In the summers, my father worked at a brewery as a carpenter mending cases (cases were made of wood then). Times were hard in the '30s, but we always had food on the table and my father always found some way to make enough money to pay the bills.
Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, commented recently on the job situation in America today. "Last week at a policy conference in Mackinac, I talked to several hiring managers from a few of the largest companies in Michigan. They all told me the same thing – the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,”) is an overwhelming lack of 'soft skills.' That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.” This is not a Michigan problem – this is a national crisis. We’re churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work."
What's the difference in these two stories? My father had no choice but to work and to do whatever it took to find and hold a job. It was what he expected to do. It was what his father had done and his father before him had done. It was just what a man did.
For those who were truly destitute during the depression, the County had a program that gave them a ham, flour, salt, lard, and molasses once a week, but being "on the County" was considered disgraceful to men of my father's generation. It meant you weren't doing your job as a man.
One of my regular correspondents sent me an email the other day about the US World Report article on last year's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant disaster in Japan. The article marveled at the fact that there was no looting or civil disruption following the disaster. My friend wondered how that could be.
I lived in Japan for six years back in the '60s and early '70s, and I can tell you how that can be. The Japanese are a self-disciplined people, and they have a work ethic that submerges disasters, whether natural of financial – like my father had.
My friend came to the same conclusion, although he put it a bit differently. He said, "Japan lacks an entitlement crowd."