19 August, 2006

Ideas And Opinions.
Beware, rants lay ahead.

I've been a bit of a bum in recent months. Since my departure from the Brandeis University Physics Department, I have spent the majority of the summer searching for gainful employment, as I have discovered that bill-collectors do not stop pestering me even if I do not have a paycheck. Fortuantely, I have been hired (now about two weeks ago) by Leominster High School, teaching physics, which I am certainly looking forward to. The time this summer, however, looking for a job, has given me time to reflect upon Things. I had been working very hard throughout college, and then graduate school such that a forced cessation of activity has brought some philosophizing which has not existed in quite a while.

This week, Megan's organization is in the process of acquiring a large funding grant from what I am guessing is the Department of Health & Human Services. We are, of course, very excited, as the National Center for Family Homelessness does wonderful work. I am proud of Megan in that when she goes to work every morning, she is making the world a better place. Unfortunately, receiving a large grant means that my wife's workload increases substantially. She worked Friday night until 11:30, then went in again on Saturday morning for the majority of the day. I hate to see her overwork herself as such--- this is likely a 60-hour week for her, and it does not look like it will let-up soon. She is, as always, more than strong enough to handle this, but I do not beleive that in a modern society that anyone should be working this much.

This enters into my thesis for tonight's rant. I have lately been reading, Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America by Tom Lutz. A cute little book to begin reading while unemployed, and I can always appreciate the life of slacking [insert Phil's reverence to Clerks or propensity for video games here]; but it brings to light many interesting points in our culture of work, how during the Industrial Revolution the work ethic evolved from a natural state of working in "sun-time" to "clock-time." There is quite a bit to this philosophy, I recommend you pick up the book.

At any rate, the historical approach to the philosophy of work in America, I believe, shows an interesting pattern: in the beginning of the industrial revolution, our society found itself in an uncomfortable change in going from an agrarian to industrialized view of work. In the early 19th century, it was not uncommon for workers to leave a job once, or even several times a day to have a quick drink at a local pub. Much to employers's chagrin, this continued, as the agrarian view of a "work day" still dominated in the nascent industrial workforce. As no historian, economist, nor sociologist, I can only speculate on such matters, but this interplay between employer and employee did not erupt into the well-known unionizations and related riots until the 1870s seem to be the beginning of the end of the otium of the agrarian era.

Of course, later growth in unions and their power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries fortunately had their progress-- even the beginnings of a six-hour workday movement in the 1930s. But I wonder if the beginning of antagonism between management and labor in the 1870s was of a societal origin. In the 1860s-1890s, the country felt two great demographic shifts: the first being a sudden class of Americans freed from bondage, and the second being a massive influx of immigrants.

Perhaps now that the employers now had a lower class to further exploit, the drive of the proletariat (I hope I'm using that word right) for easier work conditions was less powerful. And still, this trend continues until today as seen in undocumented workers throughout the country being exploited via sub-minimum wage pay and/or long work hours. Capitalism, if not else, finds creative ways to exploit anyone other than oneself.

One could easily argue, "Before the Civil War, wasn't the vast majority of the black population exploited? How about the Famine? the large Irish waves started in the 1840s-50s?" Of course, those are both factors, and again, I claim to be neither an historian nor sociologist. The African enslavement, I think was not directly exploited by industrial America in the mid-nineteenth century. I cannot speak to how slavery in the agricultural South did or did not affect growing industry in the North-- I could easily be very wrong. As for the Irish in the prebellum industrial cities, the affects could have very well been long-term, as the immigration explosion America felt was in the decades after the Civil War.

As a descendant of those from the immigration in the 1880s-1890s, I am not by any means saying that immigration hurts the "native" population by this manner... it simply seems that when industty finds a large social group to exploit, all of us feel the concequences.

What are the effects of these matters today? Perhaps it is indeed related to the greater structural difference between American and European societies in the way which work, socialism, immigration, and leisure are viewed. Again, this is an enormous topic, so pick a book up.

02 August, 2006

So the writing-goal, of course, returned absolutely nothing. I guess this has to be the first post since last week. Perhaps I'm just lazy. At any rate, it appears that I will soon have gainful employment, so there will be far less whining in that concern.

Now what to write of? I've been considering many things. There is, as always, the fiction for NaNoWriMo in November, but that's still quite embryonic; I could easily begin ranting on the subject of virtually anything political, but this would only get me angry. Then again, I don't believe that anyone actually reads this blog (particularly considering that I have not yet told anyone of it).

Okay, Phil's take on world events lately:

Israel: for a country with easily the best economy and military in the region, Israel has been a very stupid nation lately. Okay, given that the Palestinian issue will not be solved in my great-grandchildren's lifetime, there are many things which could have been done to avoid the current war with Lebanon. They were going in the right direction in 2000 when Israeli troops pulled out of the country, and the situation became even better in 2003(?) when the Lebanese government finially showed Syria the door. Why Israel did not act then is utterly baffling. Three years ago, they could have very well approached Beirut with a proposition to help the Lebanese rout out Hezbollah, which neither government particularly liked. God knows Israel has the firepower, and with the aid and consent of the Lebanese government, this could have been a magnificient step in the right direction. Whenever a coalition with Israel is formed (the "hyphenate partnerships" as I call them), one sees in the headlines "U.S.-Israel," and no one else. To have the "Israel-Lebanon" partnership would be wonderful for the region as a whole. Six months ago, Lebanon was to be held-up as the poster-child of the New Middle East; indeed the nations in the immediate area of Israel happen to be some of the more stable in the region, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey.
With a strong partnership of "Israel-Lebanon," this could lead to regional stabilization. Jordanian-Israeli partnership, Turkish-Israeli, and hell, we could see Egypt and Israel work together to build something for the first time since Ramses II. What then? Let us extrapolate this alternate reality for say, 15 years. Suddenly, places like Gaza and Palestine do not have the "Arab" on one side and "Jew" on the other, but neighbors. A cooperative regional community of nations. I think that the key factor in this relationship is Israel's self-definition. It seems that since 1947, Israel has viewed itself as a Western nation in the Middle East; this regional cooperation would be utterly dependent upon Israel viewing itself as a Mideast nation with Western ties. Salaam. Shalom.

What else? well, there's the issue with Castro-- that's pretty popular down in Miami. So what happens if he does die (omg, an 80-year old cigar-chomping man has health problems), bananas are cheaper, you can legally smoke Cuban cigars. You know that Washington will drop the damn embargo as soon as Fidel's gone. Not too much else with that-- I'm no expert on Caribbean politics, so I've got no clue of what will really happen.
Then again, the primary reason why I had wanted to go to Havanna was that my government told me not to.

How else is the worled falling apart? Well, the big story with the Big Dig has subsided. I'm disappointed; I had hoped that I would see the end of this two-decade endeavor while I'm living in the Boston area.

Do I get into my theories on captialism vs socialism, or get the mail?

I'm getting the mail