Fortitudine vincimus

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Just learn to see…


“Just learn to code.”

There aren’t many modern phrases that annoy me quite like that one. It’s usually a comment casually tossed at someone who works in a declining industry, by a candidate for office whose business is almost guaranteed to never decline. It isn’t always meant to be condescending, but it almost always is. Not only for the worker with a genuine question about what comes next, but also for people who already know to code, whose job is treated like something anyone with basic motor skills can do.

Meanwhile, the worker is still about to lose their income, purpose, and, in some cases, a family legacy that goes back generations. And dismissing them with, “just learn to code,” doesn’t do anything to answer the question. Especially if there are no coding classes within 150 miles or it isn’t right for that particular person (I certainly don’t have the aptitude for it).

Some jobs are going to disappear. Few are unaware of this. There might not always be an easy answer, but there is an easy place to start.


We could all benefit from thinking about the jobs we don’t do. Those jobs still have to be done, temporarily or permanently. As the saying goes, “Never trust anyone who is rude to a waiter.” If everyone moved to coding, there would be more coders than jobs and society would collapse due to vacancies in practically every part of daily life. If you like to code, you go for it. You deserve more than to be treated like your passion is the place the desperate go to survive. Thank you for what you do.

We shouldn’t consider a single job as a catch-all for everyone we don’t immediately know how to help. It doesn’t work that way. As long as we look at the people around us as invisible cogs, we can’t know them. As long as we give credence to the (false) meme that vocational schools are where you go if you’re a failure in college, instead of a training ground for necessary skills, we’re going to keep undercutting essential jobs, good jobs, done by good people. And as long as we throw out tired lines like, “Just learn to code,” we’ll keep forgetting that first, we really need to learn to see…people.

So thank you, to you, for whatever you do. And thanks to all of you who make society function and quite often get ridiculed for it. Whether you work on cars, in the sewers, on the restaurant floor, cleaning hotel rooms, maintaining the roads, keeping the wiring from burning the house down, or the thousands of other jobs we need someone to do, thank you. Whether you’ve found your career or are making your way through the middle passage, thank you.

Don’t ever let someone tell you that you and your hard work don’t matter.

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