American Work Ethic: Not dead yet
In 1904, the world-renowned German sociologist, Max Weber, toured America. Herr Weber found a vibrant people feverously engaged in purposeful, capitalistic, economic activity which Weber characterized as the: Protestant Work Ethic. Actually, the American Work Ethic would have been a better choice of words because Americans of all religions were carrying out their desire to better themselves and their families, resulting in the world’s most successful representative democracy and the greatest nation on earth.
But for some Americans who suffered through the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, and the Cold War, there is the feeling that the young people of today have lost the American Work Ethic. That too many of them fit the stereotype of a “lost generation,” smoking dope, speaking with vulgar language, defacing their bodies, relying on welfare, and chilling out.
Having just spent a week working literally elbow-to-elbow with a movie production company that was using our sailboat as its floating stage property, this commentator-sailor can attest that the American Work Ethic is alive and well. Not since retiring from the military has this observer seen a group of young people so willing to work 12-to-14-hour-days while applying the most meticulous standards of professionalism to their craft. And that does not count the evening hours spent reviewing the day’s footage for any errors of framing, lighting, sound, dialogue, and continuity.
On Day One of the filming, so much high-tech electronic gear was installed below deck that our boat’s cabin looked like the control room for the launch of a space shot. As for people, Steerage Class on the Titanic was probably less crowded.
Topside were the three actors, the writer/director/co-producer, the director of photography and his two assistants, a sound man with a boom microphone, an electronics technician, and yours truly. Alongside was a big pontoon boat carrying a huge light reflector, an assistant producer, a make-up artist, caterers, gaffers, and grips. A rubber dingy used as a messenger boat was alongside as well. From the shoreline, our movie-making flotilla must have looked like a tiny version of the Spanish Armada.
Despite the oxygen-depleted high altitude, the skin-blistering UV rays, and the gusty winds that produced gut-wrenching waves, the crew of 25 mostly-young Americans worked without complaint and unending determination to each do their part at the highest level of movie-making professionalism. Again, other than today’s military, this observer was unaware such hard-working young Americans even existed.
The actors for “Teddy Boy,” who spent most of their time waiting for the camera, the lighting, and the sound elements to be in place, used their “down-time” to do calisthenics and to rehearse the lines they delivered without any prompting. When called on to dive into 50-degree lake water, the actors did so without complaint.
So, at a time in our nation’s history when some doubt that America can remain an exceptionally strong and vibrant nation, it is comforting to know that a company of college-age film students, along with only slightly older actors, directors, and producers are working long, hard hours to perfect their craft with a dedication that would make Herr Max Weber very, very proud.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.