“Stop stealing my dream!” an older man said one day. He had become so frustrated that he let go of his restraints and said this to a crowd of younger workers. He had noticed an unhealthy decline in the work ethic of each successive generation. He had also noted that as the desire to work hard decreased the idea of entitlement increased. At the time of this final straw moment the man was looking out at those who would be the age of his grandchildren.
George had come to this country with nothing in his pocket but a handful of pluck and the promise of the American dream. Ted Ownby in his 1999 work American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture 1830-1998 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999), wrote of four dreams George and countless others would have had when arriving on the eastern shores of America.
The first was the “Dream of Abundance” offering a cornucopia of material goods to all Americans, making them proud to be the richest society on earth. The second was the “Dream of a Democracy of Goods” whereby everyone had access to the same products regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, thereby challenging the aristocratic norms of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury. The “Dream of Freedom of Choice” with its ever expanding variety of good allowed people to fashion their own particular lifestyle. Finally, the “Dream of Novelty”, in which ever-changing fashions, new models, and unexpected new products broadened the consumer experience in terms of purchasing skills and awareness of the market, and challenged the conservatism of traditional society and culture, and even politics.
George had worked hard and long hours to establish his business, build his home, and secure a future for his family. Now he looked around and saw that it was being taken for granted. The new generation of laborers simply wanted a paycheck without the associated work. They immediately wanted the homes it took their parents years to acquire, and the luxuries it took a lifetime to attain. George notes the following:
1. No one appears to have a career any longer. He had started in a business and stayed until the day he retired in the same job. It seems today that people have a job but are not committed to seeing it through. They will chase the fantasy of money and luxury through the promise of new jobs and opportunities.
2. There is a reduction in work effort and quality. George understood he was cut from a different cloth, so to speak. However, workers today complain on Mondays about coming to work and day-dream on Fridays as they watch the clock for quitting time. The work week has gone from 5 days to 3 days.
3. Misappropriation of time. So many workers today spend much time trying to do one of two things. The first deals with the attempt to find new and different ways to accomplish the task at hand instead of doing the task at hand. George thought, “If the same effort was spent just doing the work as is spent trying to get out of the work we could take over the industry.” Secondly, so much of the day was wasted as he watched the cell phones and computers being used for personal communication taking away from the work being done. People have a difficult time focusing and concentrating as the ring tones and buzzers keep stealing their attention.
At the next company meeting, George read two verses of scripture and began to gently address the issues at hand. He spoke on conviction and commitment, effort and ethic, and focus and attention. He wasn’t sure who listened, but he would reward those who, through their behavior, revealed they did.
The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense.
The slacker craves, yet has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied.