Americans in need of humility
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By Spencer Turner
Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s a timeless kernel of wisdom passed down from one generation of Americans to the next, an ageless adage deeply ingrained into the nation’s ethos.
Modern society, however, seems to have forgotten the significance of this simple phrase. We are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, with rampant unemployment plaguing communities across the country and a government teetering on the precipice of financial default.
These are truly desperate times, yet Americans’ sense of entitlement to better paying jobs and greater leverage in the economy prevents them from taking necessary action. Until we discard this entitled perception, we can’t possibly hope to fully emerge from the current recession.
Evidence of Americans’ inclination to avoid difficult, albeit desperate, measures is undeniable. For example, on Sept. 29, Alabama’s legislature enacted a new law that permits police to question suspected illegal immigrants and punishes businesses that hire them. The exodus of concerned immigrants to other states left a bounty of mostly minimum-wage jobs open to the 211,000 unemployed citizens of Alabama.
However, an article in the Nov. 14-21, 2011, edition of the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine reported, “Native Alabamians have not come running to fill these newly liberated positions…These are difficult, dirty, exhausting jobs that, for previous generations, were the first rickety step on the ladder to prosperity. They still are – just not for Americans.”
Do we imagine ourselves so entitled to the best of jobs and lifestyles as to refuse any form of opportunity? The outsourcing of countless jobs by companies such as Dell, Boeing and Coca-Cola is further proof of our unwillingness to consider menial positions.
These corporations have discovered a foreign workforce that is more efficient and less demanding than its U.S. counterpart. Consequently, Americans’ sense of entitlement not only blatantly inhibits attempts to address unemployment and financial anguish; it woefully exacerbates the problem by forcing domestic businesses to shift essential resources aborad.
As should be the case with any democratic type nation, the United States’ hopes for economic recovery invariably hinge upon the actions of the populace. Granted, any financial system is at the mercy of a variety of factors beyond human control. There will never be a perfect solution to the crisis at hand.
Should citizens learn to fully appreciate the severity of the times, however, they’ll understand the necessity of shedding their notions of entitlement to professions and social status. Every job, regardless of its nature or prominence, must be viewed as a crucial step in the process of reversing our fiscal fortunes.
History has even provided the ultimate model for us to reference.
Emboldened by a decade of growth and prosperity, an entire generation of Americans entered the Great Depression of the 1930s and ’40s with the same foolhardy expectations of working in high-end positions and maintaining robust lifestyles. As the country sank deeper into the clutches of economic collapse, its citizenry fortuitously chose to accept any job.
No post or trade was deemed unworthy or beneath an American worker. The results were astonishing. A generation of hardworking civilians resurrected the U.S. from financial abyss, emerged victorious from the battlefields of World War II and crafted the globe’s foremost infrastructure.
We are still capable of achieving the same momentous feats as “The Greatest Generation” once engineered. Abandoning our sense of entitlement should be the first measure taken to overcome these times of desperation.