Dirty work?

中国日报网 2017-06-27 10:36



Dirty work?Reader question:

Please explain “dirty work” in this passage (How Sherlock Holmes changed the world, BBC.com, January 6, 2016):

In 1893, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shoved detective Sherlock Holmes off a cliff. The cliff was fictionally located in Switzerland, over the Reichenbach Falls. But Conan Doyle did the dirty work from his home in London where he wrote. “It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr Sherlock Holmes was distinguished,” narrator Dr John Watson says in Conan Doyle’s story The Final Problem, which appeared in The Strand magazine in December 1893.

My comments:

When Arthur Conan Doyle first put his pen to paper and wrote the great Sherlock Holmes stories, presumably he didn’t know how great all those tales would be to legions of fans of the famous detective in future generations.

All he felt at the time was the pain of writing, the physical part of the work, thinking up the plot and writing it down, rearranging ideas and sentences, etc. Hours upon hours of monotonous work. At times, writing must have felt tedious to the author, who undoubtedly loved his work.

I mean, even though he loved his work and was being creative, the tediousness involved with putting thousands upon thousands of words down to paper was inescapable. That’s the dirty work, or the dirty part of the work.

Also, since Conan Doyle was dealing with criminals and murders and so forth, dirty also implies all the shady businesses his characters were involved in.

By definition, dirty as in get our hands dirty, if you will.

If our job is to sweep the street, for instance, then literally our job is to do the dirty work for the city in which we live.

Metaphorically speaking, dirty work often refers to a task that is physically taxing and mentally boring.

Put it this way: It’s not the best job in the world but somebody has to do it, as they say. In other words, it is necessary.

Mothers, for example, do all the dirty work at home and, often, don’t get the recognition they deserve.

For another example, machines and robots, are invented to do the dirty work for factory workers in the workshop and outside in the field.

On the sports field, everyone wants to score (and celebrate afterwards). Nobody wants to play defense. Playing defense, then, is considered part of the dirty work.

And, for another example, if your boss wants to fire somebody but doesn’t want to tell him or her directly and ask you to break the news to them, then you’re asked to do the dirty work for your boss.

Not sure if the last example is a savory one, but you get the idea.

All right, here are real media examples to help us understand “dirty work” better:

1. Forty-four years ago, the Poor People’s Campaign came to Washington, D. C. to demand jobs, health care, and decent housing. The protestors arrived on May 12, 1968 and set up a shantytown encampment called Resurrection City on the National Mall, which lasted for six weeks. The campaign picked up where Martin Luther King, Jr. left off before his assassination in April.

King had put his life on the line defending some of the most exploited laborers in the nation who literally did the dirty work of others. “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth,” he stated.

The Civil Rights icon was speaking to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) in support of the sanitation workers who were on strike in Memphis, Tennessee on March 18, 1968. He would be assassinated there within weeks.

The current Republican presidential candidates’ characterizations of poor people indicate their failure to grasp what King died for. They have sullied the true meaning of the phrase “the dignity of work,” which King eloquently articulated on behalf of the strikers.

This is in marked contrast to recent progress made across the country. In New York, for example, Domestic Workers United–with the support of employers, unions, clergy, and community organizations–led a six-year battle that exemplifies what the dignity of work really looks like in action. Their victory, and ours, was the passage of the first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in the nation in 2010. The law grants the basic protections and benefits to nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers, which most other workers gained in the 1930s.

The problem is not, nor has it ever been, that poor people don’t value work, but that their employers and others devalue their humanity. Those Memphis sanitation workers engaged in work that could be humiliating and harmful to their health. They hauled around 50-gallon drums of slimy garbage hoisted on their backs, until the mid-1960s when the city relented to providing pushcarts and trucks. African-American men faced racial discrimination in hiring, promotion, and the assignment of work. On rainy days, they were sent home without pay, whereas white men got credit on the clock. They were forced to work overtime-on demand and without pay. According to historians Michael Honey and Steve Estes: “the wages paid to black sanitation workers were so low that 40% of them still qualified for welfare even though most had a second job.” After years of failed efforts to redress these issues, the workers went on strike on February 12, 1968.

Garbage collectors engaged in work essential to the public health of the city, but they were not treated with commensurate respect. King recognizing this, shined a national spotlight on the sanitation workers and advanced his Poor People’s Campaign. He expanded the focus of the civil rights movement from desegregation of public accommodations to the expansion of economic justice. A crowd of over 10,000 people packed into a local church like sardines to hear the young minister give a mostly improvised speech on March 18. “You are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” King indicted the indignity of the treatment of the workers, challenging the legitimacy of a system that castigated them for being poor.

- Who Needs To Be Taught the Dignity of Work? Ebony.com, May 29, 2012.

2. One primary head teacher, who has asked to remain anonymous, says she was shocked at the attitudes of parents whose sons had victimised a pair of brothers.

She says: “They just couldn’t accept their children’s behaviour, despite reliable evidence from teachers on duty in the playground and the fact their boys had admitted what they had done and apologised to the victims.”

Instead of helping a younger boy who had fallen, banged his head and was crying, the group of 11-year-olds taunted him and stopped him lining up for class.

They did this to get at his brother who was their age but a bit of a loner.

In a letter home, the head described the behaviour as deeply disappointing and totally unacceptable and asked the parents to work with the school to make this clear.

She says: “Only one parent was willing to work with me. The rest refused to believe the evidence, argued with me, accused me of bullying their sons and ostracised the other mother for about a year and a half.”

“It’s mortifying for a parent to hear their child has been a bully. It really sets the emotions racing.”

Parents naturally want to protect their children and for this group of “fierce parents” this was the right way to behave.

It meant that although the children had apologised at school their parents had backed up their poor behaviour.

It led to an “uncomfortable atmosphere” for years afterwards, says the head.

Prof Dieter Wolke, of Warwick University, an expert in the psychology of childhood bullying, says bullies can often fall into two types – “pure bullies” and “bully-victims”.

He says “pure bullies” are often very good at reading social situations, nice to adults and popular with many of their own age group.

By contrast “bully-victims” can sometimes have poor self-control, easily fly off the handle and exhibit aggressive behaviour.

The “pure bully” will be controlling a situation while the “bully-victim” does the dirty work, says Prof Wolke.

So while parents of “bully-victims” may notice and admit to their child’s difficult behaviour, the parents of “pure bullies” see little evidence and so deny it.

Some parents are themselves bullies, says Prof Wolke, and may believe that bullying is a fact of life and so reinforce their children's behaviour,

“The terrible thing is that there is little downside for a really successful ‘pure bully’,” he says, particularly in early adolescence when research has indicated their numbers rise to about 10% of boys and 8% of girls.

The good news from the same research is that the numbers of both type of bully drop among older teenagers - as does the number of victims.

Luke Roberts, of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, says it is important for adults to ask bullies to consider the starting point for their behaviour.

He says: “Ask them, ‘What has this person done to offend you so much that you think this is an appropriate response?’”

- What should you do if your child is ‘the bully’? BBC.com, November 19, 2013.

3. When Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova rolled onto the right ankle of Atlanta’s Kyle Korver while diving for a loose ball during a game in last season's Eastern Conference playoffs, it led to an injury that ended his season. It was also the initial step toward the Cavaliers’ reserve guard being branded a dirty player.

Dellavedova also got tangled up with Atlanta's Al Horford while diving for a loose ball in the same series. Dellavedova fell onto the legs of the Hawks center, who retaliated and was given a flagrant foul 2 and ejected for contact above Dellavedova’s shoulders. That increased the belief that the Cavaliers guard played dirty.

When Dellavedova fell to the court and squeezed both of his legs around the foot of Chicago’s Taj Gibson while trying to box him out in another playoff series last season, it led to another altercation. Gibson was also given a flagrant foul 2 and ejected after he kicked Dellavedova. It was more fodder that the Cavaliers guard was considered the dirtiest player in the NBA.

That’s the consensus after The Times conducted a poll with NBA coaches, assistants and players.

The 24 people who spoke anonymously — some of them voted for more than one player — listed their top five dirtiest players:

Dellavedova received 13 votes. Oklahoma City center Steven Adams was next with seven votes. Golden State center Andrew Bogut (5), Memphis forward Matt Barnes (4) and Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka (2) rounded out the top five.


But there are those who question whether Dellavedova should be called dirty. They ask: Is he dirty or scrappy? Does he go overboard or is he hard-nosed? Does he cross the line or just have a way of getting under the opponents’ skin?

“He ain’t dirty. He just plays hard,” said an old-school East assistant coach. “See, guys resent people that play hard because they don’t want to play hard. So if a guy plays hard, he’s dirty. He’s not dirty. He just plays hard. People question the play he made in the playoffs against Korver. I just think it was poor judgment.”

A younger coach from an Eastern Conference team agreed.

“His stuff really ain’t intentional. It’s just like goofy. It’s not like John Stockton, where John Stockton was calculated. Dellavedova is accidentally dirty. He can’t help himself. He’s a quality backup point guard.”

Adams is the 7-foot, 255-pound center for the Thunder who does all the “dirty work.” He sets the screens, boxes out, fouls hard and uses his big body as a weapon.

“The stuff that he does is not cool,” a West coach said. “He throws elbows, extra hitting dudes away from the ball, hitting them with the chicken wing [elbow] and trying to get a rise out of them. That kind of stuff.”

Added a player from the West: “He's real physical, but he crosses the line with stuff. He’ll throw a sneaky elbow, push you in the back and foul you extra hard.”

- Here’s the dirt on the NBA’s dirtiest players, LATimes.com, January 16, 2016.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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