Guest post: The sense of entitlement to a “good job”

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Now he faces of lifetime of struggling for decent work.

Reading the references to Turner “struggling for decent work” and saying “Goodbye to becoming an orthopedic surgeon” reminds me of something else that really irks me: the sense of entitlement to a “good job,” i.e. well-paying, white-collar, high-status.

If I may quote a different judge, Caddyshack’s Judge Smails, “the world needs ditchdiggers, too.” Smails, of course, was being an asshole snob to the working-class caddie Danny Noonan, in response to Danny’s concern about not being able to afford college without the caddie scholarship that Smails controlled.

But the world does need “ditchdiggers” — well, maybe not literally ditchdiggers, but people who do similar unglamorous, not-terribly-well-paid, work. And it has them. Millions of Americans do those kinds of jobs every day. And most of us more privileged folk — and I’m including myself — maybe talk once in a while about getting them a higher wage, or better health care, or something, but for the most part we just shrug. They make a living; they get by; they’re part of the background of America. Maybe they made some bad life choices, or didn’t work hard enough in school, or maybe just had bad luck, but what can we do about it?

But when one of the privileged is faced with the possibility of losing that privilege, and the prospect of having to gasp struggle for “decent” work…. suddenly the life that is good enough for millions of fellow citizens is just a Fate Too Dire To Face. What if poor Brock Turner has to live a life as an ordinary working person? Oh, the humanity!

I had the same reaction to the attempted rehabilitations of Stephen Glass and Jonah Lehrer. Both committed pretty much the worst professional sin a journalist can: intentional fabrication. And they covered it up and lied about it and lashed out at their accusers and denied it until finally they couldn’t deny it any longer. Then Stephen Glass shows up a couple of years later applying to become a member of the California Bar. Gee, wonder if there’s a problem with his “moral character”? And the letters in support of Glass’s application were full of bemoaning about how gosh, we’ve got to let the man earn a living. Ditto for Lehrer, who barely was out of the limelight for a couple of months before he was being offered five-figure speaking fees. But gosh, we were told, what do you expect? The man’s gotta live!

The unspoken implication always being that people like Glass and Lehrer, and Brock Turner, can’t possibly be expected to live the life of a janitor or sales clerk or whatever. People who violate the ethics of their profession, or even violate another human being, are still entitled to a “good” job. People who live those lives already, because they couldn’t afford college, or maybe they screwed up in high school and didn’t work enough, or made some bad decisions that didn’t hurt anyone other than themselves — well, we don’t shed any tears for them. Somebody’s gotta dig them ditches. Just not one of us.

4 Responses to “Guest post: The sense of entitlement to a “good job””