Sunday, November 01, 2009

"The greater forces of commodity capitalism"

It's been a while since I've come across a piece by Joe Bageant and I had forgotten what a wonderful writer he is. This one is called "The Iron Cheer of Empire" and Bageant writes it from Mexico.

Here are some observations that caught my attention:

But their jobs are their livelihoods, not their lives, and every transaction is permeated with the ebb and flow of daily neighborhood and family life.
People work hard, especially tradesmen and laborers, but there is a complete lack of obsession and stress that characterizes North American jobs. Which, of course, many Canadians and Americans retired to Ajijic take for laziness.

It may be my bias, or my imagination, or my distaste for toil, but from here America looks like one big workhouse, "under God, indivisible, with time off to shit, shower and shop." A country whose citizens have been reduced to "human assets" of a vast and relentless economic machine, moving human parts oiled by commodities and kept in motion by the edict, "produce or die." Where employment and a job dominates all other aspects of life, and the loss of which spells the loss of everything.
But the truth is that we are all very commonly issued products of a profit driven workhouse where no human commons is allowable, lest the workers find meaning and joy in each other as human beings, and perhaps become less work driven, less productive and less profitable.

I really recommend the article. It's truly thought provoking.

And then you might try asking the question, "Is my job my livelihood or my life?"
UPDATE: I just discovered that the Bageant piece is published on The Smirking Chimp as well. You might like to go over there to look at the comments. Here's one by MizzGrizz that I particularly appreciate:

Somewhere in the late seventies and early eighties--perhaps at the very time wages began to stagnate---Americans turned from people who were just beginning to enjoy a creative leisure into willing inhabitants of a workhouse, living their lives with almost military regimentation, and anyone unable or unwilling to join the goddamn circus was excoriated.

It was right around then that anyone trying to make their way in the arts was excoriated with ''Get a REAL job.''

And the concept of the workhouse is exactly where feminism made its mistake. Instead of focusing on how to grant a quality life, and develop equal creativity and leisure for all, the new model insisted that women get out into the marketplace also. It was a pattern that wasn't, and isn't, even working well for men. Why in HELL did they think it would work for women?

Dear people, please remember who was elected president in 1980. And he won that election through racism and ridicule.


  1. Sister Ellie:

    Fantastic article. Thanks for the link. As I sit here working late night catching up on work related emails, your post makes me question the entire premise of it all. I often tell my students to get out of their comfort zone. This post (and the linked article) definitely got me out of mine. Thanks.

    - RPS

  2. Thanks for the comment, RPS. I agree, needless to say. Having lived for a good little while where people were NOT so obsessed with work, I know first hand that it's possible. (I refer to Ireland, now.)

    And, yes, we all need to be willing to leave our comfort zone occasionally.


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