Whose Job Counts?

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It’s simple human nature to attach importance to our work. And, for sure, it IS important — at least to us, and those dependent upon us. Very few of us, however, attach such significance to our labors that we make plans for our work to continue upon our untimely demise. Unless we’re Congressmen.

A gaggle of our public servants in Washington has recommended a Constitutional amendment to ensure the continued operation of government in the event of a terrorist attack. What a relief!

Well, maybe not. It may be incomprehensible to the D.C. crowd, but if the Capital and all its inhabitants were vaporized tomorrow, life would proceed pretty much as it always has. Naturally, there would be expressions or horror and dismay, anger and cries for revenge. Much of this would be media hype, of course, carefully orchestrated to create the impression that the proverbial man on the street was virtually paralyzed with shock and disbelief. To some extent, that would be true. But the lawn would still need to be cut, the shoes repaired, the house painted, the crops planted or harvested, etc. Children would still go to school, and the production lines would keep on producing.

Consider tragedies in your own life. Have you endured the death, perhaps sudden, of a loved one? If so, did you become so incapacitated that you could not function in a reasonably normal way? There were numerous details to be dealt with: funeral arrangements, legal matters, arranging for visiting relatives, obtaining death certificates for insurance, etc. Despite your grief, you did these things. You went back to work in a few days, and before long, your life was pretty much as it had been. And how could it be otherwise, if civilization is not to grind to a halt as survivors cease functioning in their grief?

If you can survive the loss of someone whom you deeply loved, how can you be more than transiently disturbed by the loss of strangers? Granted, they were national "leaders," but so what? Did you give them any thought, when they were living, as you went about your business? If so, it was as likely with annoyance, at their interference with your life, as with affection.

Could the country function without these individuals? Obviously, they don’t think so. They, or promptly named successors, are, in their own estimation, essential. Well, as I mentioned above, everyone thinks his or her job is important, but, in fact, which jobs have a daily, serious, impact upon society? Certainly not those of Congressmen. Which presents the greater danger: a loss of our Congressmen, or a loss of our garbage men? During the few weeks it might take to replace Congress, life would proceed apace. A few weeks without garbage collection, however, could spell real trouble. Piles of uncollected garbage mean vermin and disease, not to mention the visual and olfactory insults.

Or how about a loss of our postmen? Imagine the chaos of weeks without mail delivery! Business would be in chaos. What about truck drivers? If terrorists eliminated them, our markets would soon be empty, and starvation might be imminent.

But Congressmen? We wouldn’t know they were gone.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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