"There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly and complacently about "the working classes," and satisfy themselves that a day's hard intellectual work is very much harder than a day's hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger pay.
"Why, they really think that, you know, because they all know about the one, but haven't tried the other. But I know all about both; and as far as I am concerned, there isn't money enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down--and I will be satisfied, too.
"Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation and its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer, is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the magician with the fiddle-bow in his hand who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him--why certainly, he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same.
"The law of work does seem utterly unfair--but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash, also. And it's also the very law of those transparent swindles, transmissible nobility and kingship."
--Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
I've been thinking about this topic--the "transparent swindle" of work and wages-- as I leave the nursing home (that's what it is, even if they call it a senior residence) to take up writing again:
even though it's hack writing (to a publisher's specifications), it pays twice as much but is far easier than being a nursing aide (work I've also done).
I told one of the nursing aides that I was leaving because I'd begun to dread coming to work and facing the overwhelming needs of thirty-one people.
This woman, pregnant with her third child, said, "I feel that way every morning."
Yep, all my heartbreak aside (the pain of leaving people I've worked closely with for six months), the truth is I am now going to make twice as much doing easier work. Easier for me, that is, because I've been trained to it.
Working in activities is a bit of a mix---it's not going to break your body down (I quit being an aide after I damaged my wrist tendons), but in the World of Work, it's bottom of the barrel: you earn even less than nursing aides, and only a little more than workers at Walmart (Walmart's just raising their minimum pay).
It's high in meaning, though, and I hate to leave that. I am going to look into volunteering a nearby nonprofit senior day center that does a lot of community outreach.