Learning from manual labor

Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review Online details lessons he learned from working with his hands and muscles.

I can’t lie, this National Review posting is among the sweetest I’ve had. I can read and write almost anything that pleases me. But, I did have one other job in which my mind was even freer than it is here. Strangely, this mental and spiritual freedom, one I sometimes long to experience again, was found working in a chemical factory. …

… There are messes and bad batches. There may be horrid smells along the way. Some chemicals used at the plant where I worked smelled exactly like rotting meat, scores of thousands of gallons’ worth of it. Halfway down the road on the commute in, you could tell we’d taken delivery of that nasty stuff. …

… The company never talked about things like diversity. But it was, by far, the most diverse workplace I’ve ever experienced. I had ample time to discover the unflattering national stereotypes that men from different Caribbean islands had for one another. And from them I learned that the only way to win respect was working hard, and working in a way that made work for others easier. Conscientiousness counted more among workmates than being clever.

But together, we were a clever little company. A family-owned David, making its way through a field dominated by Goliaths such as Huntsman, DuPont, BASL, and Dow. I’ve been surprised by how much I miss the freedom that comes when you drop a time card into a slot that says your day is done. But I don’t miss the other side of it, where an extra ten minutes coming back from lunch costs you.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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