Sunday, June 6, 2010
Call me old fashioned, but I need to put my hands on the fruits of my labor. Our forefathers never had to explain what they did for a living – they’d simply point to something in the room and say, “I built that” or “I make the bolts that hold that together” or “I sewed your shirt.” Ask the average American now what they do and they’ll be as stumped to explain it as Chandler Bing’s character on Friends (“he’s a transponster” was the guess during the apartment-losing trivia bet).
Today, job titles range from the obscure (the “Fandemonium Director” created by Monster.com) to the ambiguous (the “Happiness Engineers” that work at WordPress) to the hubristic (the self-applied “iCEO” title held by Steve Jobs).
Engineers the world around with $50k in school loans and bigger brains than the average bear should be up in arms at how their hard-won titles are thrown around today to dress up run-of-the-mill work. From the home-based “Domestic Engineers” to the “Caffeine Distribution Engineers” found at Starbucks to the “Petroleum Movement Engineers” at the local gas station, Engineers are popping up on every street corner with an education far removed from AutoCAD and algorithms.
America is no longer the country that once produced tangible goods. Our main export now is entertainment, information, and money. We import our jeans, straws, even our hourly help. Today’s Jack and Jill have internet jobs moving around data in cyberspace and met in an invisible chat room; they have a robodog, an electric car, and a surrogate growing their baby in India because it’s cheaper than maternity leave.
It is no wonder the unemployment rate is so high. We don’t really know how to do anything. A hundred years ago, people built their own houses, grew and canned their own food, sewed their own clothes, and delivered their own babies. It is said that out of ten people in a room, one is homosexual, two are color blind, and eight will say their favorite color is blue. But none know how to reattach a button, make spaghetti sauce not from a jar, or change the oil in a car. Well, maybe one could sew a button.