15 March 2011


WORK AND MENTAL HEALTH. A study which confirms my own intuition reveals that "The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all .... Not unexpectedly, those who were unemployed had poorer mental health overall than those in work .... But after taking into account a range of factors with the potential to influence the results, such as educational attainment and marital status, the mental health of those who were jobless was comparable to, or often better than, that of people in work, but in poor quality jobs."

As I write this, there is a lively conversation thread building on Andrea Kuszewski's Facebook news feed. She posted the link to this study, and the topic resonates strongly with many of her readers. A few (non-attributed) remarks from the thread --
  • "Contrary to popular belief, just getting *a* job, any job, could send someone off the deep end of misery and despair just as if they were unemployed. (This is just my own opinion: there is probably a more depressive effect in those who are highly skilled being in a crappy job, than in those who are of average skills being in the same crappy job. Wasting greater potential with a minimum wage, mindless job could easily make someone want to kill him/herself. Just sayin'."

  • "When your mind is alive, and you like challenging work, doing something menial would be torture and degradation. Also, people you are working with, if they carry none of your values -- you would not only feel isolated but constantly aggravated."

  • "The greater the discrepancy between potential to achieve and those skills being utilized at the crappy job, the greater depression will result. So someone saying 'well, I worked as a gas station attendant and I took pride in it and it was fine" means absolutely zero to me .... What I mean is this: a job is not just a way to make money so I can live my life. My job IS my life. And that is worth a lot to me."

  • "I'm around doctors all day who complain about their jobs. I just answer, 'If you want to see real job-misery, go to a MacDonalds and look at the 40+ year old stuck making French fries all day for his living.' Also, if you talk to him you will very often find not some screw-up, but someone who was in college, who was 'going somewhere', but then had to drop out of college to take care of sick parents, or that girlfriend who wouldn't stop slashing her wrists, or some other needed (even noble) sacrifice that left them without an education and eventually stuck in a menial job for life."

  • [In response to a comment about Einstein working in his early years as a patent clerk:] "We have glamorized and romanticized Einstein's life. He could very well have been miserable. Also, a patent clerk probably has more 'downtime' to think than a guy working in a grocery store, and it is still intellectual work, albeit of a milder nature."

  • "Everyone has to pay his or her dues in life, so the idea that most of us will work crappy jobs at some time is not the problem. What is the problem is that too many of us get stuck in them, long after having paid our dues many times over."

  • "40 hours a week, every week, is a lot of time to be spent hating everything about what you are doing. Life and energy-sucking."

All of this has major implications for government programs which seek to place unemployed people in a job, any job. Quality matters.

NRA FAIL. The NYTimes reports that "More than two months after the Tucson shootings, the administration is calling together both the gun lobby and gun safety groups to find common ground .... officials at the Justice Department will meet with gun control advocates in the first of what will be a series of meetings over the next two weeks with people on different sides of the issue, including law enforcement, retailers and manufacturers, to seek agreement on possible legislative or administrative actions.

" .... But the National Rifle Association, for decades the most formidable force against proposals to limit gun sales or gun ownership, is refusing to join the discussion -- possible dooming it from the start, given the lobby's clout with both parties in Congress. Adminstration officials had indicated they expected that the group would be represented at a meeting, perhaps on Friday.

"'Why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?' said Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the National Rifle Association."

The article goes on to describe the Obama administration's efforts to seek middle ground on this and other key issues. It strikes me that LaPierre's stubborn refusal to participate is a clear indication of his organization's entrenched unwillingness to listen to any viewpoint but their own. Here he has a chance to provide meaningful input in a public forum on gun policy, and he insists on sitting back like a spoiled child? There is a parallel between his behavior and that of a citizen who refuses to vote, then complains about politics. If you refuse to participate, don't bitch about the results.

And please, stop trotting out the tired Second Amendment pony. The Second Amendment, adopted in 1791, was framed in the days when individuals in state militias had to furnish their own weapons. The modern equivalent, military reserve units and state national guard units, assuredly arm their troops. These days, "militias" are synonymous with redneck survivalist anti-government nut cases -- self-styled storm troopers who love to shoot and blow things up. In a word, anarchists. Don't insult my intelligence by hiding behind the Second Amendment as though it were the bible, all the while totally ignoring every other civil rights issue protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. Selective patriotism is no patriotism at all.

Making that very point on a lighter note, Stephen Colbert satirically "celebrates his Constitutional right to carry his pistol Sweetness, the state of man-gun relations, and legislation that would allow babies to pack heat" here.

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