02
Oct 98

Working Class Heroes

Welcome. You have just received the first issue of The New Rambler, an occasional journal of thought about action to promote action about thought. “Occasional” simply means that it will only be published as often as my anger about the state of the world coincides with time and initiative sufficient to get something written. My father, I am told, was fond of saying that the only man with freedom of the press was he who owned his own press. These days, there’s so much press in the world that I’ve hesitated for a long time about putting my own out. But the hell with it–I may not say anything new, but no one else is going to say precisely what I shall. So here it is. I should mention, I suppose, that this first issue is about work, which has been on my mind a good bit since I joined the masses. If you want to hear more about my job at Table to Table, I’ll tell you, but this journal is in no way related to the organization; I just use our e-mail address ’cause I’m cheap. I’m prefaced out: dig in.

This may sound strange, but I’m really glad that I’ve only been hired for this Table to Table job for 9 months (to start, at any rate). While I enjoy it and even think I’m pretty good at it, I also can’t picture doing it with no sort of conclusion in sight. I think the scariest thing about leaving school is that for the first time, you’re not in a set pattern of steps. I mean, you know that after grade school comes jr. high, after that high school, after that college. . . but then what? I know that I wanted that kind of freedom from limits, and that’s why I didn’t go do a 1-year teach in Japan thing or Peace Corps or what have you–I thought I ought to do something outside the realm of academia for once, and even though technically none of those programs are school, they are mostly populated by current and recent students. I thought I should leave the womb for a bit. But of course the world out here isn’t limitless–it actually has a lot more limits, I think; they’re just of a different sort. I don’t see the working world as a rat race, but rather as a gerbil on a wheel. Race implies some object in mind. I don’t feel that many people are racing anywhere; we’re all just treading water and trying to stay afloat. I’m extremely lucky, and extremely blind, in that for over twenty years it never occurred to me really that work was a grind, that it was something people just had to get up and do every day whether they liked it or not, all to just keep the world moving. I just thought high school was like that. But of course the world doesn’t work without that work–I mean, people have to go to work everyday just so that we can have running water in the morning. I know you know all this, but bear with me–I think I may be getting to a minor revelation here. The problem is that most of us in the US take running water so forgranted. If we woke up one morning and it wasn’t there, we’d be pretty displeased, we’d call up the city (or whoever it is you call up when there’s no water) and some of us would bitch and moan about how now we couldn’t take a shower and we had a job interview or a big court case or whatever today. The problem lies in our sense of entitlement, for entitlement involves an inherent power structure, where those who feel entitled also feeling superior to those who provide, and those who provide being made to feel obligated to provide without due compensation. Oh sure, we pay the water-suppliers and the garbage-collectors and the factory-workers, but we don’t pay them much–and we only pay them in money, not in respect. I frequently point out that in the working world, money is the key to commanding attention, recognition, and respect. But that’s not quite accurate–apparently you have to be paid a certain amount before that sort of thing kicks in. But I don’t think that a minimum-wage salary is enough compensation for living like a worker ant. Volunteers, after all, command more respect than prostitutes.

Thanks for reading.