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How the ethic of work directs food stamp policy

Discussion in 'Politics & Anarchism' started by William Howard 2, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    Newsweek published a article about the drop in SNAP "participation". What caught my eye was a quote from one of the prominent critics of SNAP, Garrett Graves -

    “There are talented people across our country who aren’t pursuing the full potential of their capabilities, largely because government incentives make it more profitable in some cases to stay home and collect welfare than to pursue personal growth and responsibility through work.."

    What's interesting here are the assumptions about work - that its work that makes for a fulfilling life of "full potential". I wonder, how is working in a gas station for minimum wage 5 days a week, 8 hours a day living up to ones full potential? Or working in a kitchen washing dishes day to day?

    On line with that thinking, there was a study published that showed how some of these repetitive jobs actually lower a person's IQ. In another case, "The Whitehall 2 study" found that long hours do long term damage to cognition and thinking.

    But I think the data is not really that important here. There's a deep cultural ideology about work that's beneath the comment. It's as if it's saying "the only way to be truly considered as a human is to produce (for us)".

    I think this is a very narrow perspective on how we should value other human beings. If we compare this to other cultures, let's say Hinduism or Buddhism, you find the definition of what makes a person's "full potential" much less about production and much more about self - actualization. The "Atman" and "Anatman" principles are (arguably) at the forefront of these respective religions, and stress roughly about finding one's true self.

    Among tribal cultures you find a different perspective on a self - actualized life, or "what makes a man a man". For these cultures, identity revolved around knowing the natural world and aligning there day to day actions with the natural rhythms. A fulfilled man, in there eyes, had a deep intimacy with nature.

    As a Westerner, we take for granted our collective assumptions about work and identity. What is the origin of our fascination with production (work)? Why are we the only ones that put so much emphasis on work as a fulfillment?

    I think we can trace Western thinking to the old Genesis story - Man's fall from punishment, "condemned" to "toil" all the days of his life. When we think of the word toil, immediately we have in our minds a image of difficulty, of non - productive actions that are "running in circles" -The Hebrew version of the Greek Sisyphus "condemned" to push a rock uphill all the days of eternity. This has such a negative ring to it. So where did all the self - improvement stuff come in?

    I think the answer may lie with the concept of "salvation". It is, after all, common use to use the phrase "the idol mind is the devil's playground". This sort of connects the dots - we have a belief in the corrupted natural state of Man, and we hold that work is a "salvation" escape from temptation. We know the puritans (and Protestants)held such beliefs, as well as taking it a step further - that personal wealth was a sign of God's grace.
     
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  2. paiche

    paiche One of the Regulars

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    It's the organizational structure that we have created and that many seem to be perfectly comfortable in. If we aren't working to get higher up the ladder so that we can strive for that hope that > I too can get a piece of the pie < then we are not progressing. The way I see it the 'progress' you strive for is the full potential that guy was talking about. If you find your true self then you have self-belief and you no longer strive to be higher up in the hierarchal level. That makes that whole organizational structure pointless and it actually gets in the way of your ability to be truly autonomous. We have been taught for many thousands of years to look to some one who is 'better' than ourselves for our comfort or for our welfare check or for that social validation that we got a promotion or a raise. If people looked within themselves and believed in themselves and one another and all conscious beings as equals we could no longer be controlled by that belief we have that some state or government or god or what ever you want it to be will provide for you. The concept of 'salvation' is definitely part of it too and that "we have a belief in the corrupted natural state of man." We just don't believe we (humanity/ourselves) are good enough to figure things out on our own. I know we are because I've seen shit get done but I also BELIEVE that we are good enough. Most put their belief in something above and that just leads to a need to live in a way where we ~'pursue the full potential of our capabilities' ~ we need to work for the man or the god or whatever to 'try' to be better. We could just believe that we are better and go from there but tradition holds us back as a culture to be able to re-assess and look at what belief really means.
     
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  3. highwayman

    highwayman Emperor of the North Pole
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    I have been depending on SNAP for years which in Massachusetts does not require a jobsearch. Most working poor families still qualify for SNAP depending on family size & income. I have been on SNAP off & on for decades & never once encouraged to work or seek employment if just getting food stamps. Cash assistance is different. Now if one is good at surviving then they are working. Work has been a four letter word for many of our societies. At its core I want to believe that all work is noble. In reality I know about class and the exploitation, coercion and manipulation of employees. SNAP is distributed by the USDA being a federal program distributed by each states & I think (as a socialist) that we should have more distribution of resources from the commons to all people. Today I happen to be going to the welfare office to participate in a mandatory job seminar. A few days ago I applied for cash assistance & that is when/where the bureaucrats start making poor people jump through hoops.

    With food stamps it is really easy to obtain. With my situation with a disabled wife, homeschooled daughter, 3bed apartment I work plenty in filling out paperwork, coordinating medical appointments, maintaining free health insurance, cleaning my place, corresponding with Doctors, shopping, cooking, doing the laundry & triaging the mail. Since death is in the details; it becomes a part time gig in applying for, verifying & keeping all of our benefits in order. We have a fax machine, computer & scanner & without them we would be ill equipped to do this work. The work of sending in hundreds of documents to the agencies is one hurdle that can become a burden. Its like a carpenter having a hammer. Now these seem like basic things that we all do; its true. We do have to do all of these things but when we start to do them for the whole family it occupies much of my time. I still have been looking for work on my own accord while on SNAP with the hopes of finding meaningful employment that ads to my life. I do not work as an employee for the sake of being responsible. Many work & have really unhappy lives.

    Today I have to attend a mandatory job class at welfare since I recently applied for cash benefits. There is a job search contingent that always left a nasty taste in my mouth. The environment of making you feel like a free loader can become discouraging. I do act as the unpaid caretaker of my disabled wife and currently trying to get a Doctors note saying that I have a tough time maintaining work due to her needs. If this gets done I will no longer have to search for jobs as my obligation will be waived. I will still be looking for work on my own, just in case but without the degrading oversight.

    Simply living is work. My work ethic of survival is good but rarely does it correspond with my punching a clock as a wage slave. Our quality of life is probably on par with if not better with that of working poor families in my neighborhood. Many who toil in labor yet never get ahead get resentments with those of us that have figured out a path of surviving with little traditional employment. I have worked & earned plenty over my lifetime. I now work at being happy not in being wealthy. "Some people are so poor, all they have is money".

    I do not settle for just survival anymore. I choose to try to thrive as much as possible. Our housing costs are usually in arrears by a few months which incurs an adversarial relationship with my landlord. Our landlord thinks I am the laziest mother around. Maybe I am? They immigrated here with green cards waiting after a natural disaster. "Disaster capitalism" in action, this region needed cheap, uneducated & illiterate workers to run manufacturing machines in the textile industry. Voila! they found workers & the workers achieved the American dream over 30-50+ years of work. Sure they forgot once living in a hovel in Portugal with no shoes. They only recall how hard they "worked" at assimilating into the US. If our society didnt need these second class citizens to exploit their children could never have become the enlightened class who invite other immigrant groups to do that menial labor. Will a country open its doors to let us of the american welfare class to relocate & become citizens of another nation? Probably not.

    I neither want to exploit another mans labor for a profit, then I will willingly enter into such an agreement to be exploited. When I write poetry its work. When we grow vegetable gardens its work. When I volunteer it is work.. When I fix my bike its work. When I help others it is work. When I contemplate the struggles of workers I am working. Live & living is work; the only true compensation is living with a free mind.

    Many have their minds imprisoned in chains having full bank accounts, real property, vacation days, 401k & debt.

    I say "Give me poverty or give me death". My first world poverty is a choice & a privilege but all living involves work. Gods grace & salvation for me is living without the enslavement of my psyche.
     
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    #3 highwayman, Oct 12, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  4. rooster831

    rooster831 Celebrated Poster

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    fuck yeah food stamps
     
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  5. highwayman

    highwayman Emperor of the North Pole
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    After attending the mandatory meeting I learned that those receiving cash must do between 20-20 hours of job search, job training, volunteering, education related things. The system is so fucked where they think everyone should work. Even those on disability are encouraged to work. Since you need to have kids for this program they are big on childcare & encouraging welfare mothers to volunteer or work watching the kids of other welfare mothers kids. I am exempt from the job search due to my wifes disability so fuck them & there nonsense. Let the cash assistance start, please.$$$$$$

    "Arm the homeless,"Eat the rich"
     
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  6. OP
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    William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    I'm having trouble understanding. Are you saying that we need a hierarchy so we can escape it? How are the two ideas of progress as climbing a hierarchy and the idea of not climbing one squared with each other? It's like progress is being defined as getting up it and then its later defined as getting rid of it. Can both exist?

    Or is it like the ladder your talking about is only a temporary structure, kinda like a scaffold to a building? Once the building (self - sufficiency) is finished, the scaffold (social hierarchy) is taken apart?
     
  7. OP
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    William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    Yes work gets defined very narrowly through the lens of "paid labour". It reminds me a lot of the criticisms that feminists had about capitalism. Just because they don't get paid to raise kids, clean the house, cook the food, doesn't mean that they aren't working, and don't deserve a voice in how those resources get used. Strangely, that snowballed feminism to be the power is is today, yet we forgot it's essential criticisms and how they apply to all of us.

    David Graeber made a brilliant argument that most value (or work) comes from nurturing things, not creating them.

    I would argue the most beneficial activities we do for self - improvement come from outside the job market, like schooling, "hobbies", socialization. What you wrote reminds me of a common Buddhist criticism about capitalism - that by not focusing on knowing about the self, who we are, and only focusing on money, we are actually in a state of laziness. They call it "waking sleep".
     
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  8. paiche

    paiche One of the Regulars

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    I think I see how my meaning was cloudy, I'll try to explain;
    This is the way I see that our society functions. People seem to think that progress is moving up in class, or at least trying to by working as much as possible in a crappy job for a paycheck. Garrett Graves' idea of full potential seems to mean how much effort we contribute to society, the structure of which is hierarchical and the more work the masses on the lower levels contribute the more secure the few at the top remain.
    The progress I talk about above is not my idea of progress. My idea of progress is self-belief and equality. The doing away with hierarchy. If humanity could figure this out my theory is that we wouldn't need food stamps or someone above us and we would all "pursue personal growth and responsibility through work" but through work that benefits communities with the health of both human and nature as a priority, not work that benefits corporations.
     
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  9. OP
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    William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    Ok glad I asked. I was way off.

    Anyway I ran across a interview with Peter Joseph where he argued that hierarchy is natural and not necessarily bad, but hierarchy based on wealth is. He said that we all have a set of skills and interests, and some form of structure will always exist.

    Reminded me of your post. Although you don't distinguish between different hierarchy types, I wondered what you would think about that. I'm unsure about his claim. It seems like hes confusing division of labour with social stratification maybe?

    So I guess I'm asking, is it possible to have a "good" hierarchy?
     
  10. paiche

    paiche One of the Regulars

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    I'm not the one to answer that question, I don't know if it's possible. I definitely think the current and historical form of hierarchy for structuring society is detrimental. I wouldn't dismiss that a hierarchal order could be useful for some operational work in certain types of organizations. Even a home with many generations living in it may run more smoothly with a hierarchal structure. This example would likely be based on age rather than class.
    Some form of structure will always exist, this is true and nature will tell you that the most phenomenal and functional structure is in that delicate place between order and chaos.
    I like the idea of learning from nature.
    Have you heard of sociocracy?
    What do you think? Do you think it is possible to have a good hierarchy?
     
  11. OP
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    William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    No I haven't heard of it. There has been so many "ocracy"s invented almost daily that I just can't keep up. They all are just slight variations on some other ancient formula. It's like we keep reinventing the wheel by giving old ideas new names. Id rather hear what it is from you then Google though xD
     
  12. paiche

    paiche One of the Regulars

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    I didn't know there were lots of 'ocracys' invented/re-invented often. It's good I suppose, at least people are working at it. On the other hand it seems a shame though too if ancient ones continue to be re-invented maybe they don't really work or no-one has successfully implemented them. If you're really interested this is a link to the article I read on it: http://www.planetshifter.com/node/2399
     
  13. OP
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    William Howard 2

    William Howard 2 Appreciated Participator

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    On my first read through it seems very similar to some parts of Confucianism and Platonism. The focus of small units, or "circles" that get larger and larger by a shared link - mirrors exactly in the writings of early Catholicism. St. Augustine's writings revolved quite a bit on that. Nothing new.

    I had to laugh about the idea of a set number (150) as an ideal size (I looked at another site too). I thought back to The Republic and it's horrifying math problem that no one can decipher, to which Plato gives, also, a "ideal size". (3³+4³+5³=6³). Nothing new either.

    That's my two cents. They are trying to address the "tyranny of the majority" by keeping things small, but we know even the smallest unit of the state - the family - still experiences power struggles. That has led to the modern conversations about "public/private" spheres.

    About hierarchy and "structure", ancient peoples had this formula that they based there entire political system and religions on - that "good" is defined as structure, a "harmony of parts", while "evil" is a resistance to it ("disordered motion").

    I think they looked to mathematics, the arts, and nature to guide that idea. So I have to ask, can something even exist without a structure or ordered arrangement?

    I think back to geometry. I know if we measure and analyze a cup, for example, we can find a very well thought out pattern of relationships the designers created. We can even render a cup on paper using perspective techniques, we can calculate how light will hit each plane surface, so on. So what if we dropped it?

    The Greeks would say that it has its loss of structure, and it's in a disordered state. But is it? It turns out now that we can use physics to calculate how each piece flies, how light will hit all the pieces, so on and on. And, I think, it's more probable to say the cup is more complex and ordered, not less. There are more relationships at work with a broken cup then with a complete one.

    So what if hierarchy and order are all that exists and this whole idea of a disorder is just a illusion of some kind? Maybe "good" and "evil" hierarchys just don't exist?