Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Just A Bunch Of Stuff That Happened
I love this picture. I love the Spanky style clothes, the leather shoes, the hissing radiator, the chipped basin, and man oh man, look at that cowlick. The poor little fellow isn't going to get anywhere with that, though he's giving it a go. Only momma's spit can paste down a cowlick, and this poor little fellow's mom had to go off to work, and leave him to wrestle his devil ears by himself. The year was 1943, and I imagine she's making something for the armed forces, and the little fellow's dad is too, or is in the armed forces.
And so he's left in the care of someone barely visible on the right, and among his peers. I like watching my own sons pal around with their friends, and try to watch the proceedings without participating as much as possible. Your very presence intrudes, and staying in the background allows them to sort things out as much as possible among themselves. And it's fun to watch them try to do things that you take for granted, but they're still learning. The effort of it, and the satisfaction after is amusing. When they're older, the mileposts of accomplishment get fewer and farther between, and instead of daily trophies, you get yearly diplomas.
Whoah, wait a minute. A daycare center for working mothers in 1943? That's unpossible. I thought all you Stepford Wives were freed from domestic bondage in 1968 or so, when your 1950s Ozzie and Harriet manacles were finally broken. But there are hundreds of pictures like this in the Library of Congress, from all over the country, and innumerable picture of Rosie the Riveter to go along with it. 'Splain it to me Lucy.
I'm going to make 100% of the audience angry now, which is hard to do. Usually, either 50.5% or 49.5% hate you for what you say. But I'm going for the whole enchilada today:
A. There was no evil man-plot to keep women out of the workplace before.
B. There was no evil government plot to destroy the family by ramming women into the workforce.
For all you folks that think we evil white men get together twice yearly and plan how we're gonna oppress everybody, you need to look in our closets. We can't dress ourselves without help, just like the little fellow pictured above. Secretly ruling the world is unlikely.
For all you folks that think it's all a government plot to bring socialism to middle america on black helicopters, you need to visit the Post Office. Look around. The government can't figure out what it's doing. If you can barely tell what you're trying to do, it's unlikely you're trying to wed it to an evil purpose.
It's all, as Homer Simpson says, "just a bunch of stuff that happened."
My wife stays home and cares for our children a little, and for me a lot. Many people see that as example "A" above. Not so. It suits us both, and our children, and we can, so we do.
Earlier in our lives, our oldest was shuffled off to daycare so we could both work, and many people saw "B" above. Well, we needed money. Half of it did go to the government, after all.
But he's pretty well adjusted. He doesn't recite "Let A Million Flowers Bloom" and scream 'Death to the Capitalists" because he swapped germs with a dozen of his peers when he was two. And his mother gives him a whiffle in the summer, so no cowlick. In short, we all survived.
Then what are we to make of it? It easy:
A. We're all rich
B. People are valuable.
Women work now because there's a shortage of people. Women worked in 1943 because there was a shortage of people -- of the male, induction age type. And women, like men, can be lured away from the joys of the home if it pays good enough. And since as the years pass, and the amount of heavy lifting required continues to diminish, and the jobs get more sophisticated and lucrative, and human ingenuity and sophistication becomes more important, employers must do everything they can to lure people into the workforce. Like pay the world. And overlook the occasional childbirth interruption.
People blithely say the world is overrun with people. Okay, smart guy, try putting an ad in the paper looking for help. Let's say you're fussy. You don't want meth smoking child molesters or people that sleep at their desks. You're gonna have to offer a lot to get anyone, and if you're fool enough to exclude enormous swathes of the population because they're, well, girls, you're going to be sitting waiting for the phone to ring for a long time.
And we are all rich. Let's not be ingrates and complain about opportunity in America. We have problems, because human beings are imperfect. But the largest problem among poor people here is obesity. Tell someone in central Africa that any of us is not rich, and they'll likely disagree. And ask you for a dollar to eat for a month. We're a rich enough nation to pay people to be poor, and get obese. That's rich.
And so, some of us work outside the home. Some of us work from the home. Some of us work in the home. Some of us place our children with other children when they're one or two. Some wait until they're five. Some of us wipe bottoms. Some of us pay to have those bottoms wiped. Some people don't work, because they have money, but ignore their children and leave it to nannies to take care of them. Some people work, and spend every waking hour left with their children.
It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.