Sunday, September 6, 2015
Labor Day's Long Journey Into Night
Happy Labor Day!
Yes today in the US, we honor labor, and all the accomplishments and improvements to the standard of living organized labor wrought.
Oh...wait a minute. As I ponder what THIS labor day means, this year,
in this Orwellian Black Mirrored construction of a society,
in this monetized scalable time space continuum...
I see Labor Day online specials at Walmart “celebrate hard work with big savings!”
For the old fashioned brick-and-mortar shoppers several Walmart stores are open all 24 hours of Labor Day with low low prices. (You may recall this company is so famously anti-union that it shut down Canadian stores rather than allow the Canadian workers to have their union.)
The fact that Walmart “celebrates” Labor Day should elicit guffaws, belly laughs, derision, nausea, or at bare minimum an overt eye-roll. Yet somehow this does not happen, at least not among many. Somewhere along the line, the meaning of Labor Day has been assimilated.
Today the holiday stands for little more than the end of summer, the start of school, weekend-long sales on useless crap you don't need - ironically built in slave labor Meccas...
maybe a barbecue or parade.
The meaning of labor day was once of course conspicuously political. Yet today the politicians and commentators avoid any mention of organized labor when observing the holiday. Instead they may be compelled to give some obligatory abstract nod to that now defunct mythical cartoon entity, “the American Worker.” On Labor day you see, Labor isn't exactly celebrated...though a single day's break from labor is. Now, that may seem to be a bit odd of a distinction to point out, or expect you to be concerned about. I mean Labor Day is really just about getting drunk in your yard, again. But that's precisely evidence of a very successful snowjob pulled on you, the American worker (or unemployed person, or underemployed worker, discouraged worker, or "grad student").
You probably don't even believe in a Labor Day any more than a Santa Claus.
The United States, as you've undoubtedly been told by sycophants and agents of our dark corporate overlords; is a very "special" country. Yes..."American Exceptionalism"...right. Wasn't that a catch phrase a few years ago? (A buzz-phrase of the now forgotten disgraced "neocons" who claimed that The U.S. was the only superpower left and should use that superpower to get rid of the world's opponents of American style vulture capitalism.)
Some allusion to a bizarre notion of our DNA somehow becoming divine and different from the rest of humanity? While I would not contest that societies do in fact all have some unique character culled from it's history or experiences; I don't think this is to be construed as having divine rights to dominate, manipulate, or dictate - which is generally what that phrase was designed to infer.
SO IS THE USA SPECIAL?
All nations are special in some way.
Actually as I recall the word "special" was used to politely describe the learning disabled back when I was in school. One example of this alleged " exceptionalism", or public relations designed superiority, is that we managed to actually deport the global workers holiday called May Day.
Now this my friends... this was especially skillful,
because you see May Day began not in Russia, France, or Finland or Middle Earth, but in Chicago, ironically a major American city that was built specifically to exploit the labor of poor immigrants.
Yes, it was on May 4 of 1886, police opened fire on laborers who were demanding an eight-hour workday. They had been sent by their bosses at the slaughterhouses and City Hall to break up the rally and smash skulls of the workers. The chance to open fire on the workers conveniently arrived when a crude bomb was tossed in the direction of the police by persons unknown; eight of the usual local suspects were rounded up and convicted—four of them were made examples of, slowly strangled in an intentionally botched public hanging, while a fifth condemned man blew off a significant portion of his own head by chewing on a blasting cap he'd smuggled into prison.
The phony trial had provided high octane fuel to the new global labor movement, and it inspired the creation of International Workers' Day on May Day of 1889. Oh don't get me wrong, the leaders of other nations would've killed off May Day as well if they could, but because it quickly had become entwined in the old pagan spring celebrations they just couldn't do it. Traditional pagan celebrations now included cheery mobs of laborers singing the ancient songs about smashing the systems created by oppressors and sawing off the head of some screaming king. It was far too appreciated by the celebrants who after dancing around the maypole and drinking everything in reach, tore off their folk costumes and paired off for the rites of spring like wood sprites in the forest.
Though it seems every now and then, these revelers would actually launch a real revolution, which is how we got the Soviet Union and leftists and all that sort of thing.
Anyway, back in the U.S. shrewd U.S. holiday planners within the federal government were told by the bankers and industrialists to find a way to get rid of this phenomenon.
They had watched with great interest as the Catholic Church tried (but failed) to steal May Day from workers by renaming it Saint Joseph's Day— ah yes...the mythological Joseph, the cuckold in the tale of Mary's supernatural pregnancy, the patron saint of going along with the system that destroyed you and made you utterly dead inside. No small coincidence!
This sort of thing had worked well with other pagan holidays...after being unsuccessful with banning them, they learned to simply assimilate them and attempt to make them about something else.
But for schemers back in Washington, the answer was to have a different kind of May Day—one that was more about sitting in the yard getting drunk, rather than storming the Bastille or seizing the means of production.
After U.S. marshals and soldiers slaughtered the railroad workers during the 1894 Pullman Strike, the federal government quickly whipped up a national workers' holiday. This "Labor Day," the first Monday in September, was preferable to the May Day agitations that called for worldwide revolt. The American authorities furthermore re-named May Day as "Law and Order Day," a daft but effective bit of Orwellian type propaganda that sucked the breath of life out of the stateside celebrations of May 1.
Consider that the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre, on May 4, is now a fake Disneyesque holiday—May the Fourth Be With You which celebrates the immense financial success of Star Wars products. Bah.
Labor Day worked out during the mid-20th century era of a prosperous middle class, a less desperate working class, and a fully marginalized poor.
But as a job that paid fair wages or included decent benefits went from normality to a rare prize won in a droll lottery by the fortunate, the hard-won eight-hour workday has become a morose sort of abstract mockery.
Now you see, at minimum, one of every three workers is in a "contingent workforce"—the exact number is hidden, because "the Labor Department does not regularly collect data about this group."(the last figures are from 2006) It has surely grown exponentially since then.
Who are these folks? Who are these "contingent workers"?
They're " temps", "contract workers", "seasonal workers", and warehouse laborers filling boxes for Amazon.
They're workers in service, retail, food production and dead-end office jobs.
They are stocking shelves, killing meat animals in a factory, telemarketing, entering data, cleaning bathrooms, working security, etc. and they're intentionally kept from working full work weeks, because only then would they be entitled to the benefits and legal protections reluctantly granted to full-time employees that organized labor had fought so hard for.
So ironically this year since Labor Day is one of the major retail sales weekends,
(along with the ominous Black Friday of the Walmart riots) with low-end retail being a round-the-clock operation, the holiday will be celebrated by the 70 percent of retail workers kept as part-timers laboring away for oppressors as just another day of labor.
For the nation's worst-paid not-quite-employees, there is no holiday.
Retail, along with "customer service representatives" and "fast food preparation," is one of the top five "largest job growth" occupations, according to the Labor Department.
But don't even count on being able to have even one of these horrible jobs,
because even these are going away.
The burger-flipping robot and the self-service checkout computer are designed to kill off even the crappy jobs.
Perhaps the worst part of Labor Day, if you dare to think about it is that on the path we are on, essentially all jobs will be eliminated and probably in your lifetime.
The destruction of the labor movement has been remarkably successful, and three decades of aggressive anti-union propaganda has made the few remaining trade unions with their pensions and vacations seem decadent and greedy to people struggling with a shift at Booger King followed by a shift at the Malwart, forced to abandon children and/or elderly parents to be raised or cared for with whatever member of their casual family is without paid work of any kind.
Do you think you are safe because you've got a law degree?
Or work for an accounting firm? Or manage some department?
You are not.
There will be a management massacre to get rid of deadbeat white-collar workers just as there was a massacre of the blue collar workers.
You'll be told "those jobs will never return" as if labor policy were a force of nature like the tides rather than a man made construction.
Everything that anyone does can be done more cheaply by someone else somewhere.
No one is "safe".
When the bottom is finally found, when all production and services cost nearly zilch,
the next step will be to replace human slaves with machine slaves.
No it's not fantasy at all, the price of robots is dropping just as the price of mainframes plummeted 20 years ago with the introduction of cheap PCs.
The fast food industry alone plans to replace more than half it's human 'not quite employees' with automation in the very near future.
The next mass movement, if it ever happens, will not be about increasingly scarce laborers, but about the human race in general. Appeals to nationalism, oxycontin, despair, IQ lowering television programming, alcohol and slob propaganda have all done superb work in keeping the 80 percent of Americans who are financially insecure far too worn down and miserable to realize they've got a common enemy. If they ever should figure this out, there will either be the "class war" that worries rich liberals and rich conservatives alike—or the Pentagon (once charged with defending the citizens, but now subservient to the dark corporate overlords who have used their wealth to purchase all policy making) will just have to poison the whole country except for Silicon Valley and Manhattan.
Enjoy your barbecue!
Is this the world that must be?
No, it is not.
But it is certainly the world that WILL be if we don't stand together and demand drastic change.
No dystopian vision of the future has come close to miserable truth of this self defeating reality. Greed, absolute, and unmitigated by any sense of ethical behavior, is not an inevitable master of mankind.
The interests of less than 100 individuals who already own most everything ownable in this world have no divine right to also own what little is left, what little is yours.
Politically speaking the ghost of Theodore Roosevelt must be resurrected.
Trust bustin' Teddy must be called upon once again...at least in spirit.
Monopolies are NOT in the public interest.
The idea that Global trade is merely about finding new forms of slavery is not legitimate nor is it inevitable.
A few pen strokes and the jobs that "are never coming back" magically do come back.
We used to protect domestic jobs simply by taxing imports that came from cheap labor countries.
Not only did the corporate overlords tell their servants in government to change that law, but they also told them to give tax breaks to companies who moved their production to China or other slave wage countries. That's right. You have actually picked up the tab for moving your job to China.
Suckers! Chumps! Unbelievable.
This idea that protecting the interests of citizens (protectionism) is somehow bad or impossible is an outright lie.
Global trade is nothing new, it's been going on for many centuries. But it was a matter of common sense that this trade was mutually beneficial. Trade is NOT beneficial (except to a very few) if the people in one nation lose their jobs simply for very short term profits for a few.
It is not beneficial for the environment in a nation to be raped simply because they naively didn't have laws to protect it. This is not "free trade" and there really is no such beast. What is needed is FAIR trade. Trade that benefits both nations in the transaction.
There is no inherent need to dismantle the middle class and toss the working people under the nearest bus. It's a desire of the few, who want what little that middle class has.
Unless we demand laws to stop the wholesale purchase of public policy making;
the few, the sociopaths, the insanely and cluelessly greedy will get their way.
We can, and we must reconstruct ourselves.
We must do so or we will disappear without so much as a whimper.
The long term goal can and must be about human potential, not how much we can get for the chemicals left when we reduce the remains of human beings.
Labor Day began not as a national holiday but in the streets on September 5, 1882.
Thousands of bricklayers, printers, blacksmiths, railroad men, cigar makers, and others took a day off and marched in New York City. They carried signs that read “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for What We Will”, “Labor creates all wealth,” & “We Must Crush the Monopolies Lest They Crush Us.”
The underlying dynamics have not changed much.
As for this year's labor day...
This weekend you could hardly be blamed for going to Walmart for the latest feather-light flatscreen television from China or Mexico. You may legitimately be dazzled by the low prices and pixel counts. But far better, go to a Costco, where workers make about twice the Walmart wage, and don’t have to rely on federal benefits like food stamps and Medicaid (which, according to Americans for Tax Fairness, cost taxpayers $6.2 billion a year...a corporate subsidy for Walmart).
In addition, Costco lets its workers unionize while Walmart instructs managers to report any union activity or grumblings about wages to the company’s “Labor Relations Hotline.”
But all of you Holiday shoppers will have to wait until Tuesday, though... because Costco is closed on Labor Day. Its workers will be at the family barbecue or the parade, celebrating a national holiday...where they should be!