September 2010

So we realized that the first demand of a pro-family program must be: Re-organize workplaces so that they produce services and goods that are genuinely desirable and needed by the human race. We demand a workplace in which people can come home feeling good about what they´ve contributed to humanity rather than feeling de-energized and ripped off by having wasted time all day. Give working people real respect and real power to shape the decisions at work.

I remember when a family member who had told his wife that he “worked for the City of Newark” was discovered to be employed as a bathroom cleaner for the city latrines. There were people in my family who were outraged that a good Jewish boy had failed to achieve a more honorable job for himself. As a pre-teen growing up in this society, I joined in the general family mockery. But when I was 22 and spent many months working on a kibbutz in Israel I learned to think very differently about all this. I got to attend a kibbutz buiness meeting and listened to the chairman of the meeting discuss some of the difficult issues facing the kibbutz. When I asked someone sitting next to me where he worked, I learned that he was the person who collected garbage and cleaned the latrines.

There was one positive element in traditional societies when it came to work, namely a shared understanding that all work could have meaning as a contribution to the good of the society as a whole. When conducting our interviews, we repeatedly heard people complain about how meaningless their work was, because they could not see that it contributed in any way to a higher societal value. At first we thought we could support people to understand that their work really was making a valuable contribution, but increasingly as we listened to the details we came to understand that for many workplaces the only goal being served was to achieve higher and higher profits. Sometimes, as byproduct, some valuable societal goal was served. But all too often the goods that were being produced, we came to understand, were goods that would never be produced in a society that was sensitive to the needs of preserving the environment rather than depleting it of raw materials or filling it with chemicals that were toxic and products that were non-recyclable and adding to the global accumulation of non-disposable garbage.