Social workers have been historically essential in helping individuals find the basic needs of life. Bottom line—social work has emerged from a foundation of helping the poor and disenfranchised. As social work has evolved into the industrial age; social work has been largely at the helm of much in terms of labor reform and human rights.
The core value of social work is in that of humanitarianism. As I consider the future of social work in the 21st century, my first instinct is to consider the forecast, if you will, of that which potentially exists on tomorrow’s horizon. I believe that many of our social problems exist because of a lack of meaningful and financially lucrative employment. Case in point: Do you remember the mantra from Wal-Mart in their humble beginnings? Their key selling point? Not many people do…but Wal-Mart’s greatest claim was that all of their products were “MADE IN THE USA”. It’s true…there were so many businesses that sprang up to produce and supply Wal-Mart with their product. As legislation allowed more corporations to move their operations to second and third world class countries, much of our production moved overseas where the corporations took advantage of very cheap labor, little to any safety standards, and the boon of not having to pay tariffs in bringing their cheap and inferior product back to the consumers in the USA. When this happened; all of the aforementioned businesses that formerly supplied Wal-Mart with product went under. It must be realized that Wal-Mart is simply one example of many in which corporations have moved overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and minimal regulations. I am from Pontiac, Michigan; which was a shop-town, a happy and bustling little shop town in the northern suburbs of Detroit. Everyone was making cars, buying homes, making babies, working hard and enjoying life. This was in the 60’s and the 70’s, now there are empty lots where the large foundaries once stood.
Outsourcing has cost Americans millions of jobs and is largely responsible for much of our nation’s unemployment, let alone the disappearing middle class. Who stands to gain from this massive outsourcing? The corporations, of course! It is sickening and madenning to realize that in America, 20% of our population owns and controls 85% of the wealth. A little research reveals that of the top 20 richest people in the world, 4 of them belong to the Walton family (Wal-Mart). I realize that I need to get off my Wal-Mart roll, but I find them to be a prime example.
For any society to operate out of synergy, to be sustainable, to be symbiotic; there must be some sort of a balance. With such a huge disparity between the rich and the poor; with Orwellian concepts of social Darwinism taking place right before our eyes, it is glaringly obvious to me that the future of social work into the 21st century MUST take on the role, once again, of that of labor and social reform. We are ALWAYS going to have that segment of society that needs help and aid. We are always going to have the poor, we are always going to have the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the disenfranchised. We are always going to have social problems at all levels that will require the help and aid of those skilled in finding resources and seeking goals. Our current economic situation has a very bleak horizon. Congress is currently debating the extension of unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans—which just ran out yesterday. Questions we might ask of ourselves: Who is going to pay for these benefits? Where is the money going to come from? Shall we keep raising the taxes on individuals and small businesses that are already struggling under an ever-increasing tax burden? And if so—how long until the American worker says “ENOUGH”? Regarding the unemployed–are these unfortunate persons ever going to find gainful employment? Or are they eventually going to find themselves in menial work, underemployed, another fitting in the vast machinery of social engineering?
At the rate we are going, there will simply be no resources available in the future to sustain social programs.
We have painted ourselves into a rather interesting corner, and the rich are laughing themselves all the way to the bank.
Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do”? Being able to take care of your family is foundational to societal health. Our foundations are crumbling into pieces before us; and social welfare system cannot continue to function by means of being dependant on a working class that is overdue to cry out “Mutiny”!
I believe, with all my heart, soul, and fiber of my being; that the future of social work MUST be focused upon reform.