I know many people in my town, and many people in my circle of friends, and many of my students who are either in fear of losing their jobs in this deep recession or who have already lost their jobs. I'm sure that the same can be said by just about everyone who reads this blog.
The immediacy of our friends' and our fears, and the U.S. news's concentration on the situation in our nation and continent, can tend to obscure this fact: the phenomenon is global, not just the problem of one nation.
If I needed a smack upside the head on that, it was provided by this story in the Irish Times today: the venerable glass factory in Kilbarry, Co. Waterford, has been shut down and its employees laid off.
Stunned: Waterford employees take over the cafeteria in the Visitors' Centre, an action that continues now (Saturday, January 31, 2009). Photo by P. Browne, copied from the Irish Times website.
Waterford crystal glass pieces have been among the highest-quality in the world for more than 200 years. In addition to magnificent goblets, pitchers, vases, and the like, their one-of-a-kind pieces (such as the crystal carriage at the top of this blog post) are legendary. They manufactured trophies for the world's great sporting events, for example, and the ball that drops over Times Square in New York at the stroke of midnight on every New Year was skillfully crafted in County Waterford.
But all of that stopped yesterday, when the place was shut down by its bankruptcy receiver.
Diane and I made a point to visit Waterford Glass during our trip to Ireland in 2006. We were fascinated by the processes we saw, astounded by the artistry unfolding in front of us, and charmed in a way that touched our hearts by every worker we spoke to, from the artisans to the tourguides to the clerks in the gift shop. Every one of them clearly took great pride in their employer's reputation and in their own jobs.
We don't know their names, but this fact saddens us dearly: none of the people in the pictures below will be able to report to work next Monday. (All photos taken on August 7, 2006.)