Hands of Labor

by Steven Hill
"...As if men and women themselves, who made money, were not
of more value than the thing they made." -- Sojourner Truth, 1867
Beautiful hand, beneficent rose, unfold to reveal your capacity to do work.

Instrument of labor: who you are, deposited into what you do, a repository of your faith in a social network that feeds us all. Let no abracadbra sorcerer or greedy new age mystic or voodoo economist blind you to the value of your sweat: each hour of labor equal to each hour of labor, hands joined to hands and hands.

Thousands of fists, rolled up like roses, blazing like hammers, like red rose blisters: side by side, you, hands, laborers, executioners, sculptors, take a life -- and then give new life.

You fell and reincarnate the tree: erect the planks and re-stack the felled tree into useful shapes and building blocks. A tree is a tree is wood is a wooden chair; is firewood is a house is a roof is a table. Tree reincarnated as a table which has utility: as a surface it elevates, as a desk it organizes, families gather 'round it to break their fast. If precious labor and resources are to be invested to fell the tree; and mill it and carve it to construct a table with its feet on the ground;

If more labor is to be invested to make a table more than a table, to make a table an ornament, a furniture heirloom, standing on its head;

If labor is to be invested to kill that tree and make it into a household adornment, to make it a prize of consumption, a status symbol;

If a rose is to be other than a red flower that grows, a house other than simple shelter, clothes other than bodily protection, food other than nourishment, a job other than a means to provide for oneself, for loved ones, and for the community;

If a female breast, the human udder, is to be more than a breast, is to be an aesthetic, an icon, of male entertainment;

If a body is to be sculpted as if it were a table, and ensconced on a pedestal for pageant adulation;

If these are to be transformed and reified into objects of status and desire, if precious human labor is to be invested --

there had better be damn good reasons!

For we cannot re-invent the same labor and resources twice. Once used, they're gone!

Let us not be mystified by pipedreams and fetishes that distract. The price paid is the labor and resources invested. These are finite quantities for the taking. If we build mansions, we construct less low-income homes; if we build bombs, we construct less hospitals. If we construct beauty queens, we produce less robust women; if we mold our men into soldiers we lose our gentleness.

If the corporate managers, in their religious quest for profits, can convince consumers to pay more for a product than the value of the materials and the labor that produced it, then not enough wages will be paid out to the workers to consume all that is produced. If the aggregate of entrepreneurs pay, for example, one million dollars for wages and resources to produce their products, but charge two million dollars to sell their products so that they can make their profit, then not enough wages have been paid to buy all that has been produced. The aggregate supply inevitably will become greater than the aggregate demand; the managers will begin to lay off workers to decrease their supply; this loss of consumers will further constrict demand, again outmatched by supply; leading toward more lay-offs, more unemployment, more recession. It is a whirlpool sucking downward to suffocation, the cyclical recessionary legacy of capitalism.

Prediction: while the workers are laid off, the entrepreneurs will look for new machines to replace them with. In the name of efficiency and productivity and higher profits, they hire machines rather than people whenever they can. So who will buy the products? The machines?

"Hey Henry, who's gonna buy those cars?"

Let us not be fleeced by supply-side snake oil salesmen, or trickle-down tricksters, or preachers of free market pie-in-the-sky. Profits are the cream skimmed off the top, leisure money taken out of circulation. The urges to profit must lead to unemployment and recession, to mass dislocation and disequilibrium. These are the social costs of profit-hungry economics.

Holy hands, holy labor, rolled up like roses, withering on the vine gone limp.
Evil idleness: there are identifiable reasons for your existence!

Idleness, unemployment, recession, inequality: we are learning your name, and how to plan against you! Corporate smokescreens and profiteers: we are learning to see through you, and how to blow you away!

Hands working with hands, side by side: how many hands must cooperate to pass the plants from the field to our palate? How many crowds of palates stick out their thick wagging tongues! How precarious the balance between the clouds and the soil, the distance of the sun, the connectedness of that line of hands passing the bucket from one pair to the next, to the next, to the next, to save the house from burning.

We know now we are in this together, whether we want it or not, awaiting the recognition of our social compact.

Hands joined to Hands, beautiful hand, beneficent rose, unfold to reveal your capacity to do work.

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