There’s a moment in the movie Caddyshack I can’t shake from my mind.
Danny Noonan, one of the film’s main characters, is trying to butter up antagonist and avid golfer Judge Elihu Smails in order to get an advantage for a college scholarship from the movie’s fictional country club. Danny can’t afford to go to college.
“Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too,” says the judge, playing up his well to-do lifestyle and feeling of superiority.
It’s a blow for Danny, but a salient point. The world does need ditch diggers, but the comment’s comedic purposes override the need to analyze it within context of the movie. What we’re expected to take away is that digging ditches is low, miserable work that should be avoided.
But what if it’s not so bad? What if there’s more to digging ditches than getting your hands dirty?
As basic as this task may seem, there should most certainly be an amount of pride – like any job – in wielding knowledge and skill beyond another person. Knowing the perfect depth with which to plunge a shovel into the earth and visualizing the right angle to make the task easier are skills, even if those abilities seem like low, miserable work.
Most of all, what are we to make of someone who enjoys digging ditches? Heaven forbid, according to Judge Smails.
In a very roundabout way, this has stuck in my head all week as I considered joining this month’s Session, a regular effort by beer bloggers around the world to collectively share thoughts on a single topic. Presented by the writer known simply as “DING,” this month’s prompt asks us to consider our place in the beer industry:
Are you simply a cog in the commercial machine if you work for a brewery, store or distributor? Are you nothing more than an interested consumer? Are you JUST a consumer? Are you a beer evangelist? Are you a wannabe, beer ‘professional’? Are you a beer writer? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Where do you fit, and how do you see your own role in the beer landscape?
The more I thought about it, the more I considered these questions in other terms: Why do we write? What do we want out of writing?
Or rather, if we write, must we be above “ditch digging?” Is there a standard we must set for ourselves and others and cast out those who don’t meet those expectations?
I kept coming back to the same answer: who cares?
Let me clarify:
- I do believe we should all strive to write well.
- I do believe we should work to educate, or at least add a unique perspective.
- I don’t believe anyone should be thought of as less if they can’t, don’t or won’t. Chances are, as insensitive as it may sound, they’ll be brushed to the side in lieu of others.
But … that shouldn’t stop anyone from setting their own goals and fitting into the beer landscape however they’d like. Or enjoying beer however they want. Above all, passion shines through.
I thought for a while that people might be interested in my role as a resident curmudgeon, but unfortunately America does not want any part of that particular element either, as it much prefers a Pollyanna, constant, agonizingly optimistic outlook over the truth.
I fear this slightly misses the point. Especially if the optimistic outlook of so many is simply because that’s what they prefer.
We shouldn’t look down on anyone for choosing how to express their passion. It’s important to constructively critique and nudge people in what we hope is the right direction to produce well-thought opinions and research, but it’s also important to recognize the individual choice of many and what that means to them.
If someone aspires to be a judge, that’s wonderful. If digging ditches is their passion, that’s good, too.
Our role in the beer landscape is the same as it should be anywhere else: find our happiness and embrace it.
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac