July 17, 2014

Having a trade might be the smarter choice these days

Posted in Irish Independent · 74 comments ·

I have just done something I haven’t done since I was a boy. I took two ancient children’s bikes apart, bolt by bolt; screw by screw, stripped the two frames down, fixed up the chains, mended the punctures, sanded down the tubes, fixed the broken saddles, tightened the spokes, found new nuts and bolts, different screw heads and spanners and I loved it.

I have forgotten how satisfying manual work is.

Sitting surrounded by little parts, oily newspapers, odd tools, old bits and pieces and fitting them all together again is immensely satisfying.

As I sat child-like with the old puckered tubes in a basin of water, waiting for the tiny telltale bubbles to give away the precise position of the microscopic perforation, it struck me that manual labour is a wonderfully self-affirming state of work.

At the end of a few hours, what had been two broken, inoperable pieces of 1980s junk, rusting away in the shed, were now two very fine bikes with two delighted kids cycling away on them.

Something that wasn’t, now is. This is a wonderful sensation.

I know it’s not rocket science – but that’s the point, it is real, not abstract, tangible not theoretical.

This satisfaction with doing things, indeed the relative complexity of fixing things, using the right nuts and washers, leaning on childhood memories of finding punctures and the like, got me thinking about why we in our society denigrate manual labour and regard the man who works with his hands as below the office worker.

Why is it that we regard the man who smells of grit, oil and grease after work as being of less social standing then the man in the suit and tie who smells of Calvin Klein?

Why does our society fancy the white collar over the blue collar? And more importantly, is this right economically for the society or psychologically for the worker’s sense of himself.

This bias against the manual is not just a “feeling” – it is real.

Irish society has socialised itself against manual or mechanical work for years.

When I was a child in national school, going on to the local tech was shorthand for saying the kid wasn’t clever. Going to the tech was for eejits and was a fate to be avoided for any self-respecting parent. Going to the tech was inferior to other secondary schools. Similarly, lads doing woodwork or metalwork for the Group Cert were generally regarded as not as sophisticated as fellas doing Latin for the Inter Cert.

This bias continues today.

For example, in 2010 the Government announced that the number of vocational schools was going to be cut from 33 to 16 across the entire country.

Over the years, Irish parents thought it better for their children to go to university to do an Arts degree than to train for a trade. This was because years ago university seemed to offer a better career path. But I am not sure that is the case anymore.

Having a trade, being good at something as opposed to being trained for nothing, could well be a smarter choice these days.

Maybe it is no coincidence that the country with the best systematic approach to training teenagers in the trades, Germany, with its rigorous apprenticeship system, also has the lowest youth unemployment in Europe.

Maybe it’s because German teenagers are good at something and can learn from the master, picking up invaluable tricks of the trade, so that they can go out and earn a living in some specific area.

We are told incessantly that we should prepare our kids for the “knowledge economy” without really knowing what this knowledge economy actually is. It appears that the most typical approach now is to urge our children to be generalists without being able to do something specific and in this way we think we are “leaving their options open”.

But what if their options are closing, precisely because there are too many of these generalists loafing around?

What if getting a trade and actually being able to do something, rather than closing off options, actually opens doors because you can do something mechanical that others can’t and will always need?

These are questions that are worth posing also because there is a tendency to dismiss manual labour, working with your hands, as not mental and therefore, not complicated. But nothing could be further from the truth. Think about a mechanic.

Consider the many thought processes that are going on in his head when he is sizing up an engine, when he is trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Also we are told that manual work is repetitive. But what’s more repetitive – going into an office every day to sit in a cubicle and look at a screen or meeting real live customers who are asking you to fix something or make something for them?

There is also autonomy in manual labour. You don’t have to just constantly buy a new model when something is broken. Or you don’t have to employ some expert to fix it; you might do it yourself. Or if you can’t actually do it yourself, at least you may know how the machine works and have an idea what’s wrong rather than being reduced to a helpless mess when the electrics blow.

Yet the unthinking degradation of working with your hands continues apace in Ireland and the education system is at the heart of this bias. Just get your head around the following – four times as many students, sat the religion exam in the Inter Cert as did metalwork.

Need I say more?

I’m off now to find something else to fix.


There’s a great American book on the lost virtue of manual work called ‘Shop Class as Soul Craft’.

  1. ex_pat_northerner

    Two more bikes back on the road and not in the skip. There’s a realisation going around that we can’t just keep chucking perfectly fixable stuff away, that the world has only got finite resources. There’s the satisfaction of doing the job yourself. There’s also the joy of tinkering, whether that be with real world objects or with software.
    Quick question – do either of the two kids (I don’t know the ages involved so may be young) know how to fix a puncture ? Did you teach/transfer the skill ?

  2. Bamboo

    Thanks David, that what we needed to hear

  3. Adelaide

    Tactile work is the most satisfying.
    Office work is grunt work, in fact I wouldn’t elevate it to the status of work, it’s office yawn-grind Mon-Fri, when I hear office people complaining of working hard they really mean they’re extra bored, a complete waste of everyone’s individual talents, bring on Automation and free up all our innate skills to create meaningful contributions to a better world, get on yer bike!

    • EugeneN

      Who is going to bring on this automation?

        • Adelaide

          Adam, I’ve not read the book but I saw an interesting documentary on the author Ray Kurzweil’s life’s ambition to cheat death, or more specifically to remain alive for his predicted Singularity in 2045 (he’d be 97 by then) when he can then augment his mortality. Since his early 20′s he has run a daily zealous routine fixated on prolonging his health. If I remember rightly he eats a pound of peeled red apple skins for breakfast. He’s hard-core. I still keep an eye out for him in the Sunday obituaries.

  4. Colin

    You can swing the lead sitting at your screen in your cubicle, there are all kinds of tricks you can play. However, if you are a carpenter on a building site, fashioning some shuttering in a hurry and placing it in exactly the right place so it will hold the fresh concrete about to arrive on site in a few hours, and have no leakage in the joints, there is absolutely nowhere to hide.

    Guess what kind of work lifestyle would most Irish people now prefer? Guess what lifestyle Irish people used to be known and admired for?

    • michaelcoughlan

      Hi Colin,

      My brother works as a shuttering carpenter in London. He has travelled the world with it. Good points raised.

  5. StephenKenny

    I thought we were all supposed to be learning Mandarin Chinese?

    • J-Will

      Ni hao Bamboo,

      What a wonderful idea! What was our host’s wise advice of late? ” to define our reality”,remember that? I do anyway.It jumped out of the page at me actually.The world is a war zone,a spreading inferno! We know this.

      So this is our Reality.

      But it’s not all doom and gloom …

      There’s a paradigm shift happpening right now as we read DMW’s blog and it’s a lot more than just idle “noise”.While Obama sanctions Putin (WHOOOOAA HA!HAHA HA!)there is keen purpose and an amazing level of co-operation and solidarity emerging among the BRIC nations,and many others,with the intention for a new paragon – of high-productivity and increasing the energy flux density(ie Humanity’s Growth&Progression)of our physical economies -with investment in mega infrastructural projects.This too is our Reality!

      How is our government doing to ‘tap into’ this revolution? or do we just pat ourselves on the back for Páirc Uí Chaoimh and live within our means and ‘cut our cloth’…..c’mon

      High speed rail and Energy centric projects…the former being a classic example of humanity’s creativity of wielding technology to increase the energy-flux-density [by orders of magnitude greater than current capabilities]of our Organisational Powers in respect of moving the world’s population/workers.

      The latter is a wonderful example of increasing the efd/POWER of our fuels – from wood to coal,coal to coke,,gas to oil,il to fission,fission to fusion,hot fusion to cold fusion ..this has always been the directionality of the human race,from early cave man,right up to today and necessarily so,in order to avoid system COLLAPSE by increasing the productive powers of labour/per capita-bee they food systems,energy systemsfinancial systems yada yada

      and lets not forget planned desalination plants and mega scale water projects to counter drought conditions and of course greening desserts too [ The Noosphere enhancing the efd of the Biosphere,right? It’s not so hi-falutin' in fairness !]by increase the available area of arable land,ergo increasing the subsequent levels of productivity.(per capita!)thus empowering agriculture on an eye-watering scale,so to sustain a growing global population and put an end to famine…

      Imagine that

      just watch the first 10mins

      • J-Will

        The BRIC nations are not “standing outside the fire” and discering shadows and only days ago,in unison ,they’ve successsfully created this CRA with 100Billion of credit [just to get us started and yea i said us,as all nations are invited!]with a dedicated mission and future orientation of enhancing the Real economy,the physical economy!

        “Something that wasn’t,now is.” We’re talking huge engineering projects with a view too of a “Silk Road” economic belt,as Helga Zepp-LaRouche has been tirelessly spear-heading and pioneering for decades!

        V.I. Vernadsky nd Johannes Kepler written all over it!

        So yea,as you suggested,get grinds for your kids in Mandarin /Cantonese and long shwarfeeega,Rosetta Stone and overalls ;)

        “A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization.The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery,has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

        Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.


        Prometheus Unbound!

        • DB4545

          Mr Bonbon, Do you really speak like that to normal people in a normal conversation? I think I may have said it in passing but you do really need to get out more have a few beers with a view to getting your c**k sucked. If not for enjoyment it may help with your communication skills and make you more employable.

      • Hello Mr. bonbon, how are you?

        Desalination is a worthwhile endeavour.

        We built one in Antigua (very flat and dry place) and it was definitely for the common good.

        LaRouche has some good ideas, but the likes of you swallowing it hook, line and sinker is not to your benefit, nor anybody else’s.

        Give me a call se we can meet up about this in person and chat. You know how to contact me.

        • J-Will

          yep,i’m hook line and sinker for The Truth;)

          yunno Adam in business,it is said [by whom exactly,who knows;]that if a business isn’t in net profit after a 1000 days,well “pull the pin” is often the advice-a rule of thumb from experience,so to say.

          It is also said,again by an unknown author,that it takes ~10,000hours of dedication to Master something difficult. From that point on,one is truly qualified,per se,to advise on that subject matter.I’m not sure these arbitrary numbers are ‘fair’, but it gives us a range on the effort needed to acquire and/or refer to someone as ‘masterful’ – be that a violinist,a word-smith,professional athlete, scientist, mechanic etc

          In one of my 3 jobs,i travel quite a bit and don’t need to prepare for meetings and i’ve utilised this time and my spare time too and have dedicated approx 2,000 hours in the last 2 years reading LaRouche/EIR/Shiller et al

          if i’m at 3000 hours down that rabbit hole – what’s Bonbon’s count? Is he like me,just a few years out of Plato’s Cave,or was he born ‘outside the Matrix’maybe or is he decades along in his journey?One sees things thro’ a different lens after a decade,or four decades.

          In contrast ,taking only of economics Adam,have you even watched this link once? Can you tell me the difference between anti-entropic and negentropic? I’m not so sure i could answer that well myself,but i won’t stop until i understand it and own it! There you have it..nutshelled


          makes ya think….

  6. gcy_1980

    Loved this article…it makes me think about what Marx talks about in his “theory of alienation.” He talks about how a capitalist society alienates us from our real self. The loss of satisfaction from our ability to work for ourselves and revel in achieving the fruits of our labour…about the need for humans to direct their own creativity. This was an essential component in pre-capitalist society. Though, Marx would also highlight how manual labour that is directed to a person also falls into creating alienation for a person from his own self. So it must be distinguished from direction of your own creativity… Such as fixing your bikes or building your own house.
    I completely agree with the notion that society now looks down on manual workers though. I suppose that comes from the psychological belief that they are part of what Marx would call a different class. Unfortunately, office work is usually less free in that the policies and procedures are even more strictly defined…they are just ignorant to the fact that they are just wage slaves to a different type of capitalist…:)
    I’m not Marxist, by the way..just thinking out load….

    • EugeneN

      Marx’s theory of alienation is hogwash. Except in very primitive societies people diversify into different roles and divisions of labour. That wasnt new to 19th century capitalism.

      In 21st capitalist society you don’t have to be alienated from your labour. You can control the whole widget.

      Write an app.

      • gcy_1980

        Hogwash or not, it still relates to what David was talking about. Neo-classical economics is pretty much hogwash too… But it still delivers some interesting insights….

  7. Welcome to my world
    Pushed to the university stream so transferred from woodwork to Latin.
    Having a natural aptitude for physical skills was shunted aside in favour of learning something I was less able to acquire.

    Having been raised on acreage I had all types of mechinacal skills and an appreciation of agricultural practices. combined with living in the family owned holiday hotel I also learned to operate any art of that business. anything from cleaning shoes to billing the customer with a paper spreadsheet accounting system.

    The net result was an accumulated skill set, no university education and no piece of paper saying I was accomplished at anything at all.
    This in an era where the paper qualification meant more than being able to actually do the job.

    I did have a lot of time to pursue a sports career at which I was very successful

    On applying to emigrate to to Canada I found that the great demand was for trades people. That is still the case today. So David is correct in an assumption that a well trade physical worker will be well rewarded.

    As I had no trade I found another entry point. That of a farmer. A quick review of the area I was headed too. North East BC and I determined what crops could be grown. Then a review of the topographical maps at the back of an atlas gave me soil type, vegetation, climate etc.

    My interview at Canada House in London was a snap as the staffmember had no clue of agriculture and i overwhelmed him with facts and figures and impressed him with my knowledge.

    I was approved. That is how i arrived in Canada with $7 in my pocket and a ticket to a foreign land.

    Had I a trade I would have prospered easily. However I was a skilled labourer (yes it is a designated occupation) and I always out worked anyone else on the job having the physique necessary as a residual of those days of sports training.

    It was later ater being able to easily afford to buy a house in those days, on a labourers wages that graduated to taking the required courses to become a licensed Realtor.

    Today, well older than the age of retirement, I occupy myself with physical work of any kind . Mostly I donate the work in exchange for other benefits and exist on modest savings accumulated from paid employment as a self employed Realtor.

    Recently I rebuilt the drainage infrastructure of a small holding. Usinf a scythe, shovel, crowbar, wrecking bar, pitchfork etc. I cut overgrown rushes and brambles, re-dug ditches, hoed vegetables and generally “improved the property. I receives little in exchange but a place to live, some food and the occasional 50 dollar bill.

    Now I live in a renovated shed, (done myself) and help around the yard.
    today I water the garden. Two days ago I leveled a site for a kids 3 foot deep wading pool.

    It gives me great pleasure to do these things.

    I need adequate food, a clean dry, warm place to stay and pleasant company. I have all three now. So there is little better than that.

    The creme de la creme is having the time to pester this blog.

    Thanks to all for your forbearance and patience.
    The other thing I have done is to remove all my savings from the banking system as I do not wished to be bailed in. My savings are in hard assets as I do not wish my savings wasted away in inflation. My earnings are in traded value so at this point non taxable, as at this point there is still no tax on voluntarily helping out your neighbour and receiving a small gift in appreciation is also not taxed.

    Will I count for much in the GDP stats? I hope not!!!

    • Adelaide

      Tony, you seem to me like a character straight out of a John Steinbeck novel, that is a compliment by the way, he is my all time favourite writer.

      ps talking of which, where is ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ of our times?

      • J-Will

        you sound like a fascinating man and we won’t forget the whales Mr.Brogan ,you elite feicer ;)

        • please explain what you mean as I have no clue

          • J-Will

            that was for Lady Adelaide i’m imaging ?

          • no it was for you mr J-will

          • Colin

            life goes on for tony and the whale…


            …what you don’t have now will come back again,
            you got heart,
            and you’re going your own way……

          • Colin, I enjoyed that video clip first thing this morning.
            I imagine your project is nearing completion or have you moved to another already.

            Reminds me of a job I was hired on in Croydon, west London when I escaped from the farm to venture out.

            The contractor was WIMPEY building a tower block of offices with flats above several stories high.

            I was going training at Battersea boxing club and staying in a run down wet , damp, cold house, later condemned.

            I was looking for work for three weeks and found nothing. Then at the club the brothers McDermott, from Roscommon, Pat and Mick, (correct names, not invented) said if I wanted a job then Sean would hire me.
            Turns out that Sean O’sullivan was the treasurer of the club and also worked for WIMPEY.

            So I turned up and sure enough I was hired on the spot by Sean and I went to work.

            I found all the labourers were Irish and all the trades people English.

            I do not know how there was any money made on the project as I also found everyone did as little work as possible.

            Within an hour a voice behind a concrete pillar with a visible hand holding a cigarette instructed me in a thick brogue not to work so hard.
            Within the week I found that the tradesmen who worked in pairs took a day off in the middle of the week to take the family to the beach. His partner clocked him in and then the favour was repaid later in the week and they took a paid day off.

            My work ethic was not appreciated by others.

            WIMPEY is an acronym of course for We Imploy More

          • Colin, I enjoyed that video clip first thing this morning.
            I imagine your project is nearing completion or have you moved to another already.

            Reminds me of a job I was hired on in Croydon, west London when I escaped from the farm to venture out.

            The contractor was WIMPEY building a tower block of offices with flats above several stories high.

            I was going training at Battersea boxing club and staying in a run down wet , damp, cold house, later condemned.

            I was looking for work for three weeks and found nothing. Then at the club the brothers McDermott, from Roscommon, Pat and Mick, (correct names, not invented) said if I wanted a job then Sean would hire me.
            Turns out that Sean O’sullivan was the treasurer of the club and also worked for WIMPEY.

            So I turned up and sure enough I was hired on the spot by Sean and I went to work.

            I found all the labourers were Irish and all the trades people English.

            I do not know how there was any money made on the project as I also found everyone did as little work as possible.

            Within an hour a voice behind a concrete pillar with a visible hand holding a cigarette instructed me in a thick brogue not to work so hard.
            Within the week I found that the tradesmen who worked in pairs took a day off in the middle of the week to take the family to the beach. His partner clocked him in and then the favour was repaid later in the week and they took a paid day off.

            My work ethic was not appreciated by others.

            But I was promoted to Chippies Mate (Carpenters helper) and I became so efficient at my job that I was finished for the day by 10 am. I spent the rest of the day honing my narrative skills as I chatted the day away. Sad to say I became the best at what everyone appeared to be doing. That was as little as possible.

          • double posted again. I had no idea the first was sent.??? sorry again folks!!

          • Colin

            Good stuff Tony, glad you liked it. Yes, project coming to an end soon, first of 3 Tower Cranes dismantled this weekend. All 3 will be down in 1 month. I’m starting to look around for a new job. I haven’t been told how much longer I have here and there is a long time lag before the next site (Shell HQ South Bank) needs me, so I may be placed on that lovely auld English phrase ‘gardening leave’.

            chat soon

      • Ha Ha Adelaide, thanks

        I recently decided that as I long ago made a decision that I would live to be 105 as a minimum, (everything after that would be a bonus) I had better do something with the rest of my life and I did not fancy doing it alone.

        With another 33-34 years to figure out I have to plan for the long term but learn how to enjoy each day as if it were the last. This is somewhat new thinking for me as I have spent two lifetimes worrying about making a living.

        I have had 2 marriages of 10 and 20 years and a “relationship” of 5 years. I got to thinking the next better be for 30 years.

        A good pal, a lady friend, suggested I try POF, Plenty of Fish, as there may be a lady or two looking for a cantankerous old git like myself.

        Well sure enough there were and the problem being how to introduce ones self. After several chats with various people I was disposed to try a venture. It lasted about 30 days and that was that. all a mystery to me as to the reasons but so be it.
        After dashed hopes a month later I tried again and so far so good.
        So now the plans are to see how we go and where and how we may continue this life’s journey.

        One lady’s bio on the POF site said she lived her life by the 4 agreements. Somewhat intrigued I googled that and liked what I found.


        There is a fifth agreement added subsequent to these being published, and here they are. I never met the lady but sent a thank you note.

        1. Be impeccable with your word
        2. Do not take anything personally
        3. Do not make assumptions
        4. Always do your best


        5. Be skeptical but learn to listen

        The one I have the most difficulty with, is 2. But I get better.

        1. I try
        3. A habit of mine that gets me into all kinds of trouble with other people!!
        4. The most often repeated statement on my school report card and mostly including but could do better!!
        5. we all need a healthy dose of in this age of lying, cheating and stealing.

        I continue to look for my small holding of arable land where self sustainability is possible.
        I have met like minded friends and a lady who may well decide to join me.

        It has taken 71 years but things are looking up while the world takes a turn for the worse. My father was optimistic enough, mother too of course, to deliver a healthy happy child into the blitz of southern England in 1942. What an auspicious happening. My lucky day!! :)

        Cheers and have a great day.

    • Great stuff Tony, you’re a man who walks the walk.

    • michaelcoughlan

      “My earnings are in traded value so at this point non taxable, as at this point there is still no tax on voluntarily helping out your neighbour and receiving a small gift in appreciation is also not taxed.
      Will I count for much in the GDP stats? I hope not!!!”

      Most important few lines on the blog in years. Makes the bonbon theories redundant. Each citizen has the capacity to choose to use any item deemed suitable as money with a fellow citizen of like mind and achieve financial freedom from rentiers and central banks. I am using grazing as money at the moment Tony.

      Best of luck,



    David you are wealthy enough to have time to do this sort of thing, I am not. And Im envious. Fair play to ya.
    Soft power, which you should copyright and own, is one of your concepts that I always admired, did you coin the phrase? You are responsible for many others in the vernacular that no none credits you for, but, seems to me, tradesman would be, me thinks, HARD power, so the chapter in The Generation Game titled, The Generation Game, needs a rewrite??
    “When my information changes I change my mind, What do you do sir?”

  9. Had conversations on this topic with my son before he went to Uni to do Philosophy. Told him philosophers are the Marines Of The Mind & only ‘economic’ point doing it is because you want to run something big like a corporation or govt dept. However, it also has wider utility. If you learn how to think, you can think about absolutely anything, including bike repairs!

    Niche boutique crafts are the rising tide from artisan brewers to #TDF mechanics for MAMILS. But, any trade depends on customers so if every office / factory drone is automated into oblivion by Robotics or Business Process Re-Engineering, nobody’s going to have any cash for that retro-nouvaeu hand-crafted kitchen.

    You probably need a portfolio skillset ‘going forward’. Trade, profession, duckin’n'divin seat of yer pants entrepreneurial/criminal gagsta wheeler dealer. All that fun stuff. Suburbia is going to get a lot more rowdy when the pension funds collapse.

  10. Been busy today in the lovely Isle of Man and haven’t read the article but have glanced through some of the comments.

    I see Marx was mentioned, Marx’s most important observation is the Theory of Surplus Value – basically all the good things in life that are produced by hard work, are robbed from those who create/produce them by the rentiers.

    Once that can be dealt with, we’ll be fine.

    The ability of blockchain technology to transparently record the ownership, value and transfer of assets is key to this.

  11. michaelcoughlan

    Fantastic Article.

    Incomplete though. let me explain: If the tradesman has to use fiat currency in his transactions and that currencies purchasing power has been steadily reduced to an insignificant level or he is forced by an accountant to work on a zero hour contract then he be fu”cked.

    So be a good tradesman AND know how to trade your skill in a manner which isn’t injurious to yourself by adopting the principles outlined by either Adam, Tony or myself dare I say it.



    Irish employers won’t waste time and money training people. They have access to 250 million workers across europe ! During the 5 yrs i spent in 2ry school, not a single employer came to the school to offer career advice or wotk experience.
    The word career or job was never mentioned by a single staff member. The priest who worked as a career advisor played 2 rounds of golf every day. If you wanted a job, either your parents fixed you up or you emigrated. Work availability in trades is extremely cyclical. How has the UK economy generated 1 million jobs in the past year?

    • StephenKenny

      The UK has increased outstanding consumer & government debt by about £100bn per year, every year, since about 2000. There’s a lot you can do with an extra £100bn per year.
      For example, if it was all spent on creating jobs one year, it’d be £100,000 per job. Or alternatively, you could maintain 2m public sector jobs that you otherwise couldn’t afford.
      Think back to the Tiger: a massive property bubble that everyone denied, and all that money sloshing around. It’s like that.

  13. McGoo

    I can completely relate to what David is saying, being one of those guys who has a natural talent for building and fixing things, but instead of pursuing a trade went to university, and now sits at a desk doing a management job that I have no aptitude or passion for.

    I spent years living in Australia, where hands-on technical skills are highly valued and well rewarded. I designed and built datacoms networks. I led the team that managed a huge TV distribution network 24/7. I drove 4×4′s up mountains to carry out urgent repairs. I loved it, and Australia loved me and my skills and my can-do attitude.

    But when I returned to Ireland, hands-on skills were not valued at all. It was all crappy contract work on barely more than minimum wage. I drove a van for An Post because it was better paid. Then I moved to a call centre because that was better paid than An Post, and it made some slight use of my technical skills. And then the entire call centre was outsourced to a contract company that paid their staff half what I had been paid. Not surprisingly, they got high staff turnover, and a lower skill level, but they didn’t care.

    So now I work in management. I send and receive endless emails, prepare spreadsheets, make powerpoint presentations, spend uncountable hours in meetings, sometimes flying around the planet to attend them. How does any of this add value to my employer? I have no idea, but I need the money, and they pay me quite well.

    My point is that doing a satisfying manual job is not well-rewarded enough in Ireland to be considered as a serious career option. If my son wants to live in Ireland I will advise him to train as an accountant.

    • michaelcoughlan

      “If my son wants to live in Ireland I will advise him to train as an accountant”

      I know. Desperate isn’t it. Adding value to an employer means forcing the staff down into min wage zero hour contracts and the only people getting paid properly are the people who facilitate his type of destructive behaviour like accountants.

      Your experience outlined above is typical of so many. My cousin is a highly talented joiner. No one will pay a fair wage any more so he now works in a factory assembling quick staging you could train a monkey to do.

      A trade is one thing David. GETTING PAID IS ANOTHER.

    • CorkRob

      I’m not too sure about that McGoo!!!

      I can’t get a good roofer to fix a small leaking roof in Cork at any money – I say a “Good Roofer” – I can get plenty of chancers demanding €200/day and quoting 3 days minimum for a 4 hour job.

      Similarly, my mother (90) has a Czech gardener (cuts the grass & trims the hedges) who “charges” €25/Hr – that’s €50k/Yr for a “Cash” Gardener. I got charged €80 by both a Laptop repair guy and a TV Repair guy to just look at the two items before any repairs – I’d call that well paid, rewarded and highly valued.

      As an out of Work Sales & Marketing Director with a University Commerce degree and a professional qualification, I can’t get a job paying better than Minimum wage, so I’d say DMcW is spot on about future best bets for our kids careers.

      He’s correct about Germany too – They have a hive of Manufacturing Industries while FF/FG/Lab here concentrated on making “Kute Hoor” margins (Pushing Money around) on Financial Trades in the IFSC and we lost 99% of our domestic industrial base.

      We have great food and a decent environment – we should concentrate on Food Production (Primary & Value Added), Tourism and Green Energy and Help tool-up our next few generations to be world beaters at all three sectors.

      • J-Will

        I’m not so sure about that CorkRob ;)

        Green Energy/solar panels and turbines may be a current trend,but myopic,not to mind grossly unscientific.Aside from the fact that Green policies are assisted genocide ,look at South Africa and China and their nuclear development programmes.

        I really enjoyed your post["up-tooling" jumped out of the page at me] until the word “Green Energy”".Ireland pursuing a path of making a buck contributing to that LIE ? i’d rather shtarve

        so yea let’s up-tool with a view to catering for these nuclear expansion plans…imagine the size of investment involved…we find a technical niche or develop a portfolio of various hi-tech engineering product?service niche offerings and help sculpt Ireland’s future.We have the smarts and determination ,in spades!With the direction and intent of developing massive investment in R&D is KEY and our so-called educational system – bothprimary and secondary- overhauled,so we can grow in a top-down progressive manner.

        As suggested a few weeks back – a long-term investment fund opportunity with modest 2or3% yield that pensions could track makes perfect sense.Hell,i see companies on US Stock Exchange with no turnover,none,no stock , none ,no premises(not so much as a garden shed or postal address (and that’s a fact!) are launching IPOs and companies of certain profiles r being valued at 15+*EBITDA-which is massively overvalued (bubbles again!)so if this is the climate,why the hell,aren’t our government creating a National Credit Fund of sorts with a mission to support this ‘trend’ and create a ten more to steady the ship,we can dust ourselves off and as we Irish do BEST,in fairness,forget the bad times and GET ON WITH IT AND WIN! [inc our lost sovereignty]

        Or we gonna be left behind ?

      • McGoo

        1. 200 euro a day sounds fair for casual skilled labour. Obviously I don’t know how long the job should take.

        2. If you really thought the gardener was making 50K a year you’d be out doing it yourself. He/she spends lots of unpaid time looking for work and travelling between jobs, and probably has to offer a discounted rate to get bigger jobs. Weather also restricts his/her working hours.

        3. TV repair has not been worthwhile for years. If it’s going to cost 80 euro to look at it and, say, another 150 euro to fix (labour & parts & vat), that’s 230 euro that could have gone towards a new TV with a 2 year warranty. Sad, but true. Laptops are not quite there yet, they are still sometimes worth repairing.

        4. I agree about Germany. They have done a lot of things right.

        5. If food, tourism and wind/wave power are the only fields that we have a competitive advantage in, we are screwed. That’s just not enough.

  14. While we are all busy working at meaningful hands on jobs the US tells more lies to suit its agenda.

    Read Paul Craig Roberts who In my opinion is putting his life in danger by being so vociferous.


  15. “No … there is only one way to solve the problems of the Modern Age: Educate yourself about market economics and take human action to make yourself, your family and your community as independent as possible.”

    - See more at: http://www.thedailybell.com/news-analysis/35488/Illiterate-Twofer-Rise-of-Robots-Demands-Universal-Basic-Income/#sthash.ncR8KLe7.dpuf

  16. J-Will

    Here in England there’s an organisation called Wood Croft.The thrust of Wood Croft’s philosophy is one of promoting Co-Operation in young people and encourage working-together to make progress.A buddy here,who is a leader in the local organisation,rings me on occasionto ask if i could come up with some ideas for the next club meeting – in order to challenge and keep the young people busy,but for it to be FUN. I help as much as I can,but my conditioning,for example that of the influences of competitive sports from a young age,has actually limited (stunted at times!)greatly my own ability to think beyond that competitive ‘bubble in my mind.

    You see,Wood Croft do NOT promote competing with one another to achieve goals.No one-up-man-ship “tolerated”..no survival-of-the-fittest mumbo-jumbo..rather in avery inclusive way,show young people how to think on your feet,creatively and together,sans ego.So here i am trying trying to come up with some ideas and i’m always thinking in terms of Competition,that is to say,i have been brainwashed to view most things ,filter my thinking predominantly thro a competitive lens…

    Was i [and the MTV generation as DMW one referred] sold the dream of maybe being a star athlete or a nurse for which I had no true vocation ( which I never truly had the ingredients to bake that sports cake! ) reinforced [driven-home!] as that’s what society respects, adores. To be the best at whatever cost to myself or others ?That’s a big problem right there!

  17. J-Will

    We don’t seem to have Wood Croft? We have Scouts [and Brownies] and it is a wonderful organisation full of genuine people trying to make a difference,but it’s not perfect.There was in my day and there’s still a competitive focus,as i’m reliably informed.. it’s entrenched in most of their activities.

    And encouraging co-operation/team building/critical thinking skills ,while they feature of course in e.g.the skillfull setting up of all those stinky,musty,eight-man Icelandic tents,thus establishing a functioning camp,there is still a large element of pitting one boy/girl against another,which can be devastating to one’s confidence.Wood Croft goes out of it’s way to avoid just that…again very inclusive.ever had the FEAR of being chosen LAST in the school gym,or finishing paddy last in a race? eh?if you can remember those moments from 40years ago,it undeniably has left a mark on your psyche.i hope future generations side-step those kinda landmines.

    i’m not saying competition is bad,,on the contrary – it propels us, but at what cost – individually and to society? Is that kinda culture[ with FEAR and pressure lurking]the best way forward in search of change ?

    This concept of embracing and nourishing an axiom of co-operation is the direction,qualitatively speaking,where our educational system needs to be,right? Then we will see changes of a non-linear fashion,in the minds of our children’s children and on which they will ACT in promoting future generations be better equipped to further themselves and further future generations – each generation to be more productive than the last,right?

    Is this a metric of Value,maybeTHE metric,to gauge humanity’s success?

  18. Being the best you can be at what ever you can do is all that one can ask of ones self. Striving for others approval or to best another is not as healthy as having quiet respect for oneself. Others acclamation for such an achievement is a bonus but not the root cause to strive for excellence.

    I too was competitive. But stuck to athletics at school where the measure of success was the tape or the clock. How that compared to others was incidental. Amateur boxing was different. That was direct competition of a more extreme nature. But one learned to be magnanimous and humble when victorious and to quietly accept defeat when losing and to congratulate the victor. Sportsmanship it is called I believe.

    • J-Will

      Great Post

      “Striving for others approval or to best another is not as healthy as having quiet respect for oneself.”


      i too am for sports and all for genuine expressions of sportsmanship,but young people are,in various powerful forms ,conditioned that sport,which ought to be FUN with a sense of togetherness,is a battle and don’t be the loser! This relentless competitive psyche,when we may have other skills and contributions beyond the hunter-gatherer role,and would contribute to society much more productively,if given a fair chance, but are too often denied,as attested to here on the blog,due to gross ineptitude and lack of vision [ i too had a christian brother ,golf playing, careers guidance advisor - a waste of space and he and whoever appointed him, MUST have known the responsibility and importance of such a role!]

      The ‘keeping us with the Joneses”model,which has eradicated a sense of community,stemmed from these childhood lessons of winning at-all-costs, is a learned behaviour and played it’s pivotal role of exuberant borrowing in the years of the race to the bottom Tiger years …that the 4×4 would validate one’s “success” to peers — reminds me of the school yard!”angels of our own despair”

      In society’s eye’s,productivity today is measured exclusively in the size of one’s wallet.Again,this pursuit of “self-love” needs to change and maybe our exchanges here are changing us and that’ll have a knock-on-effect for future generations?Culturally,the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our differences -that make us unique individuals are too often seen/perceived to set us apart!

      Again,more conditioning /brainwashing/indoctrination ….the dark arts of Oligarchy – divide and conquer!How did Oliver Stone put it in that documentary @53rd min about the FALSE justifications for bombing Nagasaki/Hiroshima – “to win by any means necessary,which makes us,,because we win,Right and because we are Right,we are therefore Good.Under these conditions there is no morality but our own”… now that’s a Hmmmmm moment

      “Strive for perfection and you may achieve excellence”…As a young boy,my father would say that in Latin,which sounded like Swahili to my young ears;]and he always followed this up with a mono-tone “How-hi is a China man” — that riddle kept my young mind busy for a lonnnng time ;) lol

      An Enlightening read


      • J-Will

        And while a quality documentary,how can Oliver Stone say that the british empire ended after hitler? How with the degenerative influence alone of bertrand russell – clear for all to see effects,can Oliver say that,when he ‘must’ know that NOTHING could be further from the Truth?…just like Neil deGrasse Tyson is a modern day Carl Sagan,right? Again my preconceptions and beliefs were challenged recently when i read that Tyson regards Isaac Newton as the greatest mind,of all times – a bold statement at the best of times…further to reading a little Riemann and Plato and Euclidean geometry i’ve learned that Isaaac Newton’s work in terms of physical science is fallacious,flawed and some would say a stinking fraud of what’s actually Real and True in physical science!

        Who can we trust ?

        Ghostbusters ?

      • Colin

        well, at least we now know who’s to blame for the way you turned out

        • michaelcoughlan


          Like I tried to point out to one of the other bonbons before; The whole world can read this blog and read the ramblings of these guys.

        • J-Will


          Gordon Bennett !!

          yeaaah ;) you just can’t handle this self-improvement stuff,eh Colin…too’touchey-feely’ ….how very Irish of you.

          i’m not sure if you went to the trouble of logging on here to post that single comment to target my father(who attended The North-Mon where all students learned Latin btw )or target his challenging and enriching my young mind with problem solving and a modicum of culture and sophistication? or was it an attack on Scouts or sport?who knows;)

          To make a ‘crust’ in this life,i teach Martial Arts part-time,more specifically i teach students how to deal with the Fear of being
          hit!– be it a face-shot,a kick,whatever.

          i often give students an example of a car-crash involving 4people,2 of whom are drunk and 2 sober.As very often is the case in such scenarios,the drunk occupants often emerge unscathed,at least relative to the sober occupants.The reason for this is that the people who are drunk,are forcefully thrown around inside the car like floppy rag dolls,but the sober people stiffen-up and their subsequently rigid bodies,in the ensuing tumble/crash,does a lot more damage,physically. .

          Something similar as if you were sitting with a friend on a couch and you thump him in the arm when he’s not watching,just for the hell of it. It may give him a fright,but the pain from your half-thump doesn’t hurt him so much.Then if you repeat the exercise on his other arm,but this time,your friend is fully aware that youre about to deliver a half-thump,the pain factor ,post thump,actually increases considerably ,relative to the earlier half-thump.

          The anticipation and fear alone of pain,only enhances the pain.

          Same as a fight,in a bar or competition,if you fear being hurt,if you fear that you’re gonna get beaten-up and your ego is gonna get the real thumping,the body reacts in usison with your fearful state-of-mind and you’vve already lost,as your fear has conquered you.

          As i said, I spend a lot of time teaching people how to overcome that debilitating fear in such scenarios. Ive been doing this ‘work’ for quite a few years & ive learned, discovered ,that it’s often fear that sometimes makes us tick inside and if you don’t take the time to open up the back of the watch sometimes,give a spring clean, one day ,the mechanism inside, especially when under pressure,may not function as expected – especially true when faced with a stereotypically looking thuggish guy that for maybe no good reason picks on you – the bully from the school yard, but decades later!) and hard-wiring of FEAR of confrontation,fear of fight-or-flight,fear of loosing,fear of being made fun of,fear of ending up ‘paddy last’,fear of not being accepted if one goes against POPULAR OPINION ,ALL can envelope the person being attacked and renders them largely useless to deal with such incidents,and often develops to the stage where Avoiding such scenarios ever happening in the first place,controls a spectrum of one’s behaviour in life,generally a stunting effect!

          “Be like water” Colin and “feel the fear and do it anyway” lol

  19. DB4545

    David are you for real? What competitive advantage does a trade offer in a Europe awash with cheap skilled labour from the Urals to the Atlantic. Most “skilled” trades these days in traditional terms ( building trades ) are in reality semi-skilled. Fordism has engineered out the thinking skills traditionally required with these trades and most of them are little more than “fitters” and I include my own original trade(electrician) in that analysis. The German model of a trade offers the best hope ie train as a good generalist and progress into a niche with global applications. But the window that we had before the Eastern Europe labour market swamped us is gone. Our kids are competing with hard working well trained Poles who also have fluent German in additional to the technical skills and who can drive home for the weekend. We need to move up the food chain the boat you’re talking about sailed 25 years ago in Europe.

    • Mr. bonbon, you definitely need to get out and meet more people in the real world.

      The path you are following is not healthy for yourself.

      • michaelcoughlan

        The post was accurate and insightful Adam.

        All my well qualified friends have had to emigrate to countries where they get paid properly. Couldn’t get paid worth a fu*k here.

        • J-Will

          I appreciate the genuine concern Adam,but it’s all good ;)

          As a once professional soccer player Adam,you ran many many offensive drills where the ball was NOT involved i imagine? That was my experience of amateur basketball anyway.We ran and repeated such drills in order to organise ourselves with some level of precision,so that when it came to ‘game-time’,these plays are 2nd nature and your focus then is not dedicated on where to position yourself best,but with increased Awareness of purposefully playing your role in creating a pre-designed play, with the intent to free up space for one player and create an opportunity to shoot on goal and hopefully score.

          Yea,such plays are just a template and may not evolve how first planned,but each team mate is connected with his fellow team mates and you’re working in unison and in some part – thanks to these drills.

          Well while thinking of economics,maybe do a similar drill in your mind – where the ball this time,is not in the shape of money or bitcoins,silver etc,but rather,our creative minds harnessing technology to further our common ‘goals’.

  20. The best trade one can make today is to be invested in commodities.
    See this article and then add agricultural land which Ireland has in plenty.
    commodity price increases are the signal that inflation is on the march coming to your pocket book soon.


    • DB4545

      With an increasing global population with mouths to feed what other way can commodity prices go? On a selfish(or self interested) note the Irish agricultural sector has a good ace to play with “clean produce”. There’s a sufficient and growing affluent niche in the EU and China for us to deliver a high value product to service those markets. A Country that has no nuclear facilities,is still GM free(I hope) and has grass fed cattle is a rarity (NZ maybe). Most of our Marine resources already go there( via French and Spanish fishing industries). The Agricultural sector in fairness see the opportunities and are ramping up. Maybe they need targeted resources instead of the Multinationals. The Whiskey business has done well with perceived value.

  21. E. Kavanagh

    Didn’t we have this very conversation in the early 80′s?

    • StephenKenny

      We did, but as one would sadly expect, rather than doing what we should, we did the opposite.
      Rather than creating a population that took pleasure and interest, and therefore economic demand, from activities and services that included peer-group personal interaction, we went for the dumbed-down consumer demanding disposable rubbish from a underclass of desperate poverty-wracked almost-slaves.

  22. Bamboo

    We sure did.

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