Spring has arrived, sort of, in my part of the world. The change in seasons reminded Mother Nature that March is almost gone, along with any opportunity to dump snow on us. She set to work enthusiastically and earlier this week presented us with nearly a foot of the white stuff. Wet, heavy, sloppy white stuff. We were unamused.
The equinox also reminded me that it was time for the Ritual Turning of the Mattresses. This ritual is always performed to a soundtrack I call Muttering Under The Breath, and it ends with the usual observations that The Sheets Are Looking A Bit Threadbare and that The Mattresses Are Getting On As Well. This is followed closely by the realization that I Could Do With A Bit More Money In My Life and the subsequent reminder that Gainful Employment Would Provide Same. Hard on the heels of these thoughts comes Remembrance of Jobs Past. At this point the sheets start to look quite lovely.
Seasons may change, but not much else does.
Gainful employment is actually pretty easy to come by in my town, as the university's Systems Analysis Department is always looking for adjunct faculty to teach introductory level courses. A person who knows her way around Microsoft Access and HTML can find all the work she wants. And teaching is not a bad way to make a buck. The students are bright, if not always motivated, and there are interesting things going on all over the campus. It's just that, well... work. Ick.
Work, or rather the lack thereof, is on the mind of many in the US, and it's shaping up to be a major issue in the upcoming Presidential election. American workers have been hit by a double-whammy in the last few years. We've been through an economic recession, and many employers have eliminated jobs in an effort to cut costs. In addition, employers have been 'outsourcing' a lot of their work, which means filling jobs with low-paid workers in foreign countries. It's this second item that's gotten peoples' attention. 'Outsourcing' hit the manufacturing sector many years ago, but the recent wave has involved white-collar professions such as accounting and computer programming. Many are concerned about the effects of globalisation on the American middle class and fear that we'll end up with a relatively small number of wealthy citizens sitting atop masses of the poor.
It's a worrisome combination. Voters are scared and they're mad, although they're not 100% sure whom to blame. To this volatile mix add the polarising effects of the war in Iraq, and you've got the recipe for a hotly-contested election. Ironically in 2000 George W Bush campaigned as a 'Uniter, not a Divider'. He has certainly done a bang-up job of uniting the opposing political party. Earlier this year people turned out in record numbers to vote in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, and they lined up pretty solidly behind candidates that they felt had the best chance of defeating Bush in November. In response, Bush has already gone into campaign mode, although the Democrats won't officially name their party's candidate until late in July.
A politically-engaged populace is a good thing, especially since it has been so disengaged in the recent past. But it is also a measure of the divisions in the country, which mirror the divisions among the world's nations. Certainly the human race has challenges aplenty; it's dismaying to watch us all pulling in opposite directions. I'd like to think we pretty much share the same goals; where we differ is on how to achieve those goals. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but some days you just have to look reality in the face and deny it.
All of which reminds me why we have a love-hate relationship with our jobs. 'The best things in life are free,' so the saying goes, but this is just hooey. Landlords get upset if you take that approach to paying rent, and shop owners get their knickers in a twist if you help yourself to their merchandise. So works we must, because eats we will. But work can be tough, and there are always co-workers whose mission in life appears to be making trouble for everyone else. It's the planet in microcosm, and it's enough to make the sturdiest of us gnash our teeth in frustration. Or choose threadbare sheets as a saner alternative.
Oh well, when the going gets tough, the tough go outdoors and sit in the sun, or in the snow. Rumour has it that there are daffodils and tulips somewhere under all that white slop, and the birds are still singing even though they sound a little unsure of themselves. And maybe, just maybe, once I get my head straightened out, I'll sit down and go mano á mano with Microsoft Access XP. Who knows? It's spring. Maybe I'll learn to love it.