One recent morning while getting ready for work, I overheard a news broadcast in which a grown man, the subject of the story, was sobbing uncontrollably into his iPhone. The backstory was that he had recently qualified for a Professional Golfing Association event and he was sharing this news with his father. Between convulsions of weeping and gasps for breath, he was able to exclaim that, at last, all the hard work had paid off and his dream had come true.
While this may be a standard "feel good" story for mass consumption, I was left puzzled. In what conceivable universe is playing or practicing golf "hard work"? Did this young man push himself to the edge of collapse, day after day, at the driving range? Did he struggle to find the strength to get out of bed every morning to walk another 18 holes? Were his knees and back completely shot from the endless hours on the practice green? I struggled to understand what he meant by "hard work."
I read somewhere that former President Obama used the term "hard work" over three hundred times while he was in office. Obama might have a passing knowledge of hard work — that is, he may have happened across someone, somewhere who was working hard, but it was not he, and it is unlikely that he observed it in Washington.
Or maybe I misunderstand the term. Perhaps the term has come to mean something else. It might be that in Obama's world, and the world of our aspiring golfer, hard work means effort, no matter how minimal the exertion, put forth to attain a goal. But this is different from the traditional meaning in our culture.
In Ayn Rand's classic novel The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is an architect asked to compromise his principles for a lucrative design contract. For Roark, conforming to the establishment would mean destroying his essence; it would negate who he was as a man. Instead, he took a job operating a pneumatic drill in a stone quarry, work that is dirty, dangerous, and backbreaking. Most people today, including Obama and our aspiring golfer, would find that work beneath them.
While there is much to disagree with regarding Ayn Rand's worldview, she understood the value and dignity of hard work. There is a reason Roark is placed on a rockface with a 45-pound drill in his hand and sweat pouring off his body. Rand understood our innate respect for hard work and the people who do it. But what happens when we lose that respect, and we no longer value the people who do it? In a postmodern Obama world, all work is considered "hard," and all people are "hard workers."
In another literary analogy, consider the horse from Orwell's Animal Farm. I cannot recall if the horse had a name, but I do remember that it was in the horse's innermost nature to work — and work hard. The horse works itself almost to death building a tower for the glory and honor of the farm, only to be sold to the knackers upon the project's completion.
When we cease to recognize and honor hard work, the people who do the work are disposable or replaceable. In America, that replacement has been in progress for generations through illegal immigration.
"They do the work Americans don't want to do" is the often repeated pro–illegal immigration refrain, and it is largely correct. Young Americans, for the most part, do not want to do the hard work. Few have any experience or interest in jobs that require physical exertion and exposure to risk. Due to decades of illegal immigration, the pay has become low and the esteem even lower. Finding a young, healthy man to enter the trades for twenty dollars an hour is nearly impossible.
What are the consequences of the continued devaluation of hard work? What will happen when we raise another generation of YouTubers and TikTokers who measure their contributions to society in likes and followers? The answer is obvious to those who can see it: Antifa, BLM, more illegal immigration, and a decadent society that loses any sense of purpose.
Think back to the summer of 2020, with its riots, arson, and looting. Remember the images of young people tearing down statues. In contrast, imagine a generation steeped in the concept of self-respect earned from the blood and sweat of hard work. Our country may need professional golfers and politicians, but at this moment in history, we need a renewed sense of value that esteems and expects hard work.
Chris Boland can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Two skilled workers helping to build America’s Arsenal of Democracy, 1942. Library of Congress.
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