Blog Challenge, Reflections

A Simple Glass of Water

Welcome to Day #7 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.] I hope you’re enjoying Labor Day today. Maybe it’s warm where you are, so sit down, relax, and have yourself a cool glass of water.


While you’re at it, have you ever really thought about that glass of water?

The glass itself. The work involved. How did the water arrive into your home? Did it arrive without any hoopla through a faucet and at a temperature of your liking? From where did the water originate?

Except during times of extreme environmental events, we rarely think about the everyday conveniences and luxuries that regularly surround us. Our cars. Our homes. The roads that take us wherever we want to travel. The parking lots we utilize. What too of the streetlights that guide our way in darkest night, and take us to sporting events, hotels, concerts, airports? Dressed for a night out, and enjoying a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, rarely is the process of where our food and our clothing come from served alongside the entree.

But today is Labor Day and it’s a celebration of the unsung heroes that, given the industry and technology of their time, have strived to make all of our lives comfortable. A U.S. federal holiday established in 1894, Labor Day honors the American Labor Movement and the accomplishments as well as the sacrifices of the working people. In particular, the laborers and tradespeople who constructed the towns and cities, the buildings and skyscrapers, and the utilities that connect and support us. Labor Day honors extend further to all workers who provide services and contribute to the forward progress of the country, and to the unions whose established role it was to insure fair and safe working conditions.

But sadly there has never been an easy relationship between tradespeople and office (or white-collar) workers. Pre-judgments of intelligence – or lack there of – and questions of ability cloud the truth. It always leaves me exasperated when the topic of education is discussed. Hurtful and not always so subtle hints are made in reference to tradespeople like “Trade school is for the dummies.”

The trades frequently include many very highly skilled positions. I come from a family of tradespeople, brilliant people in so many ways. Some of the most intelligent people I have known have been tradespeople. These are people who work with their hands, solving problems, creating things, and fixing broken systems. They were – and are – the original maker movement. They are often the visual-spatial people who see in pictures and have deeply creative, practical, and monumental ideas.

I guess it’s obvious that I’m very touchy when this topic arises, as there is repeatedly a move towards college and university for all students. College and university have their definite roles with specific career choices, but way too often the role of college is nebulous. At $100-200K+, a clearer role is needed. College is currently a standard prerequisite of many places of employment, regardless of whether the education obtained in the college was directly needed for the position. Some college experiences are even becoming one of remedial education when K-12 sometimes drops the ball on their own responsibilities.

More vocational colleges (i.e. trade colleges) are a better option as well as more direct apprenticeship opportunities with guarantees of decent and high paying jobs. The trades built our country and in times of economic crisis (like during the Great Depression) it was the trades that brought countless people jobs and an honest living and led to amazing progress. It was also a time of creativity in art through the WPA.

The trades can be a force in our economic crisis today. Unemployment still stands around 5.5%, some improvements, but still with factory closings and many trade jobs outsourced to other countries. Some countries in Europe have always been far more supportive of apprenticeships than has the U.S.

Of course, one can state a rebuttal by saying, “But labor was exactly what led to the environmental crisis, the over-dependence of oil, the crowded cities, the health effects of pollutants.” No one’s arguing the connections, but hindsight, as they say is 20-20. We can say similar things today, in part watching the enlarging mountains of toxic technology waste burden the developing countries.

We’re in a period now when technology can and should work closely with industry with an eye to the future and the health of the planet. Greener cars. Greener houses. Greener energy. Both sides offer skillsets that, like pieces of a puzzle, must come together to make things work. The strength of our country and in the human race is in its diversity.

Still, we sometimes forget the meaning of Labor Day. The end result of a long history of well-known events including: The Chicago Haymarket Affair (1866), and The Southwest Railroad Strike (1886), The Pennsylvania Homestead Strike (1892), The Pullman Strike (1894), The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911), and The Coal Strikes (1902 & 1946).

Labor Day.

It’s a day specifically for the cause of the workingman and workingwoman. Their safety. Their livelihoods. Their pride in a job well done. For those who rely on unions to protect them, here is a Labor Day musical tribute including this song by the incomparable Pete Seeger, entitled Solidarity Forever:

And the next time you have a simple glass of water, take a moment. Think about that water and the path that was required to arrive to you. Sip it slowly and wonder what would happen if that luxurious convenience vanished tomorrow.

If we’re not careful, it and so much else may indeed vanish before we know it.

[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]