I have, in the past, been unconvinced that people had a personal responsibility when it came to what job they choose to do. I wasn't sure one way or the other. The obvious example being whether the executioner has a responsibility to refuse to do his job in that it is amoral, doesn't overly compel me as valid or bunk. I've recently changed my mind on this based on two phenomena.

For the first, I'll provide a bit of backstory. I work across the street from the US Government Federal Buildings in Oakland. Entities in these buildings have fleets of cars that they use to do whatever it is they do. Most days when I arrive at work later than 8, and park in the parking garage, I'll see, just on my walk to the elevator at least 2 or 3 people, in these government cars, in the parking garage, parked, with the engine running, listening to music. At first I thought this was some kind of fluke, but it's fairly consistent. As far as I can tell, these people are hanging out in running cars in a garage because they can and it means they don't have to work. The gas doesn't cost them anything.

The second is that I often see, as you probably do too, people with the gasoline engine backpack and the blower, blowing leaves around some massive corporate landscape project. It seems every corporate office park has this these days, and downtown Oakland is no exception.

I guess my thoughts are that when one ends up in these types of situations, where this is part of what one does every day, that there has to be a point where the individual stops and says, "This is wrong. I'm not going to do it anymore." I guess the part where it gets tough is the line where this is appropriate, since we all, well no, many of us, exist on this gradient, I mean I do. What I do is wrong, I feel just less so in degree.


  • Dianna says:

    Just to be clear: in the case of the people in the government cars, are you condemning them for wage fraud for slacking during working hours, or for wasting a limited resource by running the cars?

  • jason says:

    I think the guy who blows leaves has one of the hardest jobs in the world. Could you imagine wearing that thing on your back for hours on end, having to deal with the daily disappointment that it wasn´t a real jet pack?
    Walk a mile in the other guy´s Air Jordans, Gene, before you decide whether or not the pump still works.

  • dr v says:

    I’m with gene on the first example but can’t really get behind the second one. The guys that blow leaves are typically illegal immigrants working for bottom of the barrel wages. Their personal responsibility doesn’t really play in because they probably don’t have other options to earn a living.

    Also, I think that the leadership of a company or government has to be the example in terms of corruption and meritism. If a companys board members and senior management is involved in corruption scandals or cronyism, I think it undermines the morale at a company in a big way and people don’t hold themselves to a high moral standard. When you look at our current federal government — so corrupt it’s almost unprecedented — it’s hard to imagine that the federal workers morale is anything but low.

    If the government hired upper management that was hawkish on efficiency, it would eventually filter down to the bottom and everyone would have to shape up. Still, I think those guys that run the cars listening to the radio should be fired and/or beaten.

  • gene says:

    Though all 3 get my goat, I can only condemn the last of the 3.

    Good point about the leaf blowers. Our downtown leafblowers are good old fashioned American underachievers, so I unconsiously asssign them more responsibility for their situation. Were they immigrants who didn’t speak English, I also would not fault them for leaf blowing.

    I know the pump doesn’t work and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. And a harder job than leaf blowing : leaf raking. No meachanical assist there. Then again, no fossil fuel burning, but damn it’s a pain in the ass.

  • Dianna says:

    Ah, thank you. That was 2, though, not 3 (I think my using the term wage fraud to describe slacking during work hours was the source of the confusion).
    I’ve thought along similar lines myself; the office for which I still work until December 22 is in the business of putting cookie-cutter chain hotels in small towns throughout California. They’re chain hotels with an entirely fake air of homey individuality, designed deliberately to take business from any actual independent local hotels which may remain, which doesn’t sit well with me on either the artistic or the social level. But there’s an opposite version of the line you’re talking about, and that’s the one where practicality overwhelms idealism and you take the job anyway. Mine kicked in around Month 4 of my job search after I’d tried and failed to get jobs at:
    Educational institutions
    Nonprofit advocacy groups
    Independent media organizations
    So there you have it. Thank god for going back to school, I say.

  • didofoot says:

    gene, are you talking about having social responsibility when taking a job or personal responsibility? I’ve never heard you decry jobs that hurt society, whereas you are very against jobs that make the worker’s own life worse. for example, one might work for a series of public charter high schools — good for society — but be making binders and answering phones, etc. — bad for the soul.

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