Friday, September 26, 2008

work and the proposed Wall Street bail-out

Work is something I spend a lot of time thinking about - I hope critically. The bail-out has got me thinking more concretely about policy initiatives. I don't have formal training in policy; professionally, I'm a linguistic anthropologist who studies poetry and music. However, I am in a very good union and I learn a lot from knowing other activists in this and other groups.

I don't want there to be a bail-out for the richest people in the world, protecting their affluence. I don't want to protect affluence, at all. In fact, I'd like to end it. (I only know of one organization that has the guts to go better than campaigns to end poverty with a campaign to end affluence:

I also question the viability and desirability of credit being as available as it has for some time now. This much credit has encouraged over-consumption (which means pollution) and landed a lot of people in unmanageable debt situations.

What I support is helping low-income people get proper food, housing, education, and health care: sounds like social equity! I support valuing the right to health, shelter, food, and expression above the right to private property. I'm for voluntary simplicity among the middle and upper classes, and equity for all. So, let's start buying and producing less stuff, let's produce it with more care so it lasts longer, and let's start sharing work, money, and leisure equally.

Here's a policy suggestion: what if we shorten the work-week to 30-hours, prohibit mandatory over-time, increase minimum paid vacations and parental leave, generously subsidize worker-co-ops and small, organic farms, stop subsidizing petroleum, pro-rate wages to number of dependents and health expenses, heavily tax high incomes and profits, and raise minimum wage to at least $20/hour?

The core of my idea is the work-week, minimum wage, and vacation stuff. All the rest is support for that because those 3 on their on could be seriously abused. It could crush small businesses. It could lead to lay-offs and more mandatory over-time. It would do little to reduce affluence at the very top.

Subsidizing worker co-ops and would help small businesses. The stuff about over-time and leave would reduce lay-offs and create jobs. Petroleum subsidies make it less feasible to buy local. Taxing high profits and incomes will put a dent in affluence.

Well, that's the idea, anyway. Other people with expertise in policy may be able to improve this a lot. I'm looking forward to that. For now, maybe thinking of having every Friday off will inspire effective activism!

Friday, September 05, 2008

not how you thought things worked: short short fiction

It is well known that domestic house cats are nocturnal. Actually, most mammals are nocturnal, even if you factor out bats, which are most species of mammal. As it turns out, however, there is one house cat who is diurnal; his name, as far as people know, is Chick: Chick the cat. He is diurnal - the only diurnal house cat.

To be sure, this is weird, but it's merely epiphenomenal to the truly interesting thing about Chick. While it appears as though he has an amazingly "in tune" schedule of going to sleep when the sun goes down, and waking up when it rises, believe it or not, it's the other way around. The sun goes down when chick goes to sleep and it rises when Chick wakes up. Yeah. I'm serious. No, no joke. Scary, huh?

For real - the sun is being controlled by a cat. This puts lots of things in a very different light. Your place in the grand scheme of things? The solidity of a cycle you thought you could trust? How long has this been going on?

Okay, I don't know how long this has been going on, but my first question was, "how did it work before Chick was born?" Before Chick was born, a different cat - one named Belle - in a little town near Halifax controlled the sun. Apparently randomly, at the instant that the diurnal cat dies, another kitten born at precisely the same moment somewhere becomes the torch bearer. That's it, really. That's all I know. Honestly, I try not to think about it.

Chick is a nice, friendly cat. I understand Belle was not. I feed Chick when his owners are on vacation - if you can call them owners. Given that their "pet" controls the sun, the whole relationship has taken on a different tenor, for me. Maybe he has a secret cat name that means something amazing to other cats. I bet even the regular cat names are pretty fascinating.