but will it? In our recession-prone world, no industry seems untouched, but the most worrying is the increase in part-time, contractual and seasonal jobs, our willingness to let somebody else provide for us — we’ve become nations of children, following direction, working ourselves into the grave and watching a handful of out-of-control financial whizzes, whom we are told we should admire because of their wealth, ruin our hopes and dreams.
Middle classes, the great unwashed, the working people of the world are its staple, just as grains are staples in our diets. Studies of ancient sites have shown that early peoples ate dozens of varieties of grains prepared in many different ways — just as we have reduced our western diet to wheat and white rice, so we have reduced our working world to minimum wage instability, here today, gone tomorrow. We have given up our choices, our self-employment. We have allowed the media, the authorities, our religious leaders and whoever else influences us to persuade us that any job will do, that we should be thankful somebody else is providing with an opportunity to work, or that work is the point, and not what we do and for whom.
Whatever happened to self-work? Whatever happened to self-sustenance? We used to work at home, for ourselves, our families and our local communities. The Industrial Revolution put play to that, pulling us away from our homes and families into fast-paced, noisy, noxious production lines making all the stuff we’re told we need, sugared cereals, fancy gadgets, a different garment or three for every occasion in our lives, new cars, vacations…. and on and on. We’re imploding from all the stress of paying for this stuff. Our ancestors were vulnerable to disease and crop failure that we have addressed in surprisingly successful ways, but they kept to themselves their pride in workmanship — time was not money — their confidence in self-support, their sense of place and purpose, family and community. They were no worse off for not buying products imported from other lands. They did not miss gigantic walk-in closets and multiple bathrooms or a car for every member of the family. They ate healthier and fresher than us without the sugar and salt and fat. They had far less money, but wealth in areas we can only dream about.
So, the next time you are expected to express gratitude for that part-time, minimum wage job, pause for a minute or two, and think of what those jobs have done to you, your family, your community, pulling hard labour from you and putting profits in untouchable hands whose contribution to your little part of the world is minimal at best. If we demanded less income and more wealth, we might be a healthier, happier lot.