On work

The papers report that at least ten percent of the country is unemployed. At least, because while ten percent is the number reporting their unemployment, untold others have given up even that meager status update. They no longer believe that lack of work is a temporary state, but have fallen into a morass where not even the hope of work exists. At which point, we stop counting them; we take them for dead.

The only path from here is the misery of barely getting by. Soup kitchens fill empty stomachs, clinics stitch up torn feet, thrift stores wrap heads in used wool, while change accrues in panhandler’s pockets. But the hands have nothing to do. You can survive like this, but you can’t live.

I’m tired of the numbers, tired of the claims that while the “economy” will soon be back on track, workers won’t feel the change. Of course they won’t; the economy has been defined such that the workers have no place. The claim is a tautology, like saying the desert is dry today or I am thirsty, but there is nothing left to drink.

“Work” can mean toil or slog, but it can also mean creation, opus, oeuvre. It is the latter sense that I feel compelled to protect. The world does not lack for boredom or stupefaction; what we need are not more jobs but more lives, more work that dignifies the people that perform it instead of demeaning them. More days when we are tired because of the work, not tired of it.

Tell me I’m dreaming and this can’t be. All right, I’m listening. But I do not believe.