Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bread and Roses

Back in my activist days, I remember feeling so passionate, so certain, that my generation would be the one to change the world. We did, you know. I honestly believe to this day that if it hadn't been for our activism, gay people would still be in the closet, Black people would not have equal rights, women wouldn't have the choices we have today and working people would be in much worse shape.

We have seen some setbacks since the days of Reagan when discrimination once again became acceptable. We battled those forces on the streets, in the media and in challenging the thinking in every possible venue. Many of the activists of my generation became discouraged and bought into the dominant culture, taking up the "yuppie" mantle. Most people know the history of that period well enough. Those of us who still carry the fire in our bellies are older now. We no longer have the energy to fight the dragons. It is time to pass the torch to the next generation.

Over the past four months, I have read a lot of blogs. I often choose them at random from other people's "comments" section. In that process, I came across Jen at "one plus two" and Mad Hatter. These two women represent the best of the activist tradition, both in their political leanings and their personal and professional lives.

They have presented a challenge on their blogs to define the social justice issue about which we feel most strongly and post them to either our blogs or to either one of their comments sections. Jen will compile the list and use it in a reception setting for a mock wedding ceremony. It's a cute way to get people to discuss and define these issues.

So, I gave it some thought and came up with the social justice issue that still lights my fire, still makes me feel that heat in my belly that would (sans arthritis and CFS) ordinarily have me out on the front lines.

It is the right of working people to have jobs free of exploitation. The sweat shop of old has now become the corporate cube-farm where employees are still required to work long hours without sufficient pay. Instead of paying workers by the hour, the corporations came up with the ego-assuaging idea of designating nearly all positions as "salaried" which means they are free of overtime costs. Workers are laid off, their pensions diverted to deceptive "401K" plans that often means they will not be free to retire ~ ever. CEOs of corporations drive Jaguars and send their kids to Harvard while low-wage workers wonder how to feed their kids and get medical care. Most people at all ranges of the socio-economic scale work long hours, denying them adequate time to nurture their family lives. Kids are stuck in impersonal day care centers where mothers and fathers have little input into their upbringing. Day care workers promote capitalistic and consumerist values to the children.

Now we go into the next phase of worker exploitation called "globalization". Worker security is forfeited in the name of corporate profit while workers in third world countries are exploited without even the minimal protections of workers in the US. The propaganda machine cranks out endless justifications, all of them cloaked in positive language, to make this sound like "progress".

Jen and Mad, you ask what you can do about it. I will not presume to tell you what direction to take. That will come from your heart and your intuition. Join with likeminded others and raise the consciousness of those who are not of like mind. I will promote one of the groups of which I was a member for many years: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. They are a good resource for focus groups on these issues. The link is on my sidebar.

That is the issue I bring to the table for your consideration, Jen and Mad Hatter, as I pass the torch along with much gratitude to you, I place palms together to both of you. (Deep respect)

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and Roses! "Bread and Roses!"

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses




Anvilcloud said...

I don't know what you mean by not being about to change the font. Do you mean in the template itself? It's in the class called post-body (at least that's one place). I know because I was able to temporarily change your font on my screen.

jen said...


What a lovely gift. And such a good one. I often think of the exploitation of immigrants and in other countries, minimum wage earners and laborers...i don't consider the same plight of the middle class cube prisoners...and you make a very good case for the same...and i wonder, too, how much i myself as a supervisor have contributed to the overtime issue.

our first gift. i'll hold onto it till the party. thank you.

Mad Hatter said...

Thanks for this important post and thanks for the link to the WILPF. That organization--celebrating its 90th year--serves as a reminder to us all that women have been commited to social justice through a long, proud historical tradition. When WILPF was founded in 1915 in the Netherlands, WWI was raging. Think about how much blood has been shed worldwide in armed conflicts and through social injustice since 1915. Just think. It is positively staggering.

QT said...

Chani -great post and it reminds of a friend I have been out of touch with for some time. She is the person I am writing my post about.

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Buy Extenze said...

I remember feeling so passionate, so certain, that my generation would be the one to change the world.