Dignity of labour

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By labour we generally mean manual work. This is work done with the hands as distinguished from mental work or work done with the head. Manual work is ‘hand’ work and a manual worker is one who works with his hands. Most people look down upon manual work and a manual worker is treated as an inferior being. Generally, manual worker from ‘lower classes’ or are called as so.

Therefore, many young men of the middle class would rather work for a paltry salary in an office than soil their hands and earn double the money as an artisan. They think it is beneath their dignity to do that kind of work. However, one must realise that honest work of all kind is dignified and worthy of respect. Many great men have set glorious examples in showing the way to take up manual labour with great dignity.

Mahatma Gandhi himself did the Work of a humble sweeper in South Africa in his early days to uphold the concept of dignity of labour. Later in Sabarmati Ashram which he founded for carrying on his activities of freedom struggle and the upliftment of the downtrodden, the entire work of the Ashram was carried on by the inmates themselves. He wanted to do away with the complex of doing ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ work. Mahatma Gandhi showed that example is better than precept. He did all the ‘lowly’ jobs himself to show others the way that every kind of work is dignified. He lent dignity to whatever work he did. He taught people that no stigma should be attached to a man because he works with his hands rather than with his head. He taught that contempt of manual labour is wrong.

George Washington, one of the greatest men that America has produced, was the first president of the United States. He always upheld the dignity of labour. It was said of him that he was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen. His name is loved and honoured by all the Americans. He did not look down upon the low and humble and was always ready to help them.

One day George Washington was riding along a road not dressed like a General but like an ordinary gentleman. On the way he saw some soldiers trying to lift a heavy beam on to a bank. There was a corporal with them giving orders.

George Washington stopped there to watch the soldiers trying to lift the beam. They did not know that he was washington, the General. The beam was too heavy for the soldiers.

Although they strained very hard, yet they could hardly move it. They needed just one more man to help them. He thought he was too ‘big’ a man to help the poor soldiers in their work. He kept calling out, like a General, ‘ Heave away! Push it! Pull it! Lift it!’