Way of the Union Organizer

To tell you the truth my time in recent months has been spent in the throes of the labor movement. Lately, I have seen the evil underbelly of Trade Unionism's dirty political battles. When I started this blog, with my good friend the Brain, I was plying the muddy waters of the dredger man’s watery world. Now I am deep in the muck of union politics and find that each is as rough and tumble as the other.

The biggest conclusion I have come to believe in regards to unionism is that conflict is good. Having an aversion to challenging ideas, norms and the routines of working life is not the Way of the Union Organizer. To be a good Organizer it takes backbone and the willingness to commit to confrontation. The life of the Union Organizer is the toughest row to hoe that I know. I have spent month’s deep sea fishing. I have come to believe the mental skill and toughness it takes to be an Organizer is equal to that of the salty dogs of the deep.

Everyone hates the Organizer in modern America. The employers fear and fight you tooth and nail. The workers shun and avoid you for the fear of losing the ability to provide for their families. Worse the Union often thinks that the Organizer is cutting his/her teeth on nothing. The dues money it takes to organize new members will most often never be recovered. Alas, the lonely life of the union Organizer is rewarded ten times when he succeeds.

As most recently happened to one I know well. A man called his Union Organizer and said, “Thank you for helping me give my family a better life”.

Despotism Treads Lightly Through the Threshhold

Where does your community rate on the scale from democracy to despotism? Given the widening income gap between rich and poor, increasing corporate control of the media, increasingly opaque government, widespread corruption and influence-peddling in government, increasing insularity of government officials, and the petrified nature of the major political parties, I don't think present day America is going in the right direction.

It bothers me so much to see my country going in the wrong direction. I can feel it in my bones. Our country is not getting better. Cooperation between citizens for the common good is being replaced by the passive aggressive competition over the most basic of needs, such as housing, education, and health care. At least we're not starving, but the Lord knows, most of us are eating poorly and not exercising enough. Something is going terribly, terribly wrong, and it is happening in such small degrees that we can't pin down the problem, we can't fight it. Amoral corporations and their lap-dog political stooges are slowly destroying our civic culture. We are approaching the world of Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash, a libertarian nightmare of anarchic misery.

Wealth versus Happiness and What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Americans live in one of the most prosperous societies ever. Even the poorest among us has access to material luxuries unknown a century ago. Capitalism has worked and it continues to work. We live well.

Yet we are miserable. We live longer and are better fed and if we have a little bit of money, our material prosperity increases and increases by orders of magnitude the more money we have.

Yet there is unhappiness. We have followed the almighty buck and it has given us all that we wanted and more but in the meantime we have lost our joy.

The mass of mankind has been mostly miserable for most of its existance. Famine and rampant disease has been common for all but a small corner of the world in the last century. Good government, for the good of all the people, has only ever existed in a few Scandinavian countries for a few recent decades.

I don't quite get it. I don't understand the disparity between wants and needs fulfilled and happiness deferred but I see glimmers of clues here and there.

One glimmer was gleaned while watching TV with my two-year-old son. It was a cartoon about what kids wanted to be when they grew up. It was the manner in which the kids decided on future careers that struck me. They based their decisions on what they liked to do. They didn't think compensation packages and retirement plans, but how the job would be fun and fulfilling. Imagine: working for the sheer joy of it. Some of us like our jobs. There are highs and lows, and good and bad, but overall we do what we like. Most people can't stand their jobs. Even if the activity itself weren't so bad, the inane rules and bosses and demoralizing treatment render workers miserable. But work puts food on the table and a roof over our head, so we have to do it.

Yet I can't help but recall that cartoon I watched with my son, and the message of "Do a job you love". The phrase "time is money" is overused and the source of the existential angst I have been describing. Considering the alternative "time is valuable" alongside with "not all that glitters is gold" provides a valuable alchemy of ideas. Our society is overly monetized. Money has become the measure of all things and "the more money the better" is the maxim. Money is easy to measure and so we make it the measure and maker for all things, even when it is inappropriate

Why money has become such a central measure is best illustrated in the following joke:

A man is looking around for something under a streetlamp on a dark night. Another fellow joins him and asks what he is looking for.

"I am looking for my wallet," says the first.

So together the two look around, under the streetlamp's light, for the wallet.

After a while, the second says to the first, "I'm sorry, but I can't find your wallet anywhere around here."

"Oh, I know," replied the first man, "I lost it somewhere in that dark wood over there, but the light is so much better here."

It is easy to decry money, but I am still mindful of the good things money can buy, but I am also mindful that money is not what matters most in life, except for a relative handful of financiers. We like the things money can buy, not money itself. And for some things money is not the best proxy, such as for time and health and happiness.

A cultural and intellectual shift is needed in our mindset. We must consider that there is more to life than money. But to make this shift in priorities possible, collective action is necessary. To realign our society's priorities, we must take positive action, because those that would have money rule us hold the levers of power and are loathe to relinguish their grip.

Can Republicans Be Trusted on Economic Matters?

Deep in my heart, I have difficulty believing the motives of any conservative Republican. God help me, though, two recent essays on executive compensation and illegal immigration by leading conservatives hit the nails right on the head. I just don't trust them. It is an ancient political strategem to plead rhetorically for a cause while surreptitiously working against its actual success. Conservatives have a fine flair for ineffectual moral perspicuity. The draw of big bucks always seems to hopelessly confuse their moral compass. Not that Democrats are necessarily much better. I can claim not to be bought off, but only because no one has offered to buy me off. But Republican scandals just seem to be much bigger in scope.

But let me just say, that if those two fine essays were followed by effective acts that realized the purported intent of the writing, our country would be the better off for it.

Now if Republicans would just stop arguing that the Laffer Curve is effective in any but the most extreme cases, I would even consider trusting their budget numbers.

Diocletian's Leadership Lessons

Transfers of leadership are always a tricky matter. Those in power give up considerable perquisites, or worse, risk punishment and retribution from their successors. Those eager to succeed a ruler often engage in a destructive campaign of destroying all rivals, and subsequently rule over a much diminished kingdom. One of the United States' great strengths has been the orderly transition of power.

Rome was a state whose history spanned millenia. Hers was a history of triumph and humiliation. She enjoyed long periods of terrible turmoil as rivals struggled for ultimate rule, and she enjoyed great prosperity when presided over by rulers peacefully come to power. Perhaps the best example of a Roman ruler bringing peace from turmoil is that of Diocletian.

Mohammadans Disagree on Cornholing

The Guardian has a funny article on the wide range of Muslim religious views on the various sexual acts. After getting over my initial provincial xenophobia, I've come to the conclusion that Islam looks at sex in as silly a way as Christianity does. There are whacked-out, puritanical zealots who shun even the sight of the naked body between a married couple. There are also sane and sensible practices like "temporary marriage" that put some legitimacy to casual sex and prostitution. The opinion between various Muslims can differ as much as that between Christian Baptists and Unitarians.

So what the hell does all this have to do with the labor movement? Given that the United States is the preeminent military power in the Mid-East, it makes sense to understand more about the lives of the people of the region we are trying to remake in our Democratic image, and nothing defines a person better than how they fornicate. Mostly, though, I am linking to the story because all red-blooded Americans, men and women alike, like to read about sex. And Citizen Chris is the preeminent site for the red-blooded American unionist.