Monday, July 02, 2007
In Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich writes about the sharp decrease in holidays (days off) between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution.
[T]he repression of festivities was, in a sense, a by-product of the emergence of capitalism. The middle classes had to learn to calculate, save, and "defer gratification"' the lower classes had to be transformed into a disciplined, factory-ready, working class -- meaning fewer holidays and the new necessity of showing up for work sober and on time, six days a week. Peasants had worked hard, too, of course, but in seasonally determined bursts; the new industrialism required ceaseless labor, all year round.
. . .
In part, [the appeal of Protestantism] was probably similar to that of much evangelical Christianity today; it offered people the self-discipline demanded by a harsher economic order. Curb your drinking, learn to rise before the sun, work until dark, and be grateful for whatever you're paid. . . . Protestantism, serving as the ideological handmaiden of the new capitalism, "descended like a frost on the life of 'Merrie Old England,'" as Weber put it, destroying in its icy grip the usual Christmans festivities, the maypole, the games, and all traditional forms of group pleasure.
Today, of course, it's worse. It's worse because even when we do get a holiday, we're checking e-mails, answering cell phone calls, watching the "news," worrying about work. Why? Why do we allow this?
The Furious Spinner notes that we have all been coopted by the corporatists:
Today I was moved by the words of Robert Shetterly. He is writing about the social activist Eva Peterson. He is also writing about us.
He writes in "When Does Drowning Mean Drowning," "We are now up to our necks in a culture of programmed complicity. Just as the Hutus in Rwanda made sure that all the men killed someone so all would be complicit, the corporate culture here teaches consumption rather than citizenship, isolation rather than community, teaches that predatory capitalism is democracy. If there is an answer, it must be climbing out together, giving a hand up to the weakest and most vulnerable, reinforcing our virtues, denying the culture that preaches making virtue of vice, heroism of spectacular, unsustainable greed.
"Eva Paterson, when she did complete the quote for her portrait, included this sentence: 'Drowning in silence, we are brothers and sisters drowning each other.' We are drowning, my friends, suffocating in complicity and lies. As surely as trees give life sustaining oxygen to our atmosphere, truth and accountability, fairness and compassion provide the social oxygen for our culture. I’m sure that the epidemic of asthma in our children is attributable in equal parts to environmental and cultural causes. A culture living on lies leaves everyone gasping. The oxygen has gone out of America. The waters are rolling down, but they are not the waters of justice."
I want my holidays back. I want the leisure to stop and think, the time to grow flowers, an end to capitalism-induced Koyanaskatsi.