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‘The Malaise Is Everywhere’

If this factory came back to life, who would work there? (Ppictures/Shutterstock)

A reader writes:

I have been reading your posts regarding the abandonment of middle America. This is of particular poignancy for me as I was shuttled around between various rural industrial towns and suburban working class as well as upper middle class communities during my youth. This was still when there was a carrot being dangled and a pot of gold to chase even in the most meager cow towns. It’s not just rural America or the rust belt that has been abandoned as Mr [Kevin D.] Williamson’s posts would suggest. The malaise is everywhere. Part of it which few seem to be addressing lies in the attitude of the educational establishment which they purvey to the cannon fodder in their grasp. Even in the 1970s the pervasive sentiment was “What, do you want to work in a factory?”

They succeeded in producing generations with expectations completely out of line with the reality before them. Anecdotally, I can offer this tidbit of my experience. I am by trade an engineer and a manager. I run an engineering department as well as the tool and die and mechanical / electrical maintenance departments for a ( gasp, these still exist? ) Midwestern metalworking company. When we run employment advertisements, the replies to the ads are as follows; Maintenance: Eastern European recent immigrants, primarily Polish. Tool and Die:  mostly US born some Polish and Russian, but all are in their 50’s or older, nothing coming down the pike. Engineering: Recent graduates of Indian or Mideastern origin, very few native born. And none of the applications are from native born with experience. It’s as if they vanished into thin air.

And yet, we read about the multitudes who are unemployed. They were merely led astray by those who were entrusted with their developmental care. Now they really do have no applicable skills. And as for the factory floor production positions within our company, the vast majority of applicants we receive are Hispanic. We are a short bus ride from the most impoverished ghettos you could imagine, but few applications come from those quarters. The complacency of generations of parents, placing blind trust in the motivations of the bureaucrats of the kid factories is at least partially to blame. The decline and abandonment in rural areas has been the thread which tied these posts together, but the underlying disease is shot throughout the entire body of our nation as well as most of the western world.

If Trump were to bring those jobs back to America, who would do them? Again, it’s anecdotal in my case, but teachers and administrators in public schools around the nation — schools that serve the poor and working class — e-mail or tell me personally that they don’t know how most of these kids will ever hold a job or form a stable family. Their home lives were too chaotic for them to get their feet on the ground. Many of them have no fathers involved in the picture, and moms with serial boyfriends. Drugs are a big part of their lives. They have no sense of direction or ambition. They are barely educated (despite the teachers’ best efforts). They don’t want to work. Et cetera.

It’s not so much that they’re unemployed as it is that they’re unemployable.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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