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“Blue-Collar Brilliance”

“Blue-Collar Brilliance” by Mike Rose

Sep 4, 2020 at Literature Essays

“Blue-Collar Brilliance” and  the Insight into the Realities of Blue-Collar Work 

The essay entitled “Blue-Collar Brilliance” provides the insight into the realities of blue-collar work and its significance that is frequently underestimated. This work written by Mike Rose, a research professor and writer, exposes his personal experience and observation of social partition and relationships between different clusters. The author bases his work on the true stories of his mother and uncle to demonstrate that people who perform lower-class or physical work and lack proper education do not actually differ that much from people occupied in the intellectual sphere. Depicting the work of a waitress judging from the his mother’s example, Rose states that she was always active and had to keep in mind a great number of things including orders of each visitor, time of meal preparation, and visitors’ as well as personnel’s mood. She had “to work smart to make every move count” (Rose, 2012, p. 244). Hence, in order to manage everything, the waitress had to elaborate certain strategies that she was probably not aware of on a conscious level. In case of author’s uncle, the essay describes a difficult path taken from a regular worker to the manager. Since he left school in the ninth grade, the factory provided him with all the necessary lessons (Rose, 2012, p. 247). Low position forced him to do a variety of tasks and enabled to be involved in the numerous processes. The accumulation of knowledge regarding different tasks contributed to his subsequent promotions and enabled him to achieve the leading position. 

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The essay by Rose touches upon significant topic of undervaluation of work and challenges faced by the blue-collar workers. It also suggests that people involved in physical work or in the service sphere have to apply their intellectual abilities to work fast and effectively. This idea is derived from a deep-rooted opinion that “the use of a tool does not involve abstraction” (Rose, 2012, p. 253). It is true that the presence of school or college degree cannot be treated as an objective indicator of one’s intelligence. Every person lives in different conditions and faces different challenges. Not everyone has a chance to get the academic degree and be hired by a prosperous company to sit in a luxurious office and do nothing but think and suggest brilliant ideas. Due to financial or personal reasons, some people still quit schooling, some do not enter college; however, everyone becomes engaged in some kind of occupation and strives to do it well. In fact, the blue-collar work also requires that workers apply their mental abilities. It may be even more complicated as it involves both mental and physical activities performed at the same time. The examples provided by the author prove that blue-collar work demands memorization, analysis, and strategic planning that represent complex mental processes and may really serve as the indicators of intelligence.

“Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” by Jessica Mitford

The essay entitled “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” concerns the subject of funeral industry. Stating that Americans nowadays “pay hundreds of millions of dollars for its perpetuation, blissfully ignorant of what it is all about, what is done, how it is done,” the author aims at revealing its true nature (Mitford, 1963). The article, in fact, represents harsh criticism of the entire funeral system, its methods and procedures executed over the corpse when preparing it for its last earthly journey, and also questions legalization of all these things. Comparing funeral procedures to the acts of drama, Mitford is presumably focused on the procedure of embalming. She defines the stages of this process, equipment, and substances applied to demonstrate the complication of this process. The companies that provide funeral services perform numerous manipulations over the dead bodies to make them look even better than they were before. Any physical damage is no longer a problem, since due to specific surgical manipulations symmetry and required proportions may be restored. The article also emphasizes extreme confidentiality of all these stages. It concludes with labeling the process of embalming with barbaric and inhumane features. The author employs various metaphors and irony to let the audience understand how exaggerated the funeral ritual had become and how blind modern society is.

Thus, Mitford doubts morality and legalization of the processes that stand behind the funeral preparation. Funeral industry seems to turn into a large manufacturing machine that disregards the sanctity of human body. The corpse is placed on the autopsy table like animal’s flesh: it is cut, drained, fixed, covered with numerous substances, and subjected to many other manipulations. This conveyer produces well-dressed and embalmed corpses as if these were products: the better they look, the more people will contact this agency in the future. A casket is placed in open position by default, so every person could not just simply give the last look at the deceased without evaluating the perfect work of professionals. Each funeral is a challenge that demands meticulous work “to score an upset victory over death” (Mitford, 1963). Society does not consider the questions posed by the author for the reason that all executions remain hidden from the public. Funeral ceremony in its nature is the act of respect to the departed person. However, there is very little respect in all those actions that are performed over one’s dead body. I agree with the author who encourages us to reconsider the hidden manipulations of funeral services and change this industry.

“On the Fear of Death” by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

The treatment and fear of death is the central topic of the essay written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Nowadays physicians facea smaller number of difficult physical diseases that they experienced a century ago. Nevertheless, currently the doctors observe alarming growth of mental and emotional disorders that strike even children. Kubler-Ross attempts to draw a parallel between this new kind of epidemic and false perception of death. She claims that adults in their attempts to protect their children often create amazing tales about a departed close friend or relative as if he/she had to leave them or he/she was so good that God decided to take him to live in heaven (Kubler-Ross, n.d., p. 483). In this way, the death itself becomes a tabooed notion that cannot be discussed. In reality, children are clever enough to suspect something behind those marvelous stories and begin to develop inner distrust towards adults. The absence of truthful explanation may lead to self-blaming in the loss of a close person, withdrawal from the outer world, or even depression. Hence, the author recommends that adults make children acquainted with death and explain it as a natural step in the sequence of life that should not be feared. 

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“On the Fear of Death” attracts attention to the way the notion of death is viewed by modern society. It is true that this word is commonly associated with “fearful, frightening happening”, pain, and grief (Kubler-Ross, n.d., p. 482). Human consciousness cannot perceive death as a voluntary act of body crush and links it to interference of some outer forces: a disease, an accident etc. Adult fear of death was justifiably transformed in the attempts to protect their children from the surplus of negative emotions. The harder we try to conceal the truth about death, the stronger subconscious fear of it we acquire. Children should not be excluded from the funeral procedures, since they have to know the true reason of disappearance of the close person. To reduce fear, our society has to familiarize the successive generation with this phenomenon and present it as neither good nor bad, but as inevitable last occasion in everyone’s life. 

“Under the Influence” by Scott Russell Sanders

The essay “Under the Influence” provides reflection of the impact of parental alcoholism on the growth of a young person. Written by Scott Russell Sanders, it relies on author’s personal experience of living with a drinking father. The alcohol was the force that divided his personality into two images: a “playful, competent, and kind when sober” and “a stranger, as fearful as any graveyard lunatic” (Sanders, 1989, p. 72). Life with such kind of person under the same roof is full of fear, scandals, and rage. The writer claimed that father's alcoholism not only created unhealthy environment inside their family but also triggered irreversible changes in its members. The family was splitting into pieces: children had to spy on their father and report about his drinking, while he frequently unleashed his anger on them. As a result, Sanders’ “brother became a rebel” and “sister retreated into shyness” (Sanders, 1989, p. 75). As for the author himself, he became the linking chain that held his family together. Only stepping into adult life made Sanders realize the true nature of alcoholism, recognize it as a disease, and notice its impact on the society in general. 

The author’s message regarding alcoholism is clear: this habit has destructive influence on body and personality of any person who excessively consumes this bottled poison as well as on people who surround the addicted person. It creates unhealthy atmosphere inside the family and literally kills all the best feelings cultivated inside this institution including love, trust, and respect. Actually, the worst thing is that it does not kill those beautiful feelings instantly, but keeps torturing people and prolongs this process for years. This is proved by the author’s personal story: his family had hope that something would eventually change and the evil that possessed father’s soul will release him. However, hope without any actions in not enough: it requires individual’s free will and support from close people to exorcize him/her from alcohol demon. 

“On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner

The essay entitled “On Dumpster Diving” depicts peculiarities of modern movement for saving discarded items. This trend has recently became a widespread phenomenon among Americans who live on a tight budget. The author shares his own experience of being devoid of any savings and being forced to seek for any ways to survive in the modern world. Eighner suggests three major rules that helped him to survive and generally guarantee safety in this enterprise: regularly check local dumpsters, use the senses and intellect to evaluate the condition of the found materials, and consider the reason why this product was discarded (Eighner, 2011, p. 148). The article describes amazing findings of the writer and his thoughts about the value of material things in our life. It also touches upon the questions of social ethics that allows such excessive waste of goods and forces people to do humiliating actions to get things for living.

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Poverty is not the synonym of unhappiness. The life story of Eighner proves that it is possible to love and enjoy life even in the most difficult situations. The essay is full of optimism and provides his unique viewpoint on the outer world. Dump areas that evoke nothing but feeling of disgust in majority of people are surrounded by artistic aura of beauty. Apart from fascinating strength and inspiring optimism, the phenomenon of dumpster diving is also alarming. The article draws attention to the unhealthy morals of modern society that allows the existence of two totally different communities: one at the verge of dying is search of daily bread in places where the other one stays in own limited comfort zone and throws away things considered no longer suitable for use or consumption. There should be better ways of both disposing things and helping people in need.

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