The growing loss of true craftsmen

My wife sent me this article a few days ago, and somehow I missed it.  I pass it along for your consideration: “Looking for work with purpose? Stop looking down on manual labor.”

Here’s a quote:

“This condescending attitude toward skilled manual labor is widespread in America, too. The value of work has shifted away from working with purpose to obtaining a mystified job title. Aspiring to a college degree, in itself a wonderful thing, has meant berating the skilled manual labor. The result is that the ranks of true craftsmen are dwindling, leaving huge holes in communities that took their goods and services for granted.”

Our culture too often nurses a false dichotomy: Success means getting a degree in college and then a white collar job, and anything else is failure — or at least a form of failure.

However, there is much value in becoming a skilled craftsman and an expert in a valuable trade, and not all education takes place in a desk or a classroom.

Society still needs its Bezalels and its Aholiabs.  And, actually, their lack in the end times is part of the prophesied leadership crisis:

For behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stock and the store, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder; the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter. “I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. The people will be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor; the child will be insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable.” When a man takes hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying, “You have clothing; you be our ruler, and let these ruins be under your power,” in that day he will protest, saying, “I cannot cure your ills, For in my house is neither food nor clothing; Do not make me a ruler of the people.”

Isaiah 3:1-7

13 thoughts on “The growing loss of true craftsmen

  1. Hi Mr. Smith!

    I think there’s more than a little irony in the article (just read).

    First, it seems that no society really understands the array of personal strengths and weaknesses of its members, lets its people be what they really are, helps them learn what they really are, or can avoid emphasizing one set of strengths and weaknesses at the expense of others. Not everyone can or should try to make a career out of manual labor. Some of my most magnificent failures have come from trying to do so because of relentless pressure to “get a job, any job” for the sake of mere survival. So part of the irony is that I’ve always been at the opposite extreme in trying to find my place in the working world. What I am truly good at is usually no more valued than fine material craftsmanship has become, unless one is willing to do things that would utterly compromise Christian character.

    On the other hand, sometimes I think our present world – the way Isaiah prophesied it above – is a large-scale “Revenge of the Baby-Sat” after the fashion of Calvin and Hobbes. There seems to be a massive overreaction to past massive overreactions (if you follow me). My personality type – the same as young Calvin’s – seems to have a hugely disproportinate influence in the world (it demonstrably does in Hollywood and now in American politics). Most of the things that Isaiah mentions as valuable offices in a society are things that ENFPs, if they’re as immature as Calvin, seemingly will take or leave. And many of the bad traits remind me of ENFPs who, like Calvin most of the time, are bent on just doing whatever they want.

    Oy. 😦

  2. Norbert

    Nowadays some skilled trades will earn a 6 figure yearly income, but they tend to be the cream of the crop. Being a tradesman myself, one story about working has stuck with me throughout the years.

    ‘A lawyer was driving his son home in his mercedez and they passed a couple men digging through a pile of junk looking for pop cans to turn into some cash. The son began laughing at the garbage pickers. His father turned to him and said, “Don’t laugh, there’s nothing shameful about two men trying to make an honest living”.’

    I find that there’s two interesting things about that story. The first is obvious and a relationship can be seen between it and James 2:2-4,

    “For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?”

    The second which is not so obvious is a lawyer is being shown in a good light!

    I believe partiality can go both ways and as a skilled tradesman there was one time I had to take a job beneath me. With all the years of upbringing, including the ones before the plain teachings of faithful men which reinforced my families principles, it was one of the hardest things to do.

    You see I had it all worked out to point where I could stand confidently in front of people and tell that same story. But when the moment came to follow it through, to pratice what I preached. There was enough intense pressure to admit that it also could have been a moment where that next instant I would of heard a rooster crowing.

    I also believe those types of moments are not over (Heb 12:4).

  3. @Steve: If you’re a Jungian/Myers-Briggs ISTP (Mechanic), as we’ve discussed on my own blog, it would be incredibly, ridiculously out of the pale if you did have such a problem! 😀

    Whereas an ENFP, so naturally and so fully and constantly immersed in the world of abstract ideas, tends to dislike manual labor unless it’s in the service of one of his ideas – or, interestingly, if it can be used to relieve the constant pressure of his idea-generation. So he can use a manual job as a back-up and do it happily so long as it is a back-up – he would find himself terrifically unfulfilled if he had to make that his career, though.

    I think here of the apostle Paul, by all signs an ENFP, who was taught tent-making as a trade. His main “career” had always been immersed in the world of ideas, even before his conversion; but he learned something that would earn him money while giving him mental relief and time to mull over his ideas. For many years of my life, I found clerical jobs filled the same role for me (apparently they drew upon the same mental process that Paul used in tent-making). More labor-intensive jobs I found much more physically and mentally draining. They were much more a matter of character for me to do them at all, let alone do them well.

    So it goes with each of us. Some of us find dealing with abstract ideas and “book learning” a real test of character, because we learn best by doing. For some of us it is the reverse… and so on. This reality is part of the lesson behind my recent LCG Commentary, “Character and personality”.

  4. @Norbert: The first part of your story reminds me of the following, and I always liked the way the Revised Standard Version puts it:

    (Proverbs 14:23 RSV) In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want.

    All the more relevant in this social-network-driven age (which, I strongly suspect, is something else driven by rampant ENFP extremism even as so many of a more theoretical temperament have made it possible and so many of yet another temperament may be even more apt to use it).

    Off your topic and Mr. Smith’s, Norbert: did I mention that journalists seem to be disproportionately ENFPs, especially the more politically liberal ones? Our American President seems to be one too.

    You all will notice that I’m accusing no one else’s type of ruining the world. In terms of character we all share tremendous guilt in that, but as I learn more and more about myself I can’t help but see how much people like me – disproportinately a small fraction of humanity – are running and then ruining the modern world for the rest of us. What irony. We should be on the front lines of defending the world from moral decay. Instead, we’re on the cutting edge of its decline.

    End of rant. 🙂

  5. @Norbert: Oh, one more thing: James says nothing about a “lawyer” being shown in a good light. He shows a “rich” person being shown in such a good light. They will oppress Christians and drag them into court (James 2:6), but as accusers – not as legal prosecutors. These were businessmen, employers, and owners of estates quite likely (cf. 5:1-6).

    Lawyers? The New Testament has plenty to say about them elsewhere. 🙂

  6. Steve

    There’s also a reverse type of snobbery. Get some CPA or lawyer to run the horses down to the pasture; then everybody stand around and laugh at him. Truth is, everybody has an economic function in society. And it all works out.

  7. Norbert

    My apologies for any confusion, yes it is supposed to refer to the short story about the lawyer and his son. I admitedly am not as good a wordsmith as another Smith we all know and love.

    I imagine after reading it the first time, to find a story that uses them in a good light is another reason why I remember it. We live in a world where there are so many short stories about lawyers that are nothing more than jokes that highlight their unscrupulous side.

    Something which politicians are also associated with and credited for. And I agree, those who follow Christ should be very cautious about how to speak about men and women in power (as well as speaking about the common citizen). I often ponder how the apostle Paul behaved and the words he had for Felix, Festus and Aggrippa in Acts 24-26. I believe a good question to ask about those passages is, why isn’t he just blurting out the word anti-christ and associating it with them?

    But all this has rather strayed off topic, which may be due to whatever XXXX I could be placed in. 🙂

  8. Heh, could be, Norbert. 😀 But it could be worse. You could be an ENFP like me (or, so it would seem, like Paul) and have one part of you dying to blab something like that out and another part dying to keep it in, with the part dying to blab it out naturally stronger. (Technically, that’s the ability to make certain kinds of value judgments tending to outweigh the ability to make certain kinds of logical judgments.) For Paul, as for me, keeping it in had become a developed skill.

    So being in a legal situation where he had to be impersonal and logical (something the Romans respected), he “became as a Roman”. It was a lot easier to make a strong personal and universal value judgment among his own (the Jewish Sanhedrin, which for all the legalistic reputation respected value judgments more) and “become as a Jew”. Either way, he wasn’t out to cause needless offense and work against his own purposes… which is what calling the Roman authorities “antichrist” (a term which, then, probably wouldn’t have quite registered for them anyway) would’ve done. Against the Jews, who knew Messiah was due to come? That’s another story…

  9. Linda Patterson

    Love this article, post, and the places your en route takes you that you share with us. I had to take down a thing for lack of any other discription is a lamp, I put up a proper light fixture in it’s place. Needless to say I will have to have a real electriction who is coming monday to tell me what is needed and how much is cost.
    Then I will God willing be able to get him to do this major part in peacemill stages, that is the only way I will be able to afford him and not eletricuit(hope spelling is close)
    myself going futher than I know to go. Must be a class a sixtythree year old lady can learn this stuff.
    Now what I can do it this, tear out the inside walls, ceiling and get rid of the junk that was put in here before I bought it. They swiped it with a promise and let it go in every area, blessing is I got the house rent to own and no downpayment. I took down the tin they had closing up the chimeny opening inside the fireplace, I cleaned out what seemed to be at least ten pounds of good rotted leaves, acorns, twigs and what ever else was there. Put it in the yard. Then I went to the local lumber, builders supply company and got a chimeny cap that keeps rain and debries out of the thing. It is clear from inside to the top, I can see all the way up even at the natural angle for flue to be able to draw properly, I will have to do something about the damper situation, there is not one, need to regulate that. I am tired, I caulked outside windows, wraped plastic around lattice that is there to cover up exposed are under porch and I gutted all I could of the bathroom walls at this time. Tired but very happy that God has made it possible over the years for me to learn things that most women do not get to learn, no longer hate the things I have had to do over my life, thank God for the lessons.
    I can thank you and Mrs. Smith too. I told persons what I was doing and planning to do, they baulked at the use of a saw, I reported to them that Mrs. Smith uses a saw to do things so can I. I have to admit here that the saw I was referring to at the time was a small electric chain saw that I want to get. People who do the things those saws are required for charge an arm, leg and all the money you have. Sceriously, I have used a big chain saw in years past, I am 63 so I do not see me doing that much.
    Where are the mom and pop craftsmen when I need them, unfortunately they were put out of business by cheap thrown together stuff that when broken you might as well throw it away, you can’t fix it. I am thinking that that is why coffee pots cost as little as ten dollars, you cannot fix it when it breaks.
    We need to know how to do things, we take longer when we are older, but the time is coming and is here when things that are really need are the things we won’t be able to afford. Can that food as long as you can grow that food. It may be all you have before you know it.

  10. Norbert

    My parents told me about what it’s like to go through the great depression, indeed we are alienated from harder times. It’s like hearing about another world in a different galaxy far far away compared to now. Where men, women and the children needed to work hard for a plate of food everyday and a roof over their heads. It gives a different meaning to the words “standard of living”.

    Also I am aware of some bible translations (NASB) for Titus 2:5 which use the word “workers” at home rather than “keepers” at home. It has something to do with the original manuscripts and I imagine Mr. Smith is better equiped to explain such a thing better than I can.

    In my opinion numerous women do have eye/hand coordination and some of those have the “sensitivity” to use power tools. Likewise some men do NOT, of which I know of one where a couple of his employee’s called watching him use a chainsaw “scary”.

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