No matter how advanced our technology is, we still depend on people who can build and fix and fight. We who cannot do these things shouldn’t be so stupid and suicidal as to despise the people who can.
Some people like to say that the United States has evolved into a “creative economy.” By that, they mean that we don’t manufacture a lot of things, but we invent them, and new ways to use them. So, for example, the MacBook Air I’m typing this on was invented in Cupertino, but manufactured in China, and I’m using it to write a book, which will be sold on Amazon.com, a company that has created a new kind of relationship between writers and readers.
Fair enough. But while I have no idea what percentage of Americans make their living in the “creative economy” (I count myself blessed to be one of them), I suspect that it isn’t more than ten percent or so. It is, however, the ideal for those who work in it, and many who aspire to. We feel liberated, enlightened, and evolved. We are much cleverer than the uncreative types. Yeah us!
Far more Americans work in government and service jobs. They teach school or work in restaurants or retail stores. But in their free time they surf on their smart phones, and aspire to do something creative. Lots of us want to live in gleaming cities full of smart electronics powered by clean energy, surrounded by flat screens suggesting brands to our hungry consumer dreams. Few of us want to do something dirty or dangerous, see anything dirty or dangerous, or be reminded that all of this only exists because some people do things that are dirty or dangerous.
But we want our devices to power up. We want our heating and air conditioning to work every time. We want our planes to stay in the air and our poop to flush away, never to be seen again. We want the seas to be safe and tourists not to be kidnapped or blown up in some equatorial resort.
All of these things require people who can do more than type on a MacBook, or build websites, or pick interior colors. Our creative economy rests on those who can build and fix and fight. We had better not despise them. Not because they might revolt, but because we need more of them. If we don’t honor what they do, our kids will continue to aspire to doing anything except building, fixing, and fighting. Then they’ll be importing guest workers to keep the power on and the poop flushing while we sit in coffee houses and play games on iPhones paid for by government benefits. We’ll become what large swaths of Europe have become. That is not a stable or prosperous future.
© Greg Smith, 2013