Discussion on work
The following are the main points from a discussion about work and guaranteed livable income (aka Basic Income) held with 8 local activists, on July 14, 2007, Victoria BC at the James Bay Community Centre. P1 and P2 stand for person 1 and person 2, etc. Notes taken by C. L'Hirondelle.
Person 1: Compulsory work is harmful to people's health. If we demand that others add "ethic" onto their "work" it is a problem. The idea of a "work ethic" has been used to enrich a few people and has to do with social control.
Person 2: It is not the work that is harmful necessarily, but the psychological toll.
P3: There is no time for self-maintenance left over after the workday.
P4: Having a smaller environmental footprint from working less, is a good thing. We should describe that we want a livable world when we talk about a guaranteed livable income.
P5: The work ethic has to do with money, if it is unpaid, it is not counted as work.
P6: My first reaction to hearing the anti-work ethic was viscerally against it because I've been taking care of men for much of my life, I was pissed off that it seemed I was expected to look after them even more. Then I realized that a lot of work was artificial, and that we should be doing a lot less work. There's things that are essential but don't necessarily have to go off to work. Now it's okay for someone to sit on a beach.
P3: Work was introduced as a curse for a long time, if people didn't work they couldn't feed their family. In the past, tribal people used to work only 4 hours a day. I feel more productive when not employed for paid work. People end up having no time left for their families when they have to do so much paid work. (story in the continuum concept of the man who didn't want to do his garden for 2 years).
P6: It is important to hear the history of the work ethic. I started to have warm associations with the idea of the work ethic. My mother worked way too much but was not paid, to her detriment and relationships. I've known lots of people for health reasons couldn't produce, there's lots of work that doesn't need to get done-its all arbitrary and takes away from your time. I wanted to take back the phrase productivity and make it mine to recognize all kinds of work.
P5: Just the word work, people pretend to understand what it means, we need to unmask the word, we use it all the time without knowing what it means. A lot of internalized oppression in how we use it.
P2: Work is equated with being paid. I am no longer going to say I work when people ask what work are you doing. I'll say I'm following my outrage, its caused by the work other people are doing. Everything I'm outraged about is work other people are doing and the way work is defined by conventional society.
P7: In the back of people's minds is this idea of working on the farm, or helping with chores when the topic of hard work or the work ethic is brought up.
P1: On farms and homes, work has practical meaning. But the economic market system decided what work is. Most of us are urban now. Technology can save us from doing much labour. In the transition to market system-they decided what work was good for us. Think about our friends, its not how much they do but their personalities.
P8: Labour may think that a guaranteed income will undermine the desire of workers to be in unions. The private sector unions are not on board.
P1: Unions need to learn that they hate their jobs
P4: The Economic system defines culture. We need to take back what work means to us. Kids don't want to help with household chores because society says this is not valuable to do, economics has become the culture, that's why there is so much suffering and pain, we do't work for each other, we work against each other. This is what the whole economic culture is based on.