America’s Lost Work Ethic and the End of its global Exceptionalism – Part 2/5

My parents generation is the one John Steinbeck wrote of in Cannery Row. One review says, “The novel depicts the characters as survivors, and being a survivor is essentially what life is all about.” The same theme permeates Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice
and Men

However, today, many Americans have forgotten the sacrifice it takes to survive and expects government to bail them out.

My father, at 14, was mucking out horse stalls at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California—the sort of work immigrants do today.

It started in America and swept around the globe!

My mother worked in a laundry and at home, she baked and decorated cakes for special occasions that she sold to neighbors, co-workers, friends and family.

My older brother worked most of his life until the day he died at 64 in 1999 working the jobs that immigrants do.  When he didn’t have work, he spent his days going to dumpsters looking for cardboard and searching the roadsides for empty soda cans and beer bottles to sell at the local recycling place.

Richard, my brother, “once” told me shortly before his death that he was proud he never collected a welfare check or depended on government handouts. The Latinos he worked with called him The Horse, “El Caballo”, due to his strength.

When I was fifteen, I went to school during the day and worked nights and weekends [30 hours a week] washing dishes in a coffee shop often until 11:00 PM only to be at high school the next day by 8 AM.

After a few years in the US Marines and a tour in Vietnam, I washed cars, swept floors and then bagged groceries in a super market while I attended college on the GI Bill.

One summer job before my fourth year of college had me cleaning empty 50,000 gallon stainless-steel tanks at the Gallo Winery in Modesto, California. It was a dangerous job cleaning out the tanks where the wine was fermented, and I witnessed fellow workers injured and rushed to the hospital.

However, the generation that won World War II and made America strong and powerful is mostly gone or retired. Today, the work ethic in America has changed.  The reason it changed has a lot to do with the way children have been raised since the 1960s by parents obsessed with their children’s self-esteem and happiness, while making sure these children never face a boring day and blaming teachers for the child’s bad grades instead of holding the child responsible.

Unfilled jobs due to skills gap

Since 1960, the US has not won a single war.  After more than a decade and about 50,000 dead, we lost in Vietnam. Today, after another decade at war, we are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with no victory in sight.

It’s as if today’s younger generation is incapable of making the sacrifices the Great Depression (1929 – 1942) generation did when 25% of all workers were completely out of work. Some people starved and many lost farms and homes.

However, I’ve met Chinese immigrants willing to do the same work for the same low pay that Latino immigrants from south of the border do and often charge less while saving money to put their children through college.  It’s called sacrifice.

Continued on December 11, 2011 in America’s Lost Work Ethic and the End of its global Exceptionalism – Part 3 or return to Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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2 Responses to America’s Lost Work Ethic and the End of its global Exceptionalism – Part 2/5

  1. merlin says:

    Your dad cleaned stalls at the horse track? Yea, in today’s world getting a simple job like that is hard because you have to compete with Mexican work ethics.

    I did a cleaning job with my aunt and we cleaned an office building. It wasn’t FUN, but when I finally came of age to go out into the professional job market (as opposed to using a vacuum to clean office carpets with my aunt)….I realized just how fun and simple cleaning was. So, in 2008, I got a job with a cleaning company in town. I was cleaning banks and a factory. Unfortunately, the cleaning company wanted everything done in too short a time for the size of the building. Plus it was a factory, so the bathroom drains in the floor get clogged and require extra time. I had to drag a cart, a mop, and a vacuum around with me EVERYWHERE in the plant. It’s a challenge to take all 3 things with you at once…and you need to in order to save time. The manager of cleaning company had a dork husband.

    I quit before they gave me the can.

    • Merlin,

      “Dorks” for bosses is a hazard in the work place. During the 45 years I was in the workplace with bosses (from age 15 to 60), I had my share of these “dorks”. Calling some “dorks” is being polite. I thought of one particular boss as a “Hitler” and a few other names unsaid here! In his case, the war I fought with this so-called “Hitler” ended with him losing his job because he had a boss above him (I shall call Sauron) that was not happy with the attention that fight attracted from the national media.

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