Look, I understand that some people find the notion that we've become an oligarchy — with all that implies about class relations — disturbing. But that's the way it is.Paul Krugman
I'm a worker. I go to work every weekday. I get paid. Most of that money goes to support my family. There's a little left over for fun. There's some for small acts of generosity. This makes possible a pretty good life. Will my students get to have that life? Or my kids?
In his novel Dead Europe, Christos Tsiolkas imagines a man exiled from his country, who dies in another land. On his tombstone are three words: Worker, father, husband. Husband is a bit too patriarchal for me. Perhaps mine would say: Worker, father, lover. Lover, in different ways, of different people: my partner, my kids. But a lover too, in another way, of my class. The class - or is it classes? - of people who work, with some part of their bodies. People who work with eyes and hands and backs and voices, and so on.
I take pride in my work. Sure, there are good days and bad days. Nobody gives "110%" When you hear that sort of bullshit you know it's coming from people who aren't workers. It's the language of the Donald Trump types, who managed not to squander an inheritance and think that makes them a genius. They're so proud of themselves and have no barriers to telling you about it. The pride of the worker is mostly silent. You get up, go to work. You get up, go to work again. Until you can't get up any more. That's all there is to it.
With luck, you get to work at something that won't kill you, and that you might even like. I got lucky. I like my work. I like teaching. I like writing. I have a secure job, doing something I like. This is not something my people took for granted. On the other hand, I refuse to see this through the reactionary language of 'privilege.' To have work, security, a little left over at the end of the week. This is not privilege. It's a right.
This was the most brilliant move of Occupy Wall Street: We are the 99%. Of course we're the 99% of the 1% of the planet, but let's not get sidetracked back into the language of privilege. The slogan is all about the remainder, about what is left out. It's a way of saying: we are not the ruling class. Our solidarity, that fragile thing, orbits what it is not.
Maybe it's an Australian thing, or part of an almost extinct antipodean way of thinking, but to be doing well is not something to take too much personal pride in. You can always "fall back" so don't "sell tickets on yourself." Let's recall, just for a minute, that the late Steve Jobs was adopted. The story is usually told from his point of view - how remarkable his success is, given that he was adopted. Nobody stops to think about the extraordinary act of generosity of the people who chose to provide the enormous, thankless labor of being his parents. The success of Steve Jobs comes from a lot of things - but one of them is 'communism.'
I'm no Steve Jobs, but I am doing alright for myself. Things happened in my life that taught me how much work it takes for anybody to even get by at all. I can walk because a now-famous surgeon, by trial and error, worked out how to hack my club feet into something that would support bipedal life. Three months in a hospital bed at the age of seven will impress upon you just how many people it takes to make a world where that doctor can operate on that child. The nurses, the kitchen staff, the lady who came to mop the floor. My older brother and sister bringing me books and toys.
They were worried how I...