Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why Work

I am currently reading “Why Work? The Perceptions of a ‘Real Job’ and the Rhetoric of Work through the Ages.” I am reading this as I continue to seek answers to many questions I have regarding Americans and their working habits. This book is a great starting point because it quotes from so many other books on the subject. I now have many more books I want to read on the subject.

I really like the chapter on Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. The chapter contrasts the two leaders’ philosophies on work, but I tend to agree with both of them so far. The following is a quote that I appreciate. I think it puts words to many of the ideals I have adopted over the last 10 years. Maybe the word adopted is a bit strong because I haven’t always put them into practice perfectly.

In a speech to the youth of his day, Du Bois asked them to consider certain ideals, including the ideal of poverty, the exact opposite of the ideal of wealth which is promoted in the United States. Let them seek a simple life, he argued. The second ideal is the ideal of work, which he explained as putting every effort into what is worth doing. The third is the ideal of knowledge. He instructed students to question the taken-for granted even if it is religious dogma. He encouraged critical systematic and creative thinking. Finally he discussed the ideal of sacrifice, the kind where one surrenders personal ease and gratification for the betterment of humanity.