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I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.


January 20
The quotation on my banner is from Steven Wright.
I'm a working wife and mother whose 50th birthday resolution is to develop a life - friends, a book club, a voice... I've loved writing all my life and I've loved talking all my life - it's the convergence of these two modes that's been difficult! But I'm working on it... All posts copyright Agalma 2009. The quotation on my banner is from Steven Wright.


NOVEMBER 8, 2009 9:18AM

Arbeit macht Frei - an Enduring Myth?

Rate: 9 Flag

Thinker, teacher,

poet, preacher, 


Mother, father,



I am

What I do, not what I say


If I do not do

do I not have a say?


Why is it enough to tell you what I do

For a living?

When I would much prefer to tell you what I am?

When I feel alive?





by uniform


Public sector

Private sector


by pay-slips


Slogans to believe in:

 'Arbeit macht frei'

'careers for life'

your career for my life?

'fair exchange is no robbery'...



personal freedom


Freedom to relate

freedom to individuate

freedom to sleep in late


The concentration camp transposed to the corporate cubicle

defined by our employment status


golden handcuff

velvet glove




of the boardroom

cutting up 

the world

into profit... 




With so many people out of work and looking for work now there are important questions it is tempting to overlook in this atmosphere of ambient economic and cultural anxiety.  These are questions that have a significant bearing on our future relation to the culture of employment, perpetual questions such as:

 What the world calls 'work', is that what we call' work'?

Why do we work?

What do I call myself:

Employer or employee?

Drone or director?

Wage-slave or  new-wave?

What I call myself, must it be simply a derivative of what I do? 


Before this recession there had been extraordinary changes in our relation to work: the traditional  'job for life' had been replaced by the 'mid-life crisis', the idea of re-training and re-education in one's middle age was becoming the new tradition.   A generation of serfs were being superseded by a generation of self-starters.     We were raising children to believe they could be whatever they wished.    Celebrity programmes and the internet offered everyone the chance to have much longer than Andy Warhol's proposed fifteen minutes of fame.   The world was our oyster and we were  each a grain of sand that could yet become a pearl.

The economists warn that this recession may be followed by a depression.   I agree.  But the depression I fear is one of hopelessness, lost dreams, flattened expectations, destroyed ideals.    So, I urge you to consider once more:   What do I call myself?  What I call myself, must it be simply a derivative of what I do?  What I call myself, is that the limit of what I can be? 


We all recognise the joke because it has universal appeal: 

"Help! Help! My son - the engineer - is drowning!"

Who does she fear losing: 'son' or 'engineer'?


Meanwhile,  here's Sinead singing of two lovers who have only love, of a suitor who will not be slighted for his  lack of worldly goods...



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Get back to work! (just kidding - rated)
After more than 15 years of education and remaining student loans I am asking this same question... What does it take, to make a living without worry for the future?
Enjoyed the poetic as well....
The first part of this should be set to music. Very cool rant. I don't agree with it at all, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is very good. The worst outcome of recession/depression is the sucking up that happens when people get employed once again. They become so grateful for a job that they forget their obligations to stand up for a safe and decent working conditions.

Hopefully, having their own carry along medical insurance will change some of the desperate attitudes.
gorgeous and timely post. now write one about PTSD please. :) you are so right. we need a whole new paradigm for "work" now. love love love and gratitude for you finally getting your ass back here!!
What do I call myself?

Possibly the most important question a person can ask herself at least once.
This piece is really powerful and persuasive. Who are we really if work is not a joy, when our vocation is also our avocation, not being paid will not interrupt the "work".
I do what I am.

I am not what I do.

Very nice post.
Apologies, everyone! I thought I had posted a response to your kind comments but obviously my fingers did not do the necessary clicking! Thank you all for your generous compliments and ratings.