Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Quote of the Day (William Dean Howells, on the Uncertainty of Work)

“No one is sure of finding work; no one is sure of not losing it. I may have my work taken away from me at any moment by the caprice, the mood, the indigestion of a man who has not the qualification for knowing whether I do it well, or ill. At my time of life—at every time of life—a man ought to feel that if he will keep on doing his duty he shall not suffer in himself or in those who are dear to him, except through natural causes. But no man can feel this as things are now; and so we go on, pushing and pulling, climbing and crawling, thrusting aside and trampling underfoot; lying, cheating, stealing; and then we get to the end, covered with blood and dirt and sin and shame, and look back over the way we've come to a palace of our own, or the poor-house, which is about the only possession we can claim in common with our brother-men, I don't think the retrospect can be pleasing."—American novelist, critic, and editor William Dean Howells (1837-1920), A Hazard of New Fortunes (1889)

It was true 135 years ago when Howells wrote these words, and maybe more so now, about how “caprice” can end employment, for either individuals or mass numbers of employees.

 Executives screaming for less regulation may well end up playing casino with their employees’ futures. A multinational conglomerate thousands of miles away may abruptly terminate workers who’ve given the best part of their careers to a company.

All of this feeds into worker anger. Many may well accept the nearest explanation at hand that they can understand, even if they involve the creation of scapegoats. 

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