Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day by Nicholas Gordon

Labor Day

Labor is the burden of our being,
A weight that weds us firmly to the earth,
Blessed servitude that serves a common meaning
On which each may erect a sense of worth.
Remember, then, the beauty of a calling
Demanding both integrity and skill:
A dancer in the drifts of early morning,
Yet traveling towards sunset through sheer will.

Labor’s a commodity, like fish,
As children are fast-frozen and filleted,
Beating down the price. Fortunes are made
On selling to us all so cheap a dish.
Remember how the world is being run,
Determined by the market’s iron laws
As slaves and children jingle in its jaws.
Yet there is nothing, nothing to be done.
--Nicholas Gordon

There were a bunch of poems at this guy's site, all in the same Labor Day acrostic format. Some of them were more cynical than others. I've given you a taste here. I like this style of acrostic better than the "L is for ____" style. I think it's more natural. You could read these and think they're regular old poems, until you look down the side and see the words spelled out.

Thinking about my post yesterday, I realized that I may have come across as thinking that there aren't employers who oppress laborers today. This is just plain wrong. There are people who desperately need unions and labor laws that are enforced. Even in the United States, we still have sweat shops that use mostly immigrant labor where the working conditions are horrible and the pay negligible. I'm sure that migrant farm workers have difficult working conditions and low pay. Many of these places get people to work like this because their legal status in the country is questionable. That's one of the most important reasons to me to have immigration reform. I don't really care what the laws end up being so long as they're enforceable, and then enforced.

What I object to are policies like protectionism or cushy union negotiated contracts that keep prices artificially high, and unfair labor practices (like those used by Wal-mart or the sweatshops) that keep prices artificially low. I wish there was a better middle ground where people were paid a living wage with decent insurance benefits (so they can afford to go to the doctor or dentist) for doing worthwhile work. That's what Labor Day should be all about.

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