Stigma? What stigma?

I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old man, complaining about how things aren’t like they used to be… but kids, lemme tell ya, things nowadays aren’t like they used to be!

Used to be that parents took pride in their children’s accomplishments and in fact, insisted on their kids working hard and making every effort to achieve something in their lives. Not that most parents don’t still do that. But you hear about kids getting to college and being surprised at how much work they’re expected to do… or that they’re expected to work at all. Or, how in some communities, opportunities are hard to find and expectations end up being lower than they should.

In some places, kids actually take heat if they do particularly well in school. It seems the stigma of being poorly educated no longer exists and has become a badge of pride for some misguided youth.

It seems that the current economic condition has affected the stigma of being jobless. It used to be embarrassing to lose a job, to be… unemployed. Now, things are so bad, it’s surprising if you don’t know someone looking for work.

When it comes to how to deal with whether there’s a problem being out of work in a society that values being employed, the piece quotes a California career coach who notes employers are getting a different perspective on the problem, saying, “Today, it happens so frequently, it just doesn’t have the stigma.”

I’ve noticed lately that it’s not just employers who don’t seem to see stigma. I’ve been on the phone recently, cutting back on various services to save some money. Most of the customer service people don’t seem affected when I tell them I simply can’t afford my old level of service. In fact, a political fundraiser continued to ask for a contribution, even if it were smaller (Sorry, Al Franken. I’ve done all I can. If you end up in the Senate, it’ll have to be without my money).

While I’m glad people don’t look at me sideways when they find out I don’t have a job, I have some concerns about how the economy might affect the national zeitgeist. It’s possible that we get used to people losing their jobs and become too accepting of the situation. If ways can’t be found to stem the wave of layoffs, do we become a nation that accepts the idea of a growing percentage of people without work? And how does that not breed resentment among the people with jobs, knowing they’re carrying an extra burden to support the jobless?

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