Fruits of the workers’ labor
I am honoring Labor Day in typical U.S. fashion. By working.
Because I am self-employed, I can choose to work on any given day and take off some other day. This often results in my working longer hours than I would if I had a 9 to 5 job.
Hard work has brought me to a place of relative security and freedom—but not hard work alone. I was lucky. Lucky to be born to well-off parents. Lucky to have had educational opportunities. Lucky to have been born in a time when women can have careers beyond schoolteacher or nurse.
Lucky, in other words, to be privileged.
Not so lucky are the millions of minimum-wage workers who must work when they can, often at more than one job. Not so lucky are the children of those workers, who may attend struggling schools and return home to parents too exhausted or busy to help with homework. Not so lucky are the people who work hard all their lives only to be wiped out by medical bills or a home loan gone bad.
Does work = worth?
Whether it’s the lingering influence of our Puritan ancestors or some other force, we seem to believe that more work translates into higher moral standing. Even among the a-religious, laziness is a major sin. I know, because there’s some of that belief in me. But carried to its logical conclusion, this belief leads to absurdities like only twelve weeks of unpaid leave for new parents and the idea (whether real or perceived) that using all your vacation time will be detrimental to your career.
I don’t consider myself a socialist or a Marxist, but I do like the statement “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” attributed by Wikipedia to the Frenchman Louis Blanc and popularized by Karl Marx.
Call me whatever names you want, but I hope that on this Labor Day you’ll contemplate your position in society, your relationship to work, the sacrifices of those who fought (and still fight) for better working conditions, and our responsibilities to one another as human beings.
In doing research for this post, I was fascinated to see the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2014 Labor Day page. They must have gotten some hot-shot new media designer to work on it because it looks about as unlike a government web page as anything I’ve ever seen. Check it out—there’s also some good information behind the pretty pictures.
Fruits of my labor
September is turning out to be a big month for me. Two seeds planted months ago in the form of short fiction submissions have sprouted. Both are free to read/listen to online.
- Skyping With the Rabbi – To be published in the Available now in “The Jewish Literary Journal”
- Back After a Break to Discuss the Decline of Civilization – To be published (Audio podcast) at Boundoff.com, September 3.
Watch Twitter and Facebook for an announcement of the Boundoff publication, and I’ll add both to my READ STORIES page.
Also this month, I am featuring “Dance of Souls” on Noistrade.com for free download.
What’s the catch? There is none. Please download—and tell your friends. The file is available as a .MOBI for Kindle or as a .PDF.
Noisetrade also allows you to leave a tip. I hope you will, especially because from now until September 17, half of all tips I receive from Noisetrade downloads will go to support the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. BFWW is an amazing month-long celebration of writing sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock and spearheaded by my good friend Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez. The festival will soon enter the planning stages for its fifth season in 2015.
The other half will help support my continued fiction writing: one novel under consideration by a publisher and another in progress.
It’s a cliché to say “win-win” and even more to say “win-win-win,” but I think this is just that.
I love it when people attribute their success in part to their circumstances. Women are more likely to do so than men, so your tribute to women workers is a nice tie in. Sounds like you’ve had a productive year. Hope the publisher loves your book, and happy writing. Cheers!
That’s an interesting observation about the gender differences. I can definitely see that. And thanks–it has been a productive year for me, and it’s not over yet!
Thanks for stating something that often goes unsaid.
I’ve noticed that if you tell a successful person that he’s been lucky, his response is likely to be an offended, “No I’m not! I worked hard for what I have.” As if working hard and being lucky are mutually exclusive. They’re not at all. Every successful person has necessarily been lucky, whether they worked hard or not. If nothing else, the hard-workers were lucky to have encountered circumstances in their lives that allowed their hard work to pay off. Many work hard throughout short, miserable lives, and end up not having accumulated enough to pay funeral expenses.
Thanks, glad my point came across!
As someone who worked very hard at some less-than-pleasant jobs to put myself through school, I sometimes worry whether I’m putting my kids at a disadvantage given they won’t have to do the same. We try to instill work ethic, make them work around the house, and expect them to get jobs in college, but is it enough? I don’t know. Time will tell, I guess.
As for that government website, it is very nice. I’ve always thought the CDC has a nice website too. For a government site…
My kids, too, are two steps removed from privation, whereas I was the child of depression-era parents who believed in “neither a borrower nor a lender be” and in reduce/reuse/recycle before it was a popular slogan. I do wonder what values they will emerge with. On the other hand, they seem so much LESS pampered than so many other kids I see. We’ll just have to hope that what the child-rearing experts say is true: It’s not so much what you say around your kids as what you do.
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Luck of birth doesn’t always seem to always work without focus, dedication, common sense, willingness to delay gratification, and appreciation of the rewards earned by your own efforts. So many come from nothing – so many with all crash and burn.
Love your last paragraph everyone to contemplate “work” (and for darn it – if you work for someone and earn days off – take them! It will improve your working abilities upon return.) Small business owners and those who work for ourselves rarely get a day off, but need to take them, too to refresh and rebuild.
I have thought a lot about this. I agree with you, it’s neither all one nor all the other, just as kids are not shaped completely by nature or nurture but a blend. Still, it seems we have as a society a deeply ingrained tendency toward discounting the web of circumstance that can tighten around even the most dedicated of individuals.
And now we should both go enjoy the rest of the day and recharge!
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It the old “those that have the power – keep the power.” But more are managing to break through it these days. Persistence. And lack of willingness to accept and be limited by circumstances. Cheers for all those who say no excuses accepted! (and make it easier path for those who follow…your circumstances may have given you an edge I didn’t have, but women/ some groups are still paid less and work harder for recognition) Good post.
I am seriously indebted to my mother. Although she would have cringed at being called a “feminist,” she studied chemistry in the early 1950s, emerged with a PhD, and went on to do research at Bell Laboratories. She was a role model and a path-paver.
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Very cool! She set the bar for you – and others. (her stories – like others on that path- are bound to be fascinating)