Jack Saturday

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Poem by Susan Yuzna

The Telephonist

by Susan Yuzna

for David Foster

I had my order. Not of the choirs
of angels, but of the countries we called

in the stone dead heart of the night. Japan
was a young woman's voice, a cool river

through a thirsty land
, sliding over my bone-
tired body like an icy, blue-

green wave. Australia was next--their perpetual
joking could keep me awake. I even

made history once: for eight years, a man
had been calling his brother in the bush.

He loved me, loved my voice, my flipping of
the switches in Oakland, California,

so that, at last, it worked. But usually
I was just too tired to care. My first

graveyard shift and I was much too tired
to give a shit when the businessmen yelled

about lines down in Manila again,
as if I could stop those typhoons, as if

I could make the old crones in Manila
love us, which they didn't, or be somewhat

helpful, which they weren't. Why don't you try
again in two weeks?
I would say (the stock

response, a polite voice, then flip the switch,
cut him off, quick, before his swearing

poisons my ear). Too tired to care
about anything, not their business dealing,

not the drunken nostalgia for a whore
known during the war--he can't remember

her name, or the place where she worked, the street
it was on, but could I help him find her?

He's never forgotten . . . I grew so tired
of phones ringing for eight hours straight.

I wanted to pull my hair out, one thin
strand at a time. It was a newly

invented circle of hell, and if you
had been there, you just might understand

why that infamous hippie girl rose up,
out of her chair, yanked the earphones off, and climbed

onto a counter running the length of the room
beneath our long, black switchboard, then, crawling

from station to station, pulled each cord
from its black tunnel, breaking one connection

after another, like a series of
coitus interruptus all down the board,

before they stopped her, and led her away.
She must be on LSD, said a wife

from the Alameda military base. And she wears
no underwear, either
, added another.

That was 1970, back when Oakland
Overseas was still manual, but the hatred

of a ringing phone is with me yet.
I will stand at the center of a room

and watch the damn thing ring its little head off,
and I will grin, quite stupidly, at its

helplessness. I will walk out the door, fill
my lungs with ice, head for the far-off peaks.

I will lose myself, become one small, dark stroke
in the white stillness of snow. I'm telling you

now, it was a brand new circle of hell,
but how could we know that, then? We had jobs,

the market was tight, and the union
won us cab rides home when we worked at night.

Poem by Philip Levine

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Philip Levine

Anti-Job, Pro-Freedom Quotes Of The Week 40 and 41

Christmas obviously should be moved. No one knows for certain which day Christ was born on. And he certainly wouldn't mind if we celebrated Christmas in February. We could still make a week out of it without having New Year's Eve at the end of it. No one wants to go back to work again right after New Year's Eve.
Andy Rooney,
in "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney,"
Warner Books, 1981

There is a substantial history of anti-work writing to draw on. Aristotle, for one, was no great fan of toil. In his Politics, he made it clear that ideal citizens should not be tradesmen, mechanics or farmers. "Such a life is ignoble, and inimical to virtue," he wrote. Instead, we must have plenty of free time and the independence to engage in social activity of our choosing. "The first principle of all action," Aristotle concluded, "is leisure."
Farewell to the Working Class
Austin Kelley

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Anti-Job, Pro-Freedom Quotes Of The Week 38, 39

Have a good trip to heaven, Merry Christmas!—to the 20,000 economic losers who will die of hunger today, and the 20,000 who will die of hunger tomorrow, Jesus’s birthday, 2005, and the 20,000 who will die of hunger on Boxing Day—watch for their souls flying up past Santa’s sleigh.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Matthew 25:40, 25:45

And to my fellow Canadians:

Today is the day credit card machines go into overdrive—it’s expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year. A company that processes credit- and debit-card payments predicts it will process more than 600 transactions per second. It’s expected that 8 million Canadians will be out buying, spending two billion dollars.
CBC Radio1 News, Dec 23, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Anti-Job, Pro-Freedom Quotes Of The Week 36 and 37

Missed last week, my motherboard died. My fatherboard was inconsolable.

Here's two, dedicated to the line of suffering men with their hats out as in the time of Dickens, standing (probably too cold to sit) one after the other against the buildings down Fort St yesterday in my prosperous Canadian city in a cold December-- to the people out Christmas shopping, many struggling with a discomfort of conscience as they walk past avoiding these men's eyes; to the young woman huddled in a corner on Johnson St.

To Christine Wellstead, who works in emerg at St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver who saved the life of a man whose blanket was burning around his hands and face near Starbucks at 19th and Cambie, and the well-dressed lady there who told her "forget it, he's just a homeless person."

To our millionaire Prime Minister Paul Martin, who in a leader's debate last night said “In Canada today, our economy is strong. Deficits are history.”

And later in the debate, on the subject of the growing problem of youth killing youth with handguns in Canadian cities: "… it is the hopelessness that poverty causes… I had a tremendous conversation the other day in Toronto with two young men, and that’s what they were talking about—‘I am excluded—I am poor, I may be poor forever, I don’t have a chance to reach up.’ –and we’ve got to deal with this, and that’s why we put in a place a major community program…”

To the other leaders in the debate who all agreed that poverty was a major factor leading to handgun deaths, Stephen Harper of the Conservatives who promises longer jail terms, and Jack Layton, head of the NDP, the left-leaning "people's party" who promises "training and education" in a world in which low-pay no-benefit service-sector jobs have supplied Paul Martin with his joyful annoucements of low unemployment (A large percentage of food-bank users work full time but can't feed their families, never mind spend some time with them)-- and who are, according to Marshall Brain, due to be automated out within ten years by the new robotics.

The job system is just that: a system, we invented it, we can change it. With wisdom and foresight we can fashion from the historic disintegration of the jobs culture a more cheerful, humane, vigorous and hopeful approach that will combine material abundance with human fulfilment. For more than two centuries, the job has been a kind of tyrant that has reduced human beings, curtailed their potential, exhausted and discouraged them. Now, thanks to advancing technology we stand on the threshold of being liberated from that tyranny and, instead of fearing it, we should be dancing in the streets and celebrating.
Frithjof Bergmann

There is no doubt that if the human race is to have their dearest wish and be free from the dread of mass destruction they could have, as an alternative, what many of them might prefer, namely, the swiftest expansion of material well-being that has ever been within their reach, or even within their dreams. By material well-being I mean not only abundance but a degree of leisure for the masses such as has never before been possible in our mortal struggle for life. The majestic possibilities ought to gleam and be made to gleam before the eyes of the toilers in every land and ought to inspire the actions of all who bear responsibility for their guidance.

Sir Winston Churchill
at the opening of Parliament, November 1953

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Anti-Job, Pro-Freedom Quote Of The Week 35

The liberation from work for economic ends, through reductions in working hours and the development of other types of activities, self-regulated and self-determined by the individuals involved, is the only way to give positive meaning to the savings in wage labour brought about by the current technological revolution.
Andre Gorz
Critique of Economic Reason: Summary for Trade Unionists and Other Left Activists