Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dissolution or the next step?

I enjoyed Witold Rybczynski's "Waiting for the Weekend" and his discussion of the political, personal and technical difficulties in getting our citizens in the habit of going to work each day.  It wasn't easy to go from an agricultural life of hard work done on your own time to getting to a workplace by 9 and staying until 5.  Humans have not always had a modern industrial schedule,  I imagine many don't have one now.  

In fact, the idea of a job, of employment, seems to be a fairly recent invention limited to just industrialized countries.  I imagine shopkeepers all over the world have somewhat set and  public hours.  But when a person loses his job, the plant closes, the factory is moved to another state, then it is back to the old situation of being on your own.  You might have unemployment benefits for a while and some of them are only available if you can document that you have found some job openings and have applied to fill them.  What if there are no jobs to be found?  In the Depression, the iconic solution was to sell apples on the street corner.  

Today, we have soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries .  Those who feel that the lazy grasshopper is morally deficient while the busy ant and the industrious squirrel are the models for all animals sometimes express suspicions that some people don't really try to find work.  Maybe they live on welfare, government attempts to keep people from starving to death.

But when you think about it, accepting free food instead of committing oneself to a job doing what you don't like, or what is boring or dangerous -- that might be a rational choice.  Perhaps as the world gets wealthier, there will be enough food, donated tv's and cars, blankets and housing that many people will decide to philosophically elect a simple, basic life supported by society.  Perhaps the moral pressure to make a living will dissipate and few will accept employment.  If little needs to be done for all to live, that might be the majority's choice.

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