It’s Labor Day, when we celebrate by studiously not celebrating in hopes that the folks “at corporate” won’t think that we’re thinking of ourselves as “labor.”
Instead of thinking of ourselves as “labor,” we are encouraged to think of ourselves as individuals, gun-owning frontiers people who just happen to have central air conditioning and live in the suburbs.
Other than that, we’re Dan’l Boone. We’re that band of hardy patriots who took their squirrel guns down off the wall and started shooting the British.
We do not think of ourselves as part of a big group of people, a big group of laboring people. We generally think of ourselves as “middle class,” and we think that way until we become very poor indeed.
Organization and unity are for the weak people who can’t stand up for themselves. I’ve had at least three bosses tell me that my union membership was not for them because “they could make a better deal” for themselves.
Two of them were fired from their management positions in under two years. The other made about $200 a week more than I did, but wasn’t eligible for overtime, so the company worked him for 65 hours a week. If you did the math, he made less per hour than I did.
But it’s nice to think of yourself as a rugged individualist, foraging for health insurance, looking forward to a pensionless future because the company killed off the pension 15 years ago.
It’s touching how we see ourselves as not requiring any group identity as “labor,” any union representation, any “us against them” notions.
Our ancestors weren’t so touchy, which is how a bunch of pinko labor organizers got one skinny day designated as “Labor Day,” a holiday now just slightly more purposeless than the Fourth of July, when a people who are rapidly tiring of being free celebrate the flag, all the while waiting for the dictator to finally declare his intentions.
It’s not all black and white, and it’s not all red, white and blue.
My maternal grandmother was an illiterate immigrant from French Canada who lived in the United States for 67 years and never learned to speak English. She was also a socialist. Four of her sons fought in World War II.
She told me that if you weren’t a socialist, you were stupid because not being a socialist meant you liked being poor while other people were rich. The economics of a New England cotton mill town meant she lived in a tenement neighborhood two miles from the mansions of the mill owners. She couldn’t read, but her eyesight was fine.
Do I want socialism? Probably not. But I do want the great mass of working people to begin to think of themselves as a great mass of people who do not ask for, but do demand, justice and decent wages and health care and a pension, and other things denied us by the people who own us.
To be frank, the hell with flying the flag. The people in charge want you to fly the flag. It keeps you quiet, and it encourages you to think of yourself as the lonely cowboy, riding across the endless range, self-sufficient to the end.
And, flag or not, you are not a lonely cowboy. You are working forced overtime because the person who owns you says you will.
The hell with the flag. Start a riot
— Marc Dion is a retired columnist at the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News and author of The Land of Trumpin’, a collection of his columns about the man who heads what was once the mightiest nation on earth. Contact hin at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter: @MARCMDION. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.