On Work and International Workers’ Day

Today is International Workers’ Day. I spent it teaching and will spend the rest figuring out how I want to work. In this cynical day and age, we receive the invitation to avoid loafing with suspicion. Is the advisor is actually numbing me into complacency, hoping I’ll become a cog in the machine? Guess I’d better get back to work! But we forget that work is a nurturing aspect of our being. Yes, we must work, but also must work with intention. I view the worker with respect and dignity.

An advisor in a New York Times article about advising first-time Tinder users was said to have helped a garbage man in Westchester. She picked out new clothes for him, hoping he’d be more presentable to women. His before picture, a selfie taken from the driver’s seat of a municipal garbage truck, wasn’t apparently good enough. I thought he looked handsome. The guru sanitized his effect, leaving him just like the others, primed for dating. I feel for the garbage man and his future mate. He just wants to play with his dog and feel loved, but was forced into a photo shoot that will direct attention away from the impression of who he is: a laborer with a job that smells.

Many Marxists and Bernie Bros are accused of their laddish intellectualizing — “Mansplaining.” We all know what it’s like to be told what to do in a patronizing way. But as a man who keeps things to himself, I am called to wonder: Why not be proud of what you know, why not urge yourself to share it with others? Is this true of the affective dimension? I need to work, but I find myself distracted by emotional matters, and therefore I do not conduct my worker at full force. My work is intellectual, and the things that I know share space with my emotions. This is my excuse. Why not think with the body? I think better when I’m moving. I’ll bet the sanitized garbage man thinks better while he’s moving, too.

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