This has been a fairly solitary Labor Day. It has also been a day when I was rather far from the Labor movement and modern organized labor. I did watch some labor related shows on C-SPAN but I did not earn any FICA credits, or earn any taxable income today. It is a day when I had the chance to reflect on both Labor Day outings to beach and barbecue andyears of gainful employment. I also thought of the small ways in which I interacted with the Catholic Worker movement and my interaction with various people who claim to value work. Those people have included The Order of St. Benedict who use the mottoe and exhortation Ora et Labora which means “Pray and Work”. I also thought of my dialog about work with employers, independent contractors, trade unioonist and members of the Chinese Communist party among other people. In thinking about Labor I have decided to reproduce a Facebook post.
This was first posted on
Monday, June 2, 2008 at 7:59am
I have not filled out the Work section of my profile so I am providing a few thoughts. I have in fact been employed as a writer by The Daily Advertiser, the Abbeville Meridional , Bonnes Nouvelles, and The Vermilion among other periodicals. I have been employed to teach by quite a few institutions. I have had my own business, a farm, and numerous small jobs and projects. I think America’s negative savings rate, millions of starving people, epidemics, many of our wars, environmental crises and other problems are related to bad thinking about work. Much of what could be work is something else, much of what needs to be done can’t be and many unproductive thingsa are well compensated.
We live in a world where even farmers increasingly produce almost exclusively cash crops sold in the capitalist free market we in the West worship and which Adam Smith could scarcely have imagined as it exists now. Hunter gatherer bands, subsistence farms, safety first farming, autonomous manors, families living and fishing on junks and houseboats, Mom and Pop stores beneath the family apartment all are disappearing. Most have have effectively disappeared. To work in a way which is clearly and self-evidently self-validating is almost unknown and absurd. A housewife is stripped of the gardening, “maid system”, cottage industry and other props that gave her autonomy for millenia and then to groups of ridiculous people either command her to hate or love her denuded and tortured new role that they call traditional. The role she holds is not traditional at all.
I think Americans are unlikely to re-examine ideas and assumptions about work but I think that they should. I Am still fascinated by the idea called “true work.” When I was a much younger man I read a book titled Do What You love and the Money Will Follow the book still has its place in my thoughts and shapes what I think of as valuable work experience. Despite the naive optimism the title indicates there is at least complexity in the text.
Happy Labor Day everyone. Even though I am posting this at the end of Labor Day there is a sense in which every day is a little bit of a labor day holiday whether we are working hard or celebrating a day off.