Creativity makes Us Human

Creativity and production are part of what make us human. But for many of us our creativity and the products of our labor are turned into commodities and sold by someone else in the market. No economic  system that allows this can be called sustainable.

We sell our labor and our lives to the bosses who use us to accumulate riches and buy politicians and governments which become the instrument of oppression against us. Capitalism dehumanizes us, turning us into profit making machines.

In makes no difference whether the economy is green or fossil. What makes our current economy unsustainable is not just the way it gobbles up the earth’s resources and poisons the atmosphere, it is unsustainable at its root because it commodifies the the creativity of workers, a huge aspect of what makes us human.  Capitalism has no role in the building of a sustainable economy. We need a new system.

A Living Wage is a Requirement of a Sustainable Ecconomy

We need $15 an hour, and we need it now, not five years from now like most democrat politicians want. A sustainable economy requires wages that sustain a healthy,productive and rewarding life.

We shouldn’t walk into the the bosses’ office with our hats in our hands, nope. We need to walk in with our fists in the air. We have the power. All we lack is the organization. No small thing for sure, but easily attainable if we work together.

But that’s our problem. We workers let the bosses divide us by nation, race, gender, orientation. We let them divide us based on how much money we earn or the perception that “skills” are what should determine the value of labor. But the idea of skilled vs. unskilled workers is just another wedge driven through our unity. It is based on the false perception that there is an unlimited amount of jobs for “skilled” workers and that all an individual needs to do is get the right “skills.” This is just another trick of the neoliberal pseudo economists and lackey pundits.

The bottom line is this. Workers create the value and thereby the wealth in the economy, but because bosses are greedy and often too incompetent to make profit and still pay workers a wage that allows them to meet living expenses, many workers are forced into a situation where they can barely survive. In the upside down world of capitalist economy the bosses are turned into the producers of value and labor is an “expense.” But if all the bosses disappeared tomorrow the economy would continue to operate. Their demise might cause a bump or two as workers reorganized our work places without the boss, but we would carry on. If all the workers disappeared, however, the engine would seize and the profit would stop. When it comes right down to it most bosses, and all of the big bosses, are little more than parasites living off blood of workers, sucking the life out of us so they can consume far more than they need.

There is no need to detail the corporate profits accumulated by the one percent or more accurately the the tenth of one percent over the last forty years. They have made unfathomable measures of wealth, while most of the rest of us have had to strap flippers on our feet to simply stay afloat and avoid breathing in the water that presses against our throats.

We don’t have to accept this. We are the many and they are the few. We need to organize, to see through the bosses’ lies that divide us and demand our share of the wealth we create: the vast majority of it. We can get  $15, a living wage and helluva lot more.

Time and Money, Money and Time

How do we measure the value of time. Time is a limited resource for all of us even though there seems to be an unlimited supply from the universal perspective. When we look at time in relation to our labor we can see that we trade our time, our lives, to earn the meager necessities of out existence.

In my daily toil, for instance, my coworkers and I produce great amounts of value measured in revenue for the company and the capitalist but only receive in return a fraction of what we produce in wages. I can create revenue to pay my entire yearly salary in one day —not everyday, but on certain days when I do a certain kind of work. There is no doubt that in one month’s time I and my coworkers create value well in excess of our salary What about the other eleven months. Capitalism takes our lives from us to sustain itself and its profits,then uses the proceeds to both oppress us with state power and confound us and fool us into accepting its presentation of reality with education, media, history and culture.

We must rebel!

Keystone Pipeline will not create Sustainable Jobs

The proposed Keystone  XL pipeline that will run from the tar sands of Alberta Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is a loser for workers and the planet. While it will create some temporary construction jobs, it’s estimated that it will only create thirty-five “permanent” jobs.  Between the amount of carbon that will be burned extracting the oil from the tar sands and the fumes from the spent petroleum it is an all around loser for working people’s futures. Let’s hope Obama vetoes the bill that will undoubtedly be passed by neanderthals in Congress . You can read more about it in this piece by Zoe Carpenter in The Nation.

White House Threatens to Veto Keystone XL Legislation

Someone Must Defend the Rodents

I have always loved squirrels. Since I was a kid, I’ve been watching them zip up trees, hang beneath branches and on a rare occasion, fly through the air and land lightly on a limb. They are industrious little bastards. They gather nuts and seeds, chowing down on some and stuffing the rest in their cheeks until they can find places to hide their bounty for a rainy or snowy day. Something else about squirrels, they have a lot of fun. Even though they work their tales off, they take time to play, chasing each other around and enjoying labor and life. squirrel

My love of nature is part of what has drawn me into fight against catastrophic climate change. After all, someone must defend the rodents. My love for the working class is what has made me see that any movement for a sustainable world requires an understanding of the primacy of sustainable labor. We need time to play, to enjoy labor and life, to work in an interconnected way with our environment and each other, to understand the complexity and simplicity of our needs and construct an economy that sustains this kind of life. Humans may be powered by electrical impulses, but we are not microchips snapped into the motherboard of some vast high tech economic fantasy. The meaning of work is not to upload revenue to billionaire technocrats or to fuel the engine of “unlimited economic growth.” I’d rather be a squirrel.

Some of you may me thinking, “He may not be a squirrel, but he sure is squirrely.” Hey, I can dig it. It’s the road I’m on. In 1980’s when I was in my twenties, I was a displaced worker. Traditional working class jobs were declining so I went to school. It took me a while, but by the early 1990’s I had managed to get myself an MA in English and become a Marxist. I had dreams of joining the intellectual elite or writing the Great American Proletarian Novel, but I was also tired of being broke and figured, “There are already enough Marxists in the universities, maybe I should try organizing workers.” That’s what led me into the union movement.

Protecting the environment has always been important to me, but I wasn’t actively trying to defend it. Then I wrote a story about the development of sustainable local economies in New England for this outdoor type website and read Bill Mckibben’s book Deep Economy. I began to have different view of how the economy of a sustainable society could be organized. I discovered that keeping money local was a good thing. Mckibben didn’t talk much about labor or work conditions in his book, but I still saw the value in going local. I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and tried to spend more money with local business. Many of the local business folks I have met over the years have looked, acted and had the attitude of Chris Christie, so I didn’t probe that deeply into their labor practices, but I did begin to ponder what sustainable labor would look like. Still pondering, but here are some ideas. I’d like to know what you think as well.

  • Sustainable labor must put the needs, health and wellbeing of workers and the planet a head of profits and “unlimited economic growth.”
  • Green technology doesn’t mean a sustainable economy all by it self. The technology needs to create and promote sustainable labor too. The assembly line, whether it is building Hummers or solar panels, is not the model that we need. We need technology that does not promote alienation from the work. It must include within it the idea of connecting people to the product or service they are producing, of building cooperative and collaborative relations and squash the idea of human beings as resources. We are not an expense or a raw material. We are the creators of value.
  • Child care, cleaning living quarters, growing or buying and preparing food for a family, caring for family members who are ill, are as integral a part of the production process as using a tool to change raw material into an object that can be sold. The sexist division of labor must be obliterated.

I am interested in what you think sustainable labor is or what it could be. That’s why I’ve decided to create a website  I want to start a conversation among working people about how work would be in a sustainable society. I’m looking for people to share ideas, their stories and the ramblings of their imagination. As Einstein wrote,Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

If you’re into not this idea, then I urge you to do whatever you can to work toward moving us toward the paradigm change that can help us build a sustainable economy. Join a CSA, check out, plant a garden, talk to your friends and neighbors. We need a monumental change in consciousness to make this happen. Any action that pushes us toward that change matters. My favorite spiritual dude and bad assed Buddhist philosopher and activist Thich Nhat Hanh believes, “Mindfullness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise what’s the use of seeing.”