They say that Americans — particularly those less well paid than our CEOs — are the hardest workers with more job hours and fewer vacation allowances than any in the developed world.

Each morning a woman or man drops the NY Times outside our apartment door. Occasionally when I hear them coming, I open the door and wish them a good day and they vice versa.  They are in a hurry, I assume, because they have other jobs to get to after delivering the Times which must get them up far before daybreak. Their days conclude when their last job is completed. I know a little how they must feel.  One of my many scholarship jobs back when was delivering the NY Herald Tribune to fellow students at a sleep away school — we had classes six days a week and my days were filled with activities until the lights went out at 10 p.m.  On another occasion I worked two full time jobs simultaneously six days a week — at a scrap metal firm and an aircraft plant — both dangerous and stressful jobs.  It was for me only one long summer, but I slipped below my high school football weight and was pretty exhausted by the time I returned to full time studies. I was not as old as most of our newspaper deliverers who are middle aged at least.

We criticize families for not adequately caring for their children, for violence and substance abuse, for having abortions, for not paying their medical bills which can lead to bankruptcy and the loss of homes and also medical care that may mean loss of life prematurely.  But imagine the stresses — both physical and mental — that increasing numbers of Americans are experiencing.

Back when I was a student, MOST of my fellow Ivy League friends proudly worked in regular blue collar jobs — they paid more then and we wanted to prove that we could do such things.  But I wonder whether we have not been reestablishing the older pattern of class divisions so that our well off have no awareness how it feels to be struggling to make it in a country which is exporting jobs, cutting back health benefits, retirement incomes, etc., etc.?  How sad the resentful rage turned on his fellow Americans by Clarence Thomas — not uncommon among those who have made it from humbling backgrounds.

Maybe we need some sort of revolution — a major economic disaster like the Great Depression to teach more people how it feels to be up against the wall without the means properly to care for one’s own?

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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