SWISS QUAKERS

1 July 2020 –

Our conversation was a free flowing one centered on developing ideas around the definition of “work” and specifically, of “useful work.”

Key ideas that emerged around the definition of work are:

  • working = living
  • The human is defined by work
  • Work is the ability to transform and create.
  • Wages are tied to the perceived worth or value of that work.

However the question remains of who determines value?

A non-useful (so the opposite of useful) jobs are unrewarding, jobs that the worker does not feel is contributing, i.e. “BS jobs”  – an example could be bureaucratic or jobs keeping the machinery going.  When work becomes life, are you working to live or living to work.  We learned the German word “tätigkeit” or being useful.

This sort of job would be in sharp contrast to “caring work” which is underavlued or completely overlooked, yet has an economic value in that it allows other work to happen within the economy.  This is not limited to household work, but can be seen in the corporate world in support positions in HR or IT for example.

Dignity from work comes from being shared with the community, work that is embedded in the community.

Work-life balance.  There is the dichotomy between life and work, a complete division of the two.  Is there a way we can create time at work to be able to reflect on personal and spiritual life, and would this improve our work?

Figuring out the purpose of the group and of myself.  Is there a place where these two overlap?  Are we “on purpose” in our lives and in our work?  A good example might be of a poet who works in a factory, a job that allows them to think of words all day and then write them into poems at night.  They might call it the perfect job.

There is fear and anxiety in addressing what is “useful” work and calling out “non-useful” work, for example creating the report that no one reads.

Volunteer vs. paid work.  There was reference to a Bertold Brecht poem called “Questions by a worker who reads” which addresses this question of useful work, and of reports!

When identity is tied to work, it is hard to lose this identity at retirement.

Non-profit versus for-profit work.  At present for-profit jobs don’t seem to allow us to address moral arguments.

Work and life is going to look very different post COVID.

What would the world look like with Universal Basic Income (to be revisited on 5 August SD session).