PROVIDING STRUCTURE TO THE WORLD
with men in hard hats. To soften the company’s image, the tag line was altered once more, to “GE—we bring good things to life.” While GE has thrived, in part, by its commitment to research, innovation, and expansion, its Caregiver brand identity has consistently tied the brand less to innovation than to helping people. This focus on the beneﬁts of the company’s products provides an image that it cares about its customers. GE’s history has further tied the whole concept of progress to helping people, thus connecting the concept of technological progress with positive qualities—such as home, family, care, love, and wholesome enjoyment. We often think of care as important only for children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. But the truth of the matter is that our entire well-being is also dependent on a kind of continuous, behind-thescenes caregiving that has become all but invisible in contemporary life. Mothers and fathers take care of their children and loved ones. People take in friends and relatives in trouble. Social services help the poor. Teachers, principals, and bus drivers care for kids. All the sanitation people, repair people, taxi drivers, waiters, and cleaners— all of these people take care of the details that enable everyday life to function. Similarly, the people who staff the 911 numbers 24 hours a day, the ambulance drivers, the hospital orderlies, and the doctors on call, all have caregiving functions. Not so long ago in American life, little kids viewed neighborhood cops as friendly protectors (not pigs), Bob Hope was bringing holiday cheer and “Silent Night” to faraway American soldiers who “sacriﬁced their Christmas to keep us at home safe,” and TV doctors were represented as dedicated father ﬁgures (e.g., Marcus Welby), as opposed to misguided thirtysomethings confused and conﬂicted about how much they should care. Mothers were portrayed somewhat stereotypically, but with honor for their homemaking role. On a community level, people viewed their institutions as providers of care. Generally speaking, they believed that the school cared for their children, the church or temple cared for their souls, and the bank cared for their money. Ironically, today, with homeless people lining our streets and children and elders suffering neglect, the image of the Caregiver has become less celebrated, more thankless. And it is possible that the low status accompanying the Caregiver is in part responsible for how alone people in need often are.