Imagine what would be possible

E-commerce directors
Early childhood special education teachers
Early childhood special educators
Early childhood teachers
Early Head Start directors
Early head start teachers
Earth loading equipment operators
Earth science professors
Eastern philosophy professors
Ecological modelers
Ecologists
Ecology professors
Econometricians
Econometrics professors
Economic development planners
Economic geographers
Economists
Edge trimmer mechanics
Edition binding workers
Editorial cartoonists
Editorial writers
Editors
Education administrators
Educational assistant teachers
Educational audiologists
Educational counselors
Educational interpreters
Educational psychology professors
Education and training managers
Education counselors
Efficiency analysts
Efficiency engineers
Efficiency experts
Egg gatherers
Egg packers
EKG technicians
Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers
Electrical and electronics engineering technicians
Electrical and electronics engineers
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers
Electrical computer aided design and drafting technicians
Electrical design engineers
Electrical design technicians
Electrical drafters
Electrical engineering directors
Electrical engineering professors
Electrical engineering technicians
Electrical engineers
Electrical inspectors
Electrical line workers
Electrical power station technicians
Electrical systems drafters
Electrical systems engineers
Electrical technology instructors
Electric crane operators
Electric golf cart repairers
Electricians
Electric motor, power tool, and related repairers
Electric motor repairers
Electric wheelchair repairers
Electro-mechanical technicians
Electro-mechanics
Electrocardiogram technicians
Electrocardiograph operators

S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook

It occurs to me that the answers to poverty, community violence, and crime do not lay in the industrialized prison complex, but rather in committing to the resolution of international and domestic differences through non-violent means. The human intelligence, economic resources, and creativity freed up through peace can be devoted to the elimination of oppressive systems, provision of greater supports for youth and families, expanded educational opportunities, and access to meaningful work. Community development processes will be more effective in the context of some much larger social change.

When I look over the hundreds of job titles listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, I am struck again and again by the varied and meaningful contributions made to society by workers. The value of this work is immeasurable. The workers, however, seem boxed in too small a framework when called human resources or human capital. This supply-chain language seems to me to dehumanize them in a way that the word worker does not. Resources are expended; capital, invested. But humans?

My mother at 92.

My mother at 92.

My dad and mother were workers. They went to the plant or office early to set up their days. Their social connections were addressed first thing in the morning, before starting time, and again at lunch. They left work promptly at quitting time. Their lessons to my siblings and me often had at their core the importance of honesty in the exchange of labor for pay. Unreasonable working conditions (heat, cold, risk of injury) were viewed by them as disrespectful. One could complain about the unexpected need to work late or short-term increases in workload, but these circumstances were not viewed as disrespectful by my folks. Instead, they saw these issues as opportunities for advancement or overtime pay. If the work flow changes consistently happened, they would describe management as inept at planning, though in much more graphic terms.

Work continued at home, too. My siblings and I learned to cook, clean, do dishes, and general household maintenance. We could paint a room or a house. We mowed the lawn, trimmed shrubs, and grew gardens for vegetables and flowers. School work had its place, too. We were expected to do well in school through hard work, thoroughly completed, and submitted on time. We made flash cards, studied spelling lists, and outlined book chapters.

Before I became a high school teacher at age 21, I had already worked as a newspaper boy, grocery sacker, stocker, shipping clerk, dishwasher, cook’s assistant, timekeeper, clerk, au pair, salesman, screw-machine operator, chorister, hide measurer in a tannery, florist, and designer’s assistant. I was never fired from any or these jobs or laid off. My work record was excellent. I generally liked my managers and supervisors. I did my work well.

This past weekend, a pal told me about how he and his husband worked with neighbors to pick up litter around their block. In a few sentences, he transported me back to my childhood sense of pride at cleaning our porch and front yard. Somehow everything seemed right, not in the sense that we had a grand house or imposing landscaping, but rather that we had cared enough to do our share for our neighborhood community.  This memory seemed so basic in contrast to what is possible with human intelligence, economic resources, and creativity. But somehow, the memory felt powerful. If my family’s economic and social challenges still allowed us to foster community, imagine what would be possible in the context of much larger social changes.

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