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Just to be clear... I am totally in favor of human dignity.

And I understand that some people's dignity depends on exchanging their labor for currency, and then exchanging that currency for goods and services. AKA "Working for a living."

More than that, that their dignity further depends on a belief that the exchange rates are established adversarialy -- that those paying for their labor are not paying more than they have to, for example, and that the people who provide the goods and services are not charging less than they have to. AKA "charity."

So as their ability to adversarialy compel those things dwindles... either due to personal changes such as illness, or social changes such as automation or globalization, or whatever... their dignity dwindles in proportion.

And I'll admit that my instinctive response to that is essentially that they should get over it.

Which, I realize, is not an especially compassionate response.

Still, it's where I am.

And I am not sure what *is* a compassionate response.

I mean, Lord knows there's plenty of other ways for dignity to work.

In particular, from where I sit, this situation has a clear fix: as automation and globalization reduces the need for our physical and intellectual labor, we switch our focus to emotional labor. I mean, there remains an enormous need for that emotional labor to be performed... more than enough, I suspect, to profitably occupy the full labor output of the population. We can keep the traditional "working for a living" framework of selling that labor for currency, if we like, or we can keep the traditional "family" framework of providing that labor through an informal network of relationships, or we can do something else.

But that's made more difficult by the way we approach gender.

As I understand it, cultures that have this model for dignity also gender-code it... "working for a living" is what men do, not women. Women gain dignity in this system through "family" - that is, through marriage and through performing the emotional labor associated with maintaining relationships and community. And many of the people whose dignity depends on selling their labor also feel that men performing emotional labor ("women's work") is demeaning, and that exchanging currency for emotional labor is demeaning.

So... I don't quite know how we move forward from there in a way that permits these people to retain both their dignity and their rules through which dignity is managed. Mostly it seems to me that those rules have to change.

Which sounds an awful lot like "they should get over it."

Which, I realize, is not an especially compassionate response.

Still, it's where I am.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
dr_tectonic
Dec. 6th, 2016 09:03 pm (UTC)
Clearly, the way to move forward is to set up a system where people can exchange the labor of changing their rules for currency.

They can start out by trading the intellectual labor of working through the necessity of doing so -- at a rate that's established adversarially. As they switch to exchanging emotional labor and installing new rules for managing dignity, the rates can be adjusted correspondingly, and by the end the whole setup just evanesces completely.
dpolicar
Dec. 6th, 2016 11:44 pm (UTC)
I feel like that system depends on itself to establish in the first place.

Like, if they were prepared to perform that labor, or to consider it culturally acceptable exchange for currency, I suspect it would not be necessary for them to.

But, well, I could be wrong. There's a precedent here for grad student stipends, I guess... or apprentices being paid. Perhaps thinking of it as an extension of that... this is a skill people value them having, so they get reimbursed for developing it... isn't as far from the status quo as it seems.
twe
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:02 am (UTC)
I'm mostly in the "they should get over it" camp too, but will throw out that getting less money for your work can also affect your dignity because it materially affects your family's ability to get by, not just because your work being worth less makes you yourself feel worthless. (But again, the gender roles come back, because why is being the breadwinner so integral to the male identity for so many?)
dpolicar
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:12 am (UTC)
Being unable to get by definitely has an effect on dignity.
Being part of a family that is unable to get by definitely has an effect on dignity.
Being unable to obtain enough money to get by on has the same effect, insofar as getting by requires money.
Getting less money for my work has the same effect, insofar as getting money for my work is my primary means of obtaining money.

Yes.

And yes, in many cultures gender roles are entangled with all of that.
vvvexation
Dec. 7th, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
I might have more compassion for those who feel their dignity requires them to be part of an adversarial system if this didn't also entail my having to be a part of that system, and if so many of them didn't feel that my dignity too should hinge on this.
dpolicar
Dec. 7th, 2016 09:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, me too.
(Deleted comment)
dpolicar
Dec. 8th, 2016 02:00 am (UTC)
I absolutely agree that keeping ourselves fed... and meeting our human needs more broadly than that... is a non-negotiable priority.

I agree that maintaining a system in which wealth continues to accumulate in higher and higher density in smaller and smaller portions of the population is incompatible with that.

I doubt it's you missing anything: judging from the comments I'm getting it seems pretty clear that I have failed to express anything cogent in this post, perhaps because my thinking is not cogent.
come_to_think
Dec. 9th, 2016 03:04 am (UTC)
It's a racket economy. Usefulness is a luxury.
adrian_turtle
Dec. 14th, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
Playing by their rules, solving the problem compassionately is women's work.
dpolicar
Dec. 14th, 2016 04:55 pm (UTC)
True.
I don't play by those rules, though.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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