BACKGROUND: Some of my work is with ‘special populations’ at a junior college; unemployed folks, many minorities, single moms, people who’ve made idiotic choices along the way (and got caught), some newly-released felons. As such, they are the natural constituency of the Enemy, more so given the racial ratios; Obama T-shirts USED TO BE wildly popular. Zero now. Absolutely NO MORE defenses of teh One to all the criticisms flying about, as before, even 6 months ago; now, crickets.
Nearly all these folks are at rock-bottom, subsistence level, drawing their measly $200 a month from township welfare; they get that, a medical card, a bus pass and that’s about it. They come to me for help in finding/keeping work.
So, here’s what I’m seeing:
WORK ETHIC is making a comeback. This is Illinois, good old corrupt, under water & bankrupt Illinois. The social agency cupboards are bare; the nanny-state spigot is barely dripping at all. NO MONEY. Social workers, case workers, job counselors AND THEIR SUPERVISORS are being laid off left & right, the ship is rapidly sinking. Hence, I’m seeing many more folks who now want to work because they really have no other option.
They’re beginning to understand the Biblical truism (also my Grandfather’s) of ‘no work-no eat’. And they’re getting it as to what ‘work’ really is: WORK, not goofing off, calling in sick, texting friends, grabbing a smoke, but hunkering down and producing something useful so the boss can turn a profit. Yes, they’re getting if the company does well, due to their sweat, they themselves will prosper. Coulda knocked me over with a feather! And it’s not just happy-talk: former unemployeds return to class to show off their brand new work uniforms, with their first name embroidered on the shirt (service types at hotels, repair shops, etc.) and the clothing is sweat-stained from WORK. And they’re ecstatic, literally dancing with joy at having a job. Literally, not figuratively. Actual dancing in the classroom aisles, the college hallways.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP is a goal. Not a bad plan, since getting hired with a recent felony conviction is damn near impossible, but that’s another thread. But today, instead of ‘the man’ holding them back, they’re seeing gubbmint as the devil. Several await hiring at soon to open businesses, but are delayed as the owner digs his way through licensing, inspections, certifications with fees and taxes out the kazoo. This is AFTER business-plan approval, capitalization, franchising issues and so forth. Some desire their own day-care or hair salon, but certification, insurance and licensing stymies their fledgling aspirations. Not to mention criminal background checks….
A high percentage of the groups respond well to the introduction of the concepts of individualism, citizenship and corny old Constitutional ideas of being born a free American, capable of doing whatever you’re able to do. They’re not articulating it, but I pick up on the idea that they’re seeing the old reliable state-run agencies as modern day plantations; not a way to overcome ‘barriers’, but actually barriers themselves, and THEY HATE IT!
I’m examining both group dynamic and individual attitudes here. There’s still a ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘let’s help one another’ spirit, some of which I encourage. But there’s a shift in focus. The ‘mañana’, ‘tomorrow’s another day’ philosophy is quickly going out the window. A new sense of urgency, practicality, I want it & I want it NOW attitude that’s both fresh and highly energetic. No excuses, no postponements, no put-offs, let’s roll today; quite unlike this ‘population’ historically (I’ve been at this for about 10 years now). Nearly all of them are now DOING constructive things, rather than talking about doing things, inventing excuses, or seeking support systems/a shoulder to cry on. Money talks….
Not sure what all this implies, but I’m thinking the key is related to the freedom to do whatever you’re capable of doing, without crapping on anyone else, and not having to get anybody’s permission to do so.
At any rate, it’s heartening to see some of these attitudes in the younger groups, say early 20’s to mid 30’s in age; the older folks, age 45+ already know this from Mom & grandma but are pretty well beaten down, lacking energy and motivation. Probably too late for them, but the younger ones give me some hope.
I realize all this is highly subjective and only a snapshot of a tiny microcosm. I don’t know what anyone can actually DO with this type of anecdotal data, but I’m sensing a ‘change in the Force’. And it makes me optimistic. Very optimistic.