Day Labor

It’s difficult to believe in Labor Day. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad for the day off. It’s just that I don’t think people really believe in the idea any more. It’s hard to take professed goodwill for workers seriously in a plutocracy. Especially when money’s a fiction. When pay was in coin, although abstracted, you were literally handed something of value for your work. Now technicalities and loopholes and utter abstractions make some—including would be and actual politicians—wealthy. These are all tricks on paper, affirmed by accountants, and we watch like the audience of a magic show as the improbable is made out to be actual fact. And these who hold this imaginary wealth control the lion’s share of the waking hours of the rest of us. We’re given Labor Day off with a pat on the head and we’re told to go enjoy ourselves before summer is up and we really have to get back down to work.

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Many of us—I know because I can see the cars—use the holiday to travel. It’s not really so much a day of rest as it is a day of trying to get back home so we can be to work bright and early tomorrow. Since it’s the last break before Thanksgiving you’d better enjoy it. If there were really money in that pay envelope—not even real envelopes are used any more—it might be easier to buy the illusion. Like Amazon I take a small cut of the transactions between employer and debts I owe just to live near where I work, which isn’t really so near but as close as I can afford. At least today I can not go into the office. I can spend the day getting home instead.

I often wonder why we’ve let ourselves be fooled by a system that will only ever allow the very few to truly find financial independence. Like lemmings we run right after them, thinking that just beyond that cliff true prosperity lies. A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage. Right now all those cars are actually out on the road—I can see them—and they’re not really paid for because they cost too much to buy outright. Most of us need them to get us to and from work. Or to and from vacation. Summer’s winding down. Hurricanes are already spinning away in the Atlantic. I’ve grateful for the day off. I really am. I only wish I could believe that it meant something deeper about human nature.

2 responses to “Day Labor

  1. I found your thoughts amusing. It expresses my own attitude. I find myself on a family vacation, a typical holiday activity.

    But Labor Day is a particular kind of holiday. It is odd how little of it has to do with any notion of labor or its significance. The plutocrats or even above average professionals can’t be bothered to pretend to care about workers, not even labor day. It’s not even quite a pat on the head, more like a kick out the door with a stern warning to be back soon.

    My present vacation is of the tourist variety. It always puts me in an odd mood, all the traveling and sightseeing. I’ve never had much of a tourist mentality, as I don’t particularly like large groups of people. Yet here I am, enacting this national ritual of tourism, where experience and not just physical products become the consumer good.

    BTW I think I might be in your neck of the woods. We first came to New Jersey, spent some time in Connecticut, and now will be heading to New York City. Some of my family came from the area. This is my first visit to the Northeast. I can sense some of the similarities to the Midwest or else Upper South. New Jersey, for example, seemed like a wealthier version of Kentucky.

    Like

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