Mike Rowe on Discovery, Realization and Lamb Castration

I saw this video tonight (via @siracusa) and was absolutely blown away. The video is a bit over 20 minutes long, but it blew my mind and I want to share it with you.

I want to be absolutely clear about this: I pay a lot of lip service to respecting farmers. (My father’s father, who lived in Forest City, Iowa, was a farmer his entire life.) I talk about how important factory workers and construction workers and mechanics are.

But when it really comes down to it, I am one of those elitist jerks who thinks that he’s better than a blue collar job. In my mind (and in more subtle behaviors) I degrade manual labor. I just want to confess that and point out that if we, as a society, keep making more and more people like me without making more people like the folks mentioned in this video, we’re in big trouble. I don’t know exactly what or how to change, but I’m very personally interested in the topic.

9 Comments

  1. Posted January 8, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Fascinating upsight, although many of the implied and expressed premises don’t fit my anecdotal experience. For one, following my dreams has not made me broke. But that still hints at the essence of his argument: we need to shape our dreams (or produce a PR campaign to shape others’s) around building or being what we must.

  2. jeff
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The elitism isn’t just one way either. We blue collar feel the same way towards someone who can’t do even the most simple of tasks like changing oil or sawing down a tree.

    I’m not sure if this is correct or not but… It seems to me that white collar relies more on blue than blue does on white in terms of things needed for basic living but advancement of society relies on both though almost equally.

  3. Posted January 8, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Excellent blog – kudos to you! Over on the site Mike Rowe has created, we are right now talking about this very topic and want to try and change the way people look upon the hard workers that keep our infrastructure sound and our sewers clean. Please share your thoughts on our site, in the forum. We would be very interested to have your participation. Thanks!

    http://www.mikeroweworks.com/forums/index.php

  4. Posted January 8, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I grew up on that farm. I have been present as pigs and calves were castrated. Dad Lewis and sometimes the vet used hands and a sharp knife. Never their teeth or rubber bands. The effect was pretty much how he described it, no big deal to the animal. They got fixed and got on with their day. Sometimes a farmer, because of the press of other things, would have waited a bit too long and then the animal had grown enough to MAKE it a big deal if you weren’t careful, but that’s another story. My dad never mistreated his animals. This was easily proven by the way he could walk through his heard of cattle and they’d hardly move. He was familiar, safe. He knew them and they he. One of my earliest memories is walking with him out to the field, where he put down a stool and milked the cow right in the field without any restraint on ol’ Bessie. They each knew their place and knew there was no need for a fuss. It was just time for her to get milked, so she just stood there in the midst of 40 acres of pasture and nothing else. He knew which needed ointment on a sore, which needed some attention for a bad hoof or a cut ear. The thought, I’m pretty sure, of biting off the testicles of an animal would have been repulsive to him. There were less exotic ways to get the job done. But walking with your boots in twelve inches of soupy manure about the consistency of chili in order to clean it out of the barn with a shovel and a manure spreader, that was all part of the job. And it got done for 60 years, one load at a time. If you ever want to feel hopeless, stand on a golf course and imagine the whole thing, not merely one hole but all eighteen, planted in corn rows 18″ inches apart and then imagine picking the whole course FULL of corn….by hand, each year, sometimes in temperatures below freezing. That’s a very, very small part of how farming began for that man in the 20’s. On days when it was 90 degrees outside he would spend the hot afternoon stacking bales of hay in a much hotter barn loft 80 feet long and 30 feet wide and fill it to a depth of probably 15′. That’s probably in temperatures over 100 and high humidity. OSHA? Give me a break! We know nothing today of the work he performed just to keep the farm solvent and his family afloat. We are still living off the capital of his sweat and frozen fingers.

  5. Emily
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Very impressive. This makes me reconsider the day-in-day-out repetitive nature of mothering too (which I do every day, all day). It is manual labor, blue collar work. I clean up poo with the best of them. 🙂 I should not feel ashamed to “get down and get dirty” with my kids, that’s what life is made of. Real, earthy, messy life. And this video makes me feel proud to be a part of it.

  6. eddie
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    I have to talk to yo abut this! Cool!

  7. Lance Uppercut
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    IMO: We can, as a culture, live without most white collar jobs in comparison to blue collar jobs. As an example, the convoluted field of advertising is basically pointless when you eliminate a simple vocation like beekeeping.

  8. Lance Uppercut
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    And to “Emily”, taking care of/providing for ones own family (as a Mother, Father, etc.) is NOT blue collar work.

  9. Emily
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I did not mean to place myself in a category in which I don’t belong. I simply connected with the descriptions of hands-on, messy work that is often repetitive and not socially acclaimed or respected.