Thursday, January 29, 2015

Work as the Highest Good

The outrage of the day has been the Attorney General confirmation hearings going on in the Senate right now. This exchange between Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions is getting a lot of play.  I am alarmed by what she says, but not for the reason you might think. Here is what she said again:
Senator, I believe the right and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here, and certainly, if someone is here—regardless of status—I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace.
The obligation to work is shared by everyone. Obligation. Does everyone have an obligation to have be in the workplace?

Since I am in the workplace, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about the purpose of work. I think all people have the obligation to provide for their family in the best way that they are able given their nature and inclinations. I believe that only in a subset of people does this obligation include having a job. More and more I realize, I might hold a minority opinion on this matter. Non-income producing work is almost totally dismissed and having employment is held as the highest good.

On the ole Catholic Working Mothers page, there has been some discussion about mothers discerning whether they should work full time now that all of their children are in school. Some think they should work to bring in more income, not because they have to and not because they want to, but because they feel obligated to be "productive." I am not a member of the "you go, girl" club so I actively discourage them. I do not think they should repress their natural inclination to be present for their children before and after school in order to be "productive" during school hours.

Why should the peace of their homes and the continuity of their schedules be disrupted in order to produce income? Obligation? No. I reject it. Why are the benefits of a homemaker dismissed? Because they do not come with a paystub? What a narrow definition of contribution and benefit we have. There is dignity in creating a warm and stable home, but we don't seem to see it.

So I am chilled by Lynch's words and the worldview they represent. The world where work is the highest good.


Literacy-chic said...

I *want* to work, but one of the things I regret/resent most is not being available for my children after school. I think that it's very important for children to come home after school and unwind, do homework (if applicable--different topic!) and talk to a parent or two, to play and be creative in their own space and in their own way. I would give a lot to be able to have the job I intended, that would allow me the ability to arrange my schedule so that I could do all of this. Work for the sake of work is not a value in itself, no. Feeling valuable and productive--how many people really get that from work? Money does not, and never will validate who I am. That is a prevailing mindset, and I agree--very disturbing.

bearing said...

Ever read Laborem Exercens? I think it's readable and all about the proper end of work.

Jenny said...

I haven't read it. I'll look it up tomorrow.