"Jobs Aren't the Answer" by Grace Lee Boggs

The continuing jobs crisis is an opportunity to go beyond protest organizing for more jobs and begin imagining work that frees us from being the appendages to machines that we have become because of our dependence on jobs.

Instead of looking to politicians for programs that will provide millions of jobs, we need to encourage the creation of work that not only produces goods and services but develops our skills, protects our environment and lifts our spirits.

In a letter read recently to hundreds of activists at an Environmental Justice gathering, University of Michigan Professor and futurist Bunyan Bryant explained the thinking needed for this visionary organizing.

It begins, he said, by making a distinction between work and a job as outlined by Matthew Fox (The Re-Invention of Work)

"A job is similar to slavery in that one is forced to perform actions in return for some sort of compensation for one's labor. Therefore the rewards are extrinsic, and without such extrinsic rewards people cannot be forced into a job they dislike. To tolerate or compensate for these job conditions often times people will engage in excessive consumerism or self-medicate to counteract the boredom that comes from a job or to make themselves feel better.

Work, on the other hand, is defined as activities that one enjoys. To be compensated with money is not important because of the pleasures and satisfaction of work. Therefore the rewards are more intrinsic.

I envision a multi-racial society where people perform the requirements of a job three days a week. Jobs are designed to perform the basic functions or necessities of society. The other four days of the week are devoted to work activities of teaching, learning, and healing the earth. It would also be a time to spend more quality time with family, friends and to pursue one's hobbies and special interests.

Full employment can be defined as 90 percent unemployment. People will devote their time to build a green economy and one that is compatible with the Earth's life-cycle. People will be liberated to participate in community-based research projects to help the poor and to protect the environment.

Every six years people would get a two year paid sabbatical to travel to distant parts of the planet to help people in need and to work for healthy environments, green economies, peace and prosperity of the mind, body and spirit. In order for this to happen requires a skillful use of technology and a commitment to the future."

Bunyan's vision of a society that works reminds me of the {r}evolutionary transformation that Jimmy Boggs envisioned nearly 50 years ago in The American Revolution as automation and hi-tech eliminated the need for human creativity and energies to make things. Those energies and that creativity, Jimmy said, could be used to make politics and a better world — without war and without global warming.

Published on September 10, 2011 by BoggsBlog.org

Shortened URL
0 ReflectionsRead/Add Yours

Voices on the Radio

is a philosopher and social activist. She's also the author of Living for Change: An Autobiography and a board member of the Boggs Center.

Richard Feldman

is an community activist and board member of the Boggs Center.

is founder and CEO of We Want Green, Too!

Myrtle Thompson and Wayne Curtis

are co-founders of Feedom Freedom Growers.

apples