10.23.2009

Hard Work VS Delgation of Responsibilities.

After reading an article today over at MSNBC about a 19 year old college student who is seeking to hire his own personal assistant to do his laundry, and drive him to and from classes, I got to thinking. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became with the whole idea of it. Now, a lot of the reactions to it echoed a bit of resentment towards a kid who can't be bothered to do everyday tasks in the vein of "wealthy spoiled brat" insults. However I wasn't bothered by it because he could afford to do so, but rather I was more disturbed by the fact that people were praising him for his entrepreneurial skills and a lot of "Good for him!" responses.

And not because I feel that he is being lazy, which I do. And not because I feel he is incapable, unable, or unwilling to learn how to properly budget his own time as an intro into adulthood. Not because I feel that he is going to get a very rude awakening when he gets a real job, where his bosses expect him to multi-task for them for eighty hours a week, and not being able to delegate his work tasks to a hired assistant. And finally not because I feel that this kid gave up at the first sign that he might break a sweat and couldn't handle it, nor has he even earned the right to be respected as a well-adjusted adult. And not because I feel that maturity and responsibility must be earned and not bought.

No, it's because I feel that failing to experience the struggle and the reward of hard work without the help of someone else actually creates a lack of compassion, empathy, and understanding for the millions of people in this world who must do all of their own work and chores, without help because they cannot afford to hire a personal assistant to do it for them.

I was reminded, almost instantly of a constant conversation - or argument rather - between a group of mothers about the struggles of working out of the home, working from home, and staying at home with regards to balancing that life, and motherhood with all of the domestic responsibilities that accompany it. There was one woman who simply could not comprehend why all of the other women were complaining about how tired and stressful it felt to balance motherhood and careers, and why some women actually chose to drop out of the work force because of that stress. She would say things like "I have a career, a family, and I can do it. It's not that hard, What's wrong with you people?" As well as things like "You are all just lazy whiners. Get a job, it's not that hard to balance motherhood and a career."

Of course, she finally blurted out that she had a full-time maid and a live-in nanny. She finally admitted that her responsibilities included going to work, and playing with her kids when she got home. The maid did all of the domestic work, including the laundry and grocery shopping, preparation of meals, etc... and he Nanny took care of all of the children's needs. And she still simply could not relate to the rest of us - not even after being lambasted with comments like "Well sure it's easy when you have a maid and a nanny." And "Yes, it's rather easy to be a career woman and a mother when you don't actually have to do the work yourself."

And that, right there, is the problem. She had been paying other people to do her "mundane" work for so long that she simply couldn't understand what was wrong with the rest of us. She also couldn't understand why we would be proud to be able to accomplish so much on our own, when "so much" included rearing our children, and washing our own clothes. She could understand the pride associated with doing well at work, but not at home, because she did not understand just how hard it really can be.

And so this 19 year old kid is starting his adult life off, never knowing what it feels like to work hard, to struggle, and to be proud that you did something without the help of someone else. He will never be able to understand what his future employees are going through when they ask for some time off to take care of personal matters, children, or loved ones. He will never understand that having to work as much as most of us do, plus having to work as hard as we do at home will exhaust us.

We will have yet another cold-hearted corporate shark out there, completely oblivious to the realities that many of us face every day. He will not know what "hard work" actually is, because he will delegate anything he doesn't want to do to some poor schmuck willing to make a few bucks doing it, because he is struggling to make ends meet, feed his family, work several jobs, all while washing his own clothes. And when his hired schmuck needs a day off, he will look at him and think "What's wrong with you, this isn't so hard to do..." while completely missing the irony of him not being able to simultaneously handle his own job and his private responsibilities.

So the cycle of abuse continues - and people are out there cheering it on. Fan-freaking-tastic.

And by the way, I feel that I should add a casual observation I came to last night after posting this. If this student's time is so precious that it's better used on things not involving mundane personal responsibility, then why is it that he seems to think that other students, with full class loads, homework, part time jobs, friends or family they'd like to see, and their own laundry to wash has more than enough time to take care of him as well as all of their other responsibilities? Wouldn't their time also be better spent studying rather than driving him to and from class? His time is better spent studying, but their time is better spent pampering him?

What does that tell you about how he sees himself and his importance versus how he views other people's time and importance?

Edit - the link at the top is no longer available - here is a link to the cached version of the story: MSNBC

10 comments:

Tiffany said...

It seems that the inability to comprehend an alien life works both ways and blinds both parties, not just the one who loses sight of the "hard" work. Because anyone who has experienced both sides of the equation is well aware that "hard work" and "menial, mundane labor" aren't synonyms. My first job was cleaning up the shingles roofers tossed to the ground on construction sites; I've worked in restaurants and stocked shelves and cleaned bathrooms and said the same thing over and over and over again on three hundred phone calls a day, and I've worked much harder in the professional world than I ever did in any of those contexts. Simultaneously running a cash register, cleaning tables, waiting tables and seating customers with a smile while fifty people waited in the doorway for one kind of service or the other was a cakewalk compared with creating a bar review course, for instance.

It sounds as if you feel that someone is required to waste a certain amount of time slaving away at tasks that require no skill before he's "earned" the right to make wise decisions about his time. It seems to me that if someone starts out with a knack for algebra, making him sit through years of elementary school math classes because everyone else has to is a waste of everyone's time and energy.

Anok said...

I'm glad you used a math analogy, because no one will have a knack for alegebra if they do not know how to add and subtract. And much like in school - we were not allowed to use a calculator until we could prove that we understand the mathematical concepts we were learning and were able to apply them without the aid of a machine before we were allowed to use them.

If you were teaching your kid to tie her shoes, would you allow her to look at you - without even trying to tie her shoes on her own - and say "Nah, I think I'll let you tie my shoes for me, and you can dock my allowance for your trouble."?

Or would you make her try to do it on her own?

Same goes for this kid. He has to prove to himself and to the world that he is able to take care of himself by himself before he can hire other people to do it for him.

It's time to cut the umbilical cord.

This attitude that doing his own laundry is a waste of his time, and he's too important to do such menial labor does nothing but perpetuate the aristocratic contempt for people who do such menial tasks for themselves - and for a living.

And yes, I've worked in many fields myself - from testing and using insurance law in an office setting (as well as selling it) to waiting tables, to laying carpet, to teaching, and tutoring. Sorry, but hard work is hard work. While waiting tables may not work your brain (if you work in a slow restaurant) it DOES kill your body. So does any physical labor.


I mean, if it's not that hard to do, as you imply in your response why then can he not do it himself? If it's not that important, why do it at all? Oh, wait, because it has to get done because it's actually more important than people like this kid are willing to admit.

He's 19, he's a kid, he's not so important that he can't get his hands dirty, and show himself that he is a grown up capable of balancing a very MINIMAL schedule and two or three basic responsibilities.

My God, if he can't even handle that much, he is in real trouble.

Hectocotylus said...

"This attitude that doing his own laundry is a waste of his time, and he's too important to do such menial labor does nothing but perpetuate the aristocratic contempt for people who do such menial tasks for themselves - and for a living."

Perfectly said. It reminds me of what Tennessee Williams wrote in his essay The Catastrophe of Success:

"For me a convenient place to work is a remote place among strangers where there is good swimming. But life should require a certain minimal effort. You should not have too many people waiting on you, you should have to do most things for yourself. Hotel service is embarrassing. Maids, waiters, bellhops, porters and so forth are the most embarrassing people in the world for they continually remind you of inequities which we accept as the proper thing. The sight of an ancient woman, gasping and wheezing as she drags a heavy pail of water down a hotel corridor to mop up the mess of some drunken overprivileged guest, is one that sickens and weighs upon the heart and withers it with shame for this world in which it is not only tolerated but regarded as proof positive that the wheels of Democracy are functioning as they should without interference from above or below. Nobody should have to clean up anybody else’s mess in this world. It is terribly bad for both parties, but probably worse for the one receiving the service."

Anok said...

Wow Hecto - what a great quote! It reminds me of a point I should have put into the post itself - but I do feel that in some way hiring other people to take care of your responsibilities before you've even had an opportunity to see if you can do it, or hired people for so long that you've forgotten if you can do it creates a feeling of inadequacy that is masked by money.

For example, ever seen a middle aged man in a new corvette (or with a REALLY big house? The first thought to come to mind is "over compensation!".

So too with people who have servants for their daily needs. But they wind up convincing themselves that they are doing the right thing, while us poor schleps are inherently lazy because we don't have jobs that pay well enough to hire our own maids, and then label our criticisms as "jealousy".

Or, teh school yard bully syndrome.

Dave Dubya said...

This speaks directly to the issue of character. This guy cannot evolve into a respectful courteous human being.

We can see a future Republican in this dweeb.

Furthermore I bet he hires someone to do his homework as well.

Mike Gogulski said...

Not to detract in the least from the main thesis here, one for which I have a lot of sympathy, but:

DAMN the state and its machinations for our glorious global ruling class, that we don't have humaniform domestic robots taking care of the mundane for us already. So long as humans are cheap, they will be exploitable. Optimism wants me to find ways out of that.

Ryan said...

So Anok, do you propose that this be banned and made illegal? The fact of the matter is that he has the liberty to do so.

Also to the point is the fact that you contradicted yourself regarding the future work habits of this particular individual. You stated,"I feel he is incapable, unable, or unwilling to learn how to properly budget his own time as an intro into adulthood. Not because I feel that he is going to get a very rude awakening when he gets a real job, where his bosses expect him to multi-task for them for eighty hours a week, and not being able to delegate his work tasks to a hired assistant." After that you said, "We will have yet another cold-hearted corporate shark out there, completely oblivious to the realities that many of us face every day. He will not know what "hard work" actually is."

These two statements are mutually exclusive; he will either succeed in corporate life, or he won't. If he succeeds it will be due to his ability to work hard and handle stress, thus relating him to your ethereal "common man".

You cannot declare him a success and failure in business "a la vez".

Anok said...

Actually Ryan I don't find filing papers, making phone calls, or running errands to be hard work at all, even when they are done simultaneously - it will simply cost him his job if he can't budget his time correctly, and do what his boss wants.

I particularly will not find it hard for him if he outsources his other responsibilities on a constant basis. He will be in that position for a year or two, and then with help will advance up to a position where all of his work is done by someone else.

Everyone else in the world has to take care of themselves for their entire lives, plus work hard, back-breaking jobs - he will have had to multi-task at work for a few years, and then back to "delegating responsibility".

He's already out of touch with the people who will be working under him one day - two years of getting coffee on his boss's desk while making his appointments will not change that for him.

There are millions of people in this world who bust their asses, work hard, take care of themselves, and stretch themselves as thin as possible to make life work. When people like that ask for help (physical or financial) they're told to "Stop looking for handouts, freeloaders!" and "Work harder, don't be so lazy!" And if, if they get the opportunity to hire someone to come in and help them once a month they're accused of "What, you can't afford insurance but you can hire a maid?!" ignoring the fact that the maid costs $20 a month and is helping out because the parent is already working two jobs and simply can't get to it.

But a kid like this who asks for help because he can't handle making his own bed, or driving his own car for himself is patted on the back for "delegating responsibility".

And would I make it illegal? No, what I would like to see are parents who stop spoiling their children to the point where the child can't barely conceive of tying their own shoes with the hand of hired help....

You apparently support this kid's decision, however. I wonder how many times you've told someone else who was handling two jobs, a family, their own responsibilities - not to hire some help - but to get off their lazy ass and work harder....and to shut up about it, too.

Anok said...

Oh, and to add, I am not declaring him a success and failure in business.

I'm declaring him a failure at life, period.

streamfortyseven said...

The one thing I haven't been able to figure out about anarchists is that they rail up and down against "wave slavery", and talk endlessly about the alienation of labor and the evils of capitalism, then equate success with the willingness and ability to work 80 hours a week for a tyrannical boss (instead of 80 hours a week in a worker-run cooperative or some other non-hierarchical non-authoritarian business model).