What Are You Working For?
You can do better than money
(c) 2013, Davd
As those of you who have read a few of the earlier posts in this series already know, that title question is not meant to imply “Don’t work”; but rather, “Work for what matters most, and does the most good, in terms of your philosophy and enjoyment of life.”
The obvious, inadequate answer, to the title question, is left over from the 20th Century: Money… and the obvious answer to that answer is that money is at best, a means to things you actually need or can actually enjoy. Stop and think about that for a while, if you like; and remember the anonymous Cree Elder’s obvious fact: You can’t eat money… nor can you wear it, nor is it good shelter. It might be a way to buy food, clothing and shelter—but even that isn’t guaranteed. If there were a famine, and i had an extra tonne of apples, i might very well give those apples to hungry, good people i know, rather than sell them for a lot of money. (If you’ve read the Christian gospels lately, you’ll realize that i would simply be living the teachings of Jesus, to give away extra food in a famine rather than “get rich on it.”)
This is the 21st Century, however. Much of the “equipment and supplies” i use, from bow-saws to cut the firewood, to the computer i write this on, plus digging forks, glass windows, and on through the alphabet past underwear, are things i don’t make for myself—and can’t swap-for with anyone i can name personally.
Money isn’t always or necessarily a wrong answer, then—but neither is is always a right answer, and it should never be the right answer. Indeed, having a lot of money can invite trouble, grief and woe.
It’s worth keeping in mind that our species evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and for most of that immensely long span of time—there was no such thing as money. There was production for use and there was production for barter, starting with chip-shaped flint spearheads and fire-hardened wood handles to put them on, with stone axes and grindstones to make wheat and barley into flour, with smoked hides for clothing and wineskins to age wine in1. Such things were made to be used by people known to the maker.
Money came into existence before 500 BC (Lenski, Lenski, and Nolan, 1991: 165, 219-202) but not, it seems, before agriculture took over from horticulture. It’s a contrivance, a social artificiality, but one which has some usefulness. To work sometimes for money, makes sense for most modern people; to work for money alone and then try to live from money alone, i strongly contend, is folly. More on that in a subsequent blog.
The “Divorce Revolution” (Baskerville, 2004) has made working for money much less rewarding for men especially, than it was in that “heyday of the job” some 40-65 years ago. Baskerville writes, “The first principle of family court is … remove the father. So long as fathers remain with their families, the divorce practitioners earn nothing. This is why the first thing a family court does when it summons a father on a divorce petition—even if he has done nothing wrong and not agreed to the divorce—is to strip him of custody of his children.”
While there may be some hint that treatment of fathers and men accused is becoming less Draconian than in 2004, divorce rates remain high, mother custody remains normal, and it remains “obvious” that the more a non-custodial parent earns, the more he will be required to pay. If you take a well-paid, unpleasant job “for the family’s sake”, a divorce you did nothing wrong to “deserve” could tie you to that job with orders to pay “support”, (“as a walking wallet” some would say) while forbidding you to take part in the family’s life.
Don’t go there. That well-paid, unpleasant job might have been a noble sacrifice for the good of wife and children, for which they would later honour you—in 1953 and even 1963. In 1973 it was beginning to get risky; in 2013, with half or more of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s foolhardy [a word meaning fool a lot more than it means hardy] unless you have something much better than Civil Law to assure her fidelity.
For most men in 2013—as in the earlier years of this century—it’s better to earn less money than their wives and “cohabitants”, than to earn more. With all that “affirmative action” in schools and in Government-prescribed hiring policies, it should be easier for a woman to get paid more than an equally competent and qualified man, than the other way ’round; so by insisting that she have the higher income, you’re “effectively” insisting she be your equal in competence.
If either “partner” works mainly for the money, it should be her, not you. A “role reversal” compared to the 1950s and 1960s?—yes, indeed. Feminism lobbied for it, Feminism got it; and paradoxically, many, many men can enjoy it, working for the love of the task or the value of what it accomplishes while she gets the unpleasant well-paid job.
… but that’s not always the best outcome, not nearly. ’tis good for men to reject the unpleasant well-paid jobs; because of divorce risk, because job misery tends to carry over into home life, and because money is too anonymous. ’tis also bad for women to have unpleasant jobs, though; and a sensible prudent man wouldn’t want a wife who suffers at work and comes home miserable and grouchy—now, would you?
Rather than marry to make your wife suffer—seriously, man, you should rather stay single. Rather than marry to exploit your wife financially—you should rather stay single3. Which is a roundabout way of repeating the main point about money—don’t make it the only or the overwhelming reason you take a job.
The “heyday of the job” wasn’t a perfect interval in history, either… some of those abundant, relatively well-paid jobs were little or no fun, and many entailed “commutes” that interfered with fatherhood. Another lesson we can learn from the men of the 1950s who took unpleasant jobs for the sake of the pay, is that our working time shapes our mentality. The lesson we can learn from the men who became victims of the “Divorce Revolution” more recently, is that the respect and support most men of the 1950s received for such sacrifices, is no longer a safe bet.
Perhaps sacrifice of self was never a good idea. Surely it is a bad idea when fidelity is as uncertain as it is in civil marriage today.
Subsistence is something for which we must all work, except the few who are “independently wealthy”. Philosophy—including the Great Faiths—teaches us that work is good; but seldom makes the point strongly enough, that to be good, the work must be well fitted with who we are. Most of us should be working for subsistence; all of us should be working to become better men.
Becoming a better man will call for different configurations of work for different men. “Farmer Frank” drives a school bus ‘part-time’ for money income and farms because he believes God and his family history call him to, and he loves the work. “Preacher Phil” serves a small rural church and is organizing to acquire an acreage and do subsistence work for his family’s food, housing and fuel, which combined with his pay should enable them to live well with a small money income. No “alienation” in the work of those men!—they are working for what they believe and love.
As Jesus said about the Good Samaritan, “Go thou and do likewise”4—not the same thing “Preacher Phil” or “Farmer Frank” is doing, unless it suits you as well as it does him, but the work that is yours in character and spirit, and makes you a better man.5
Adelson, Howard L. 1962. Medieval Commerce. NY: Van Nostrand Anvil paperback.
Anonymous, 2013. “The tide is turning: serious legal writing takes issue with the assault on the rights of the presumptively innocent in campus sex charges”. www.cotwa.info website, June 14.
Baskerville, Stephen, 2004. Divorce As Revolution: The Government has a vested interest in destroying Marriage and the Family. The Salisbury Review, July 22
“Futurist”, 2010. “The Misandry Bubble”.
Lenski, Gerhard, Jean Lenski, and Patrick Nolan, 1991. Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
1. Yes, wineskins were used to age wine, as St. Luke’s Gospel [5:38] specifies, “No man having drunk old wine immediately desires new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Luke was a physician by profession, well positioned both to appreciate good wine, and to know of any dangers in its handling and storage.
2. On p. 165, Lenski, Lenski, and Nolan state that “Money as we know it was absent in the first simple agrarian societies. There were .. standardized media of exchange. Barley served this function in ancient Mesopotamia, wheat in Egypt.” They indicate that copper, silver, and probably gold, weighed rather than coined, were also used for large transactions “from a fairly early date.”)
3. If there be an exception, a type of situation where a man can morally “exploit his wife financially”, it is where she has great wealth already, or a high-paid job she greatly enjoys—and marries him knowing she’s the wealthier of the two. The mirror-image situation also applies: If a wealthy man or a man who loves his high-paid job, wants to marry a woman with much less wealth and let her exploit him financially, knowing that’s what she’s doing—well, rich women who marry less-wealthy men usually demand “prenups”, and rich men would be wise to do the same.
4. Luke 10:37
5. No, i didn’t forget earning your keep. It’s better to earn your keep than not to (and better to contribute to your neighbours’ subsistence than not to); so work that provides subsistence, by so doing—contributes to making you a better man, as it amply does for “Farmer Frank”.