Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Depressing Look at White-Collar America

A wonderfully talented niece's dance recital drew me home to St. Louis, Missouri, this weekend. That means between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening I spent 16 hours in a car with only my affable pup Franklin for company. However, I try to hit up the library for audio books before long trips, so I can make decent use of the time I spend barrelling down the highway. Four selections found their way into my CD player: Who Moved My Cheese, a sorely disappointing lesson on achieving your goals, Bait and Switch and Don't Eat This Book.

The content of Bait and Switch is almost haunting me. Barbara Ehrenreich, of Nickle and Dimed fame, undertook investigating the white-collar unemployment by posing as a middle-aged, upper-middle class PR executive looking for work. The book jacket describes the work this way:

"Bait and Switch highlights the people who' ve done everything right-- gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive resumes-- yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle. Today's ultra-lean corporations take pride in shedding their surplus employees-- plunging them, for months or years at a stretch, into the twilight zone of white-collar unemployment, where job searching becomes a full-time job in itself. As Ehrenreich discovers, there are few social supports for these newly disposable workers-- and little security even for those who have jobs."

Ehrenreich is a brilliant author. The book was entertaining and gripping, but in the end, the subject matter was quite depressing. The job hunters that she describes sound like my friends, my parents and my parents' friends. These were people who "had done everything right" and cannot keep jobs because of the current corporate culture. A culture largely built on greed. The author makes the arguement that these workers are victims of corporate greed, but it seems to me that we are victims of our own greed. We need good jobs with high earning potential to keep up with what our society tells us we need to be happy.
This is just the beginning of my thoughts on the book as I am still churning through the material I ingested. It is quite disheartening and makes me wonder what we have become as a nation, society and people.

As a side note of interest, if you saw the documentary Supersize Me then you'll know the basic agenda of Morgan Spurlock's Don't Eat This Book. The movie had me off of fast food for a few years and I have recently gotten lazy and back into the habit. I am only a third of the way through the book and have renewed my commitment to not eat the junk. Although you should know, that I ate McDonald's for lunch today before popping in the first CD.

1 comment:

'Nilla Wafer said...

Thank you for these insightful reviews. I enjoy ebooks on road trips, too. Use to love to physically read the written word, until my job ruined that for me. After reading email and reviewing training content all day long, reading just doesn't appeal to me at the end of the day anymore. How sad, huh!? I think I need a new job.