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It’s Not Just a Job

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout, with respect to Christian Ward)

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When the federal government embraces policies and trade agreements that decrease the number and quality of jobs in the nation, many citizens will lose much more than income and the ability to support their families. When a nation exports its jobs to other countries, its citizens are depreciated as human beings because they are deprived of access to avenues of experience in which they discover and evaluate the significance of their own existence. Participation in occupational activities and the demands they place upon us are some of the crucial ways we experience the strength and powers of self.

In every work context, the completion of familiar tasks calls up past experience and gives exercise to achieved habits and capacities. But it is the encounters with unforeseen obstacles, unexpected barriers and unpredicted obstructions that intensify attention and trigger emotional challenge. Unexpected difficulties create a focusing of resources, an animation of spirit, a presentation of opportunities that not only call forth the exercise and evaluation of skills and abilities, but also provide occasions for the release of energy through which we recognize and experience self-competence, along with satisfaction in what we have done and confidence in what we can do.

Our job is an important condition of our development as a creative, thinking self. By improving what we do, we experience ourselves as people of achievement and of societal value. Deprive us of our ability to engage in the activities in which we have developed expertise, and we are unable to exercise our powers and express self – a self that has grown from youth into a person who is an asset to self, family and nation. Take away those jobs that help develop people who make a society functional and beneficial to others, and we are diminished as human beings, and prevented from becoming the ones we hope to be. Without opportunities for the exercise of imagination and inventiveness, what is to become of our selves?

We recognize that in all of the tasks we face, and the efforts we make, there is never the level of information or knowledge we would like to have, but this recognition provides the excitement of unsettlement, unavailable in repetition. It is in the management of uncertainties, working within the context of unknowns, that expertise emerges that penetrates the hesitations of frustration, and pushes us toward creative solutions. Such uncertainty is not a threat to our competence, rather it is that which draws us forward, seeking solutions to problems never before encountered. Uncertainty is the fuel of growth in competence, specialization and discovery.

Ability requires exercise, not to show superiority, which would convert the substantial into the superficial, but as expression through the release of creativity, that is, a burst or eruption of talent within a context calling out for improvement. Work is a product of effort that leaves an account of itself behind, a record of energy expended and of the presence of a mind that was up to the challenge. The only way we can truly evaluate our abilities is to reflect on the way we deal with the obstacles encountered, the tools we are competent to use and the skill with which these tools are applied for the resolution of the problems encountered.

Job satisfaction is episodic in that all exercise of ability occurs within a context that is marked in recognition of what is to be done, the resources available, and the application of insight that produces satisfactory remediation. People whose creativity is sequestered in the same repetitive activity day in and day out, have only the time clock as a measure of their accomplishment. They are denied the satisfaction of having confronted problematic situations, analyzed them, pulled forward resources, pursued desirable solutions and evaluated their efforts.

It is not just the existence of occupational expertise that holds a society together and allows it to function; it is also the social structure of society that creates the social and physical opportunities for creative expression and achievement. Equipment is required that can be provided by institutions only, which suggests that individual expertise and society’s institutions are unified in a reality in which one is idled and depreciated without the other.

In the absence of resistance and inhibitions to achievement, the self cannot take its measure, inventory its wherewithal and find its place in the chaos of things. Without frustrations and preventions, there is no elation, no disappointment, and no jubilation, only the blandness of another 24 hours. Late-day physical exhaustion is unpleasant only when the obstacles and hindrances prevailed.

We require a Congress and corporate leaders who understand that the nation needs more than jobs. It needs opportunities for the pursuit of personal development and minds that require occasions for the exercise and discovery of competencies through unexpected challenges. It is through these efforts, successes and inevitable setbacks that the members of a society can come at life with vigor and enthusiasm. It is these people that make a society vibrant, and one in which we all want to live. When jobs are exported, products may become cheaper, some will become richer, but the nation is the people and their existence becomes hollow.

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