Barbara Ehrenreich's Illustrations on Terkel's Book Working

Work has various definitions in the modern world. Scientists believe for work to be done energy must be used up and the resultant effect is to be seen. A doctor in a hospital cannot function well if his/her house helps at home to go on strike. The president would be very insecure if his/her security detail went on strike. There was a time when I was working as a part time storekeeper. I was earning 840 dollars per month. The work was very tiresome until it affected my grades at school. I was living in a house where I was paying 400 dollars a month. The rest of the cash was spent on food. Life was very hard, although the work I was doing was a lot. So I asked myself why we, people who are doing the hard work, earn less while those doing the easy “touch a button job”, earning more than what they can spend. The levels of daily struggles, encountered by people who earn a minimum wage, are enormous. What I believe is that all forms of work are equally important and should be appreciated equally. The reword of work should therefore go beyond the paycheck. This is because work has become a complex determinant of how humans live.

Terkel's claims that work is "Violence to the spirit". This is true in the modern world where everything revolves around work. People wake up thinking about work and goes to bed thinking about work. Work in the modern society has destroyed the social structures that were once set up in the society. Barbara felt very bad when asked a question at the interview that was insulting ( Barbara 16). She felt very irritated. Obviously, this affected the way she was to execute her duties at the work place. Work nowadays depends much on the level of one’s education. It ususally contains disrespect to people doing the less socilly approved jobs or those believed to be for people with no or limited education. Once the spirit of an individual is injured due to work that person is vulnerable to, stress and other effects like disease may come with it.

Work is also “violence of the body”. It causes physical harm to the body both directly and indirectly. Barbara in her book entitled Nickel and Dimed says that the work she was doing made her very tired every day. Her body was exhausted (Barbara 52). Work causes violence to the body by making it feeling very tired. The violence on the spirit may make the body affected as well.

Work is “humiliation”. This is also another important issue that was raised by Terkel. From Barbara’s experiences, she was humiliated at work place by her bosses (Barbara 109). The work she was doing forced her to stay in humiliating and pathetic conditions. The modern society leaves so many workers humiliated, especially those working in the unskilled job market. The levels of humiliation are therefore dependent on the job one is doing.

Works can also be seen as a “recognition”, as seen in Terkel’s book. A well-educated Barbara could not be recognized when she went in the unskilled labor market. She was mistreated, underpaid, overworked (Barbara 165). This is the recognition that work gives to the least educated workers. They are recognized as servants of the educated workers. The level of work  the individual undertakes therefore determines the recognition that individual will be given in the society.  

Work in the modern society has revolutionalized human beings’ way of life. Gone are the days when traditions and cultural practices identified a people’s way of life. Work will put food on the table, house you, give you friends, earn you respect, keep you healthy, provide you security, earn you respect, and many other things that determine day-to-day aspects of human life. What is obvious is that work makes other people in the society be undermined and mistreated. Work has made people loose respect for one another and human dignity. Barbara experiences therefore proof that Terkel’s arguments are true.

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