Tuesday, January 29, 2013

People Could Strike More

In this post-industrial age the concept or practice of a group of people going on strike is losing steam. Strikes don’t happen nearly as often as they did over the last 100 years. In part that is because many of the things people struck for have happened. Working conditions are safer, wages [in the United States] have gone up so that everyone in manufacturing can afford things like a house and car. Yet the fundamental reason people struck is still around, inequality. Inequality can take many forms. It could be lower wages, high health risks, discrimination, it could be harsh penalties for minor offenses. 

Striking sends the message that the group is bigger than simply the handful of people who are being subjugated by unfair terms. Striking sends the message, ‘you don’t control us.’ Which is something that needs to be said sometimes. We don’t have control. You don’t have control. I use the word influence in place of the word control because that is really what we have. For example, no one controls what gets published on this blog. I have a ton of influence over it but the circumstances in my life that lead to the articles on this blog I do not control so ultimately I do not control what appears up here. For example, will I write and publish extensively about raising kids in ten years? I don’t know.

For example, I am following a story where I feel a group of people should strike. I feel that particular group is not getting what they deserve. The problem, is organization. I am sure people have thought about quitting and leaving but the group does not seem to have a leader or union representative to direct the attitudes of the group into a clear message. So what do they do?

Diverging on a tangent, I have been trying to get in touch with my emotions more lately. The reason being that physical and mental labor is plentiful. There are all sort of people that will work on some mental or physical task at a specified rate of compensation for some time. However, we don’t really measure caring and emotion that is put into something. At least in my small world I am trying to change that. I am trying to care more. Fortunately, I have already been burned by flaky uncommitted people that I have learned to not “care” about the performance or results as much as the people. Now don't misunderstand, I am incredibly results orientated. I’m not trying to run a marathon “well”, I’m trying to run a 2:17:59 or better. I’m not trying to go mountaineering, I’m trying to summit Mt. Everest. Getting back to putting more emotion into my work, it’s not about knowing and predicting exactly what will happen in one of my finite element simulations compared to real life, it’s about making all of the weak points just strong enough so that the assembly will not crack for a decade or more yet light enough that it will not waste huge amounts of fuel dragging the thing around. Ultimately, there is some art involved in the analysis and an engineering judgement call, which is really just a best practice for best guesses. Basically it involves me staring at some red, orange, yellow, and green spread out over a few elements and trying to decide if it is acceptable or not. It’s emotional, I want to pass the durability test, with the lightest, cheapest solution possible. 

How does caring matter? Caring is the one degree of difference between hot and boiling. It is the one or two extra “odd” solutions I try instead of simply bumping up the plate thickness of an entire plate. It is the load case I invent to see what would happen. It is when I ask an athlete how he or she is feeling and after getting the response, “good”, I ask if they could give me an answer in complete sentences and be more descriptive. Because one can usually tell from the look on a person’s face if that person is in a negative place emotionally. 

It is not that I am a huge proponent of unions. I feel unions have morphed into large organizations that on occasion keep people from being fired who maybe should be fired, such as a teacher who hits a student. Also, unions on occasion prohibit work from being done as efficiently as it might be done due to protecting the jobs of it's members. However, unions have time and again pushed for safer working conditions and a better share of the company earnings. The attitude of the masses is especially interesting to watch in developing countries that deal with issues like the rape in Delhi and the smog in Beijing. 

In short, emotion goes into life whether you know it or not. That emotion deserves respect and just maybe you should strike so that those in authority above you who might try to minimize your emotional contribution recognize it. Some inequality of time, money, reputation or something else can serve well to motivate people, but how much is enough? 

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