Joy in a Toy
The world’s largest floating rubber duck, designed by the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is towed in Los Angeles harbor in August 2014 as part of the Tall Ships Festival. Photo by Eric Garcetti.
For all the stories in the news about how Silicon Valley technological companies like Apple and Google are leading the way for the American economy, and how the less educated workers who don’t fill that mold will just have to make do with minimum wage jobs in the service economy, flipping burgers at McDonald’s or driving Ubers, there are millions of workers who are not cut out to be software engineers but who nonetheless could use better paying jobs to help their families not merely stay afloat, but get ahead in the world.
In this clip from an early episode of Sesame Street, Ernie the Muppet sings “Rubber Duckie”, the 1970 song that set off a resurgence in popularity for the toy.
These are people who may never invent the next big thing in computers or smartphones or driverless cars, but whose children possibly could if given a fair chance at a good education without sinking the family into poverty. In the last fifty years, while the rich in their opulent yachts have gotten ever richer, the working class has been cut adrift from the mainstream economy by the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs, and the middle class has been kept busy furiously kicking to keep from drowning. Not everything has to be complicated or technologically sophisticated to work well in the world. Sometimes all it takes to make people happy is a simple toy that knows enough to bob upright in the water and keep afloat with a plucky smile.