Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Story of John Henry

In American folklore there is the story of John Henry. As legend has it, John Henry was a railroad worker who wielded a  sledge hammer. To increase efficiency and production, the owner of the railroad introduced a steam driven machine to replace John and his co-workers. To protect the jobs of his co-workers, John Henry challenged the steam powered hammer to a race. Ironically he beat the machine, but died at the end of the race with sledge hammer in hand.

The story of John Henry parallels what is happening in America and the world today. Whether it is a result of software technology, robotics, or simple mechanical innovation, traditional options for many American workers no longer exist. This is just a fact of human existence. From the advent of the wheel in prehistoric times, technology has shaped the nature of human life and specifically employment and how we make a living.

Outsourcing, the employment of illegal aliens at sub-poverty level wages, union busting, and child labor all are situations that represent an entirely different matter. These actions are subject to the moral compass of our democracy and society as whole, and are conditions that can be remedied by government and law.

The real crime in what's happening today, is that those politicians and pundits on the far far right, often blur these two separate situations. They not only fail to acknowledge these truths, but advocate and profess to believe that the problems of the middle and working classes stem from people not taking responsibility for themselves and not working hard enough.

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