work is as much a fundamental need as food and water—we are nurtured and fulfilled by it.
I was born in a working class family. My father lived on a farm as a boy, and he owned a delivery business in his adult life. His early life instilled in him a strong work ethic, and he encouraged us to put forth our best effort in anything we did. We were provided for although he was not a wealthy man. When his salary was no longer sufficient to meet our needs, my mother found a job and combined her income with his. My older sister contributed her time to household duties and helping to care for my brother and me. These circumstances shaped my character, and I remain very much a product of the working class lifestyle we lived in.
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Proud to be a working class man
Working for a living
My childhood and adult years have been spent in a working class environment. There have been periods in my life when I have had more money than I’ve needed to survive, and on other occasions I have struggled. I am now more than 50 years old and, at a time when many are reaping the benefits of their work, I still struggle. I carry on with my best efforts, but age has diminished my abilities to a small degree. I lack the seemingly limitless energy I enjoyed as a younger man, and I am often mentally and physically exhausted from my tasks. I have sometimes felt sad and discouraged because I have not made myself more of a financial success, but I eventually realized I have done nothing wrong. I’m not at fault because I am not a millionaire. No one is to “blame” for struggling through a difficult economic climate—including me. No one who has lived in a poor or working class environment has any reason to feel shame—the ability to survive under such conditions is a testament to intelligence and courage.
Working class men and women have a great many strengths to be praised and admired for. Because we live in a competitive society, those with fewer material possessions sometimes cannot help but feel they have let themselves and their loved ones down. They might see themselves as a failure and believe they lack the qualities that make others a success. This perspective is fundamentally flawed. Working class men and women have much strength of character.
Working class men and women:
--model the efficient use of natural resources. We are not wasteful or extravagant. We know where our money goes and spend for things we genuinely need. We save what is extra for use in the future.
--have a strong sense of responsibility. We understand the importance of meeting our responsibilities to employers, our families and our communities. We take our obligations very seriously and are extremely persistent in meeting our commitments.
--are innovative and resourceful. We are able to find new and unique ways to achieve our goals, often with few tools at our disposal. Our lives demonstrate great creativity—the way we live can often be defined as a work of art.
--know how to survive. We have an awareness of our own strength and display great common sense in meeting life’s challenges. Our tenacity allows us to persevere against great odds. We are resilient and not easily deterred.
--can count on each other in times of crisis. We share what we have with those in greater need, putting people over material things. Despite being placed in positions where we are expected to compete with others for jobs and promotions, we are able to overcome our competitive instincts and reach out to those in need.
--have an ability to have fun without money. We are able to take great pleasure in simple things and don’t need to spend money to enjoy ourselves. We find expression in song and dance. We bask in the beauty of nature. We revel in the company of family and friends.
Poor and working class people comprise the majority of the world’s population. We are young and old(er) men and women. We are members of every race, ethnic group and faith. We are the most diverse group of people in the history of mankind. Our common bonds are that we live by selling our ability to work (whether that work is unskilled or very skilled) to someone else and are compensated in the form of wages. We usually do not own the products of our efforts or decide how our labor is utilized. These sometimes harsh realities should not be viewed as a reason for shame. We can take pride in our accomplishments, recognizing that much of the world’s resources have come from our efforts. We can rejoice in our strength and ability to care for each other. We can celebrate our gifts and look to the future with optimism.
This article is not about class issues. It is not a question of poor people looking at rich folks with disdain or envy. This is not an article about politics. It is about working class pride. It is about recognizing men and women as brothers and sisters and helping others when they need it. It is about looking in a mirror and seeing someone strong and proud staring back at them. It is about knowing there will be better days ahead, and the change will come through strength, persistence and tenacity.
This article is a celebration.
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