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We're All Blue Collar Now

by The Cranky Media Guy

My Dad fixed appliances for a living.  He was the living definition of "blue collar".  He wore a Westinghouse shirt with a literal blue collar for most of his working life.   If the company could have figured out a way to do without him and his fellow repairmen, they would have canned all of them in a heartbeat.  He was a small cog in a very large wheel and he knew it.  He didn't like it, but he understood it.  He knew exactly where he stood on the totem pole of work: at the bottom.  He was not alone, of course.  All the guys he worked with were in the same boat, representing a sort of Blue Collar Brotherhood, if you will.

Maybe you went to college and took business courses so that you wouldn't end up like my Dad.  Maybe you have a nice little cubicle, maybe even an actual office, of your very own.  You shuffle papers and issue memos.  No grease monkey repairman shit for you.  No sir, you're not blue collar!  I've got news for you.  In today's economy, we're all blue collar!

Ever spend any time in Washington, D.C.?  If you ever get the chance, ride the D.C. Metro some weekday morning around 8:30 AM.  Pay attention as you ride.  All around you you'll see people in business attire heading to work.  Nice, clean-cut American white-collar workers, every last one of them.  And a more miserable bunch of humans you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere.  No, none of them get their hands dirty fixing some crappy beat-up washing machine like my old man did, but on a daily basis, they exchange little pieces of their soul for dead presidents. 

They shuffle off to their jobs at Labor, or Defense or Agriculture or one of the thousands of businesses that supply those bureaucracy-fabricating plants, knowing on some level of their subconscious that their job has absolutely nothing to do with them as a person. They are just the ass in the seat at the moment. Like a light bulb, the day they burn out, another one will be screwed in in their place. 

At least the government workers are essentially guaranteed employment until the last day they muster up the energy to drag their wrinkled ass home on the train.  Workers in private industry have no such guarantee.  AOL buys Warner Brothers.  Warner Brothers buys EMI Records.  If the office staff at EMI isn't using company time to mass-Xerox their resumes right about now, they're pretty friggin' stupid.  The smart money says the S.S. Downsizing is heading toward Port EMI.  I mean, how big does the handwriting on the wall have to be?  Hey, EMI People, start stealing the staplers and Wite-Out now before you get told to clear out your desk by 5 PM. 

It's the same in the field for which the Cranky Media Guy is best-known: radio. Radio personalities used to be thought of as professionals ...Artists, even. But now that everything is owned by huge corporations, air "talent" is seen as an unnecessary burden -- an expense the company would like to get rid of. Once upon a time, you were hired because you were a unique, creative personality and would do things nobody else would do; now you're hired because you sound exactly like everyone else and because you wouldn't dream of doing anything "different" that might scare management. But no matter how much you kiss management ass, and no matter how hard you try to avoid rocking the boat, the second they can replace you with a computer, you're gone, Buddy!

I've never had the "privilege" of having a job where management brought in a motivational speaker to address the troops.  From what I've read about those sordid little affairs, they give you a lot of crap about how the company is like a family.  Um, you know any families that get sold to other families and then cut a bunch of relatives loose?  Me neither, so let's be honest and admit that that ubiquitous "family" metaphor is a bunch of shit.  Anyone who thinks that wearing a Wal-Mart "Hello, my name is..." tag makes them a member of a "family" is somewhat on the dim side.  (Have you ever noticed the relationship between how much a given company stresses that "family" crap in their advertising and how lousy the jobs there actually are?  I'm thinking McDonalds and Wal-Mart here. If those are "families", I picturing them living in a trailer park and eating a lot of government cheese.)  If modern business could be said to resemble any family, it would be the Sopranos, with a mother (upper management) who smiles in your face and tells you how much she loves you while she's secretly planning to have you whacked (downsized).

But, no, none of this applies to you.  You're the hot, young, up-and-coming junior loan officer at your bank branch. Your desk is third from the door.  You have a little statue your daughter gave you sitting on it.  It features an adorable tyke of indeterminable gender in drooping pants with his/her arms outstretched above the inscription, "I wuv you THIS much!"  Nah, you're not going anywhere.

Oops, what's this in the business section of the paper?  "Third National acquired by InterBank," reads the headline.  Buried in the eighth paragraph of the story is, "InterBank officials said that dozens of Third National branches would be closed in what they termed a 'necessary restructuring'.  Wall Street analysts applauded the merger and InterBank stock rose 3 and one-eighth within an hour of the announcement."

My Dad went to work every day knowing that, because he was blue collar, he was expendable. He had one of those "diaper" bosses know, full of shit and always on your ass. They used the mushroom style of management: Keep you in the dark, throw shit on you, and if you get too big, they cut your head off.  Starting to sound familiar, huh? 

You see,  thanks to the New Economy, we're all blue collar.  Welcome to the Brotherhood, Brother!




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