Saturday 23 May 2020

Never Touch Another Man's Tools

Good morning from Scotland. It's not a particularly good morning in our bit of it, though, as the sky is cloudy, the wind is blowing furiously from the west, and there is a sprinkle of rain. The rain is good for the vegetables, but I fear the wind is not. Fortunately, the apple tree will protect the trug.

Today I applied myself to Chapter 9 of Integralism, "Political Economy." It is very interesting because it talks about property, work, what money is for and usury. It frowns upon rapacious capitalism and socialism alike and finds something debased in trade. 

"Trade may be an honourable activity but is far more open to corruption than the direct sale of intrinsically useful goods by the producer, because skill in facilitating exchange may yield riches independently of the real value of the things exchanged and the desire for money has no natural satiation," say Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister. 

That reminds me of an article I read today about the massive sums spent by very rich men in the company of very thin and pretty women in very expensive nightclubs. The complaint of the woman who participated in this social scene was not that the thousands of dollars spent and collected should have been spent on the poor rather than on Cristal champagne, but that the pretty women did not themselves make any money. The pretty women were merely the "fuel" that led to the enrichment of the club owners and the entertainment of the other very rich men. They didn't even get to  profit by marrying the men. However, the author admits that she found being part of all this quite fun. 

When I was a teenager I worked for a new coffee franchisee, and I know perfectly well that he built his business by hiring bubbly teenage girls and sending us out to flirt with construction workers. According to my grandmother, I was not pretty but I was striking; I was certainly successful at catching and sustaining the loyalty of construction workers et alia to our coffee shop. I very much enjoyed that job, and cheering up caffeine-addicted blue-collars and librarians with my smiles strikes me as a much better use of my youthful charms than being groped by stockbrokers in a club. Ick.  

But now that I have horrified you all by contemplating my youth and beauty as intrinsically useful goods, I will contemplate a theme of Integralism that reoccurs in this chapter, and it is that every employee should want to work for himself and should be paid enough so that he can.

"The desire of each labourer should always be to obtain the ownership of his own means of production, as self-movement is always more consonant with the dignity of man's nature, for 'God made man from the beginning and let him in the hand of his own counsel' (Ecclesiasticus 15:14)," say  Fimister and Crean. 

Having read Wendell Berry on sustainability and localism, of course I like this idea. It makes sense to me that anyone who is an employee should eventually become his own boss. For example, a man who loves carpentry but works in Starbucks would strive to save enough to set up his own little carpentry business. (I was going to write "who works in a factory" but there's not much manufacturing going on around my readers because almost everything is made in Asia now.) Men in domestic service used to dream of saving up enough to buy their own pub. Hacks dream of writing best-selling books, or of setting up our own magazines. 

Sometimes there are helpful windfalls, too. The wonderful Harry Dodson of Victorian Kitchen Garden worked as a gardener for the ruling class most of his life, and then his final employer--who could no longer afford the upkeep--signed over the garden to him, at which point Harry worked for himself. 

It makes sense too that a young person would be an employee, learning skills on the job, of the emancipated ex-employees until he too could afford his own tools and shop. However, this system leaves out an enormous number of people, including Fr. Crean and Dr. Fimister, as Fr. Crean is part of the Dominican Order and Dr. Fimister is employed by a seminary. Fr. Crean is not an employee, per se, but Dr. Fimister certainly is. That said, if we all buy their book directly from a bookshop (and not Amazon), there is a chance that Dr. Fimister may himself be emancipated. Oh, I do think that worth the price of the paperback, at very least. (Many may find the cost of the hardback a tad stiff.) 

Another way we may help emancipate Dr. Fimister is to encourage him to debate John Zmirak of The Stream online and sell tickets to the event.  Yesterday to my great surprise, I discovered that Mr. Zmirak is a bitter opponent to Integralism and says very rude things about it in his inimitable way. In fact, he calls it "Catholic Sharia" and much prefers the way the United States of America was set up. 

As a matter of fact, I am acquainted with Fr. Crean, Dr. Fimister and Mr. Zmirak, so when I say I would look forward to a debate among them all, it is with their best interests at heart. 

The title of this blogpost is taken not only from sentiments expressed in "The Victorian Kitchen Garden" but from another English show called "The Detectorists". It occurred to me that it is an expression of the great desire that Fimister and Crean underscore as pertaining to the dignity of man. In order to work for himself, a man certainly need his own tools, and if another man takes away his tools, he'll be forced back, or deeper, into servitude.   

I'm saying "he" and "man" a lot because I assume in the Integralist system women's labour is ideally employed in the house, garden and workshop, and she ideally never has to work for anyone outside her family. The reluctance of families to allow their daughters to work for other people, or at least any  people, can be understood when we contemplate your humble correspondent, age 17, being sent out with coupons to entice construction workers.

That said, most women in my family within living memory all worked outside the home until we married, and usually afterwards, too. Apparently one of my ancestresses operated a ferry during the U.S. Civil War, but I have a vague recollection that she was either a widow or her husband was away on the battlefield.

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