Maybe JOBS aren't what we need

By Frank Joyce

Lifelong labor and political activist Frank Joyce is writing a book expanding on these ideas. This article is adapted from "We Are in the Middle of Transformational Change: It's Time the Debate Matches up with the Huge Challenges Ahead of Us," published at

Currently Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR).President, Frank can be heard every Sunday, 4:-5 pm ET on Dave Marsh's Live from the Land of Hopes and Dreams radio show on Sirius 146 and XM 167.

Much of the conversation these days is about what the President (or somebody) ought to do about jobs. But isn't that the wrong conversation altogether?

As it always has been and always will be, there is plenty of Work that needs doing -growing food, moving people and goods around, teaching young people, manufacturing various kinds of stuff, curing sick people and so on. But the 20th century "jobs" method of connecting those needs to individuals, families and communities has been seriously out of whack for quite some time.

What was once mostly a W-2 economy is now a mashed up "system" of W-2, 1099, underground and prison-industrial "employment." That economic reality is reflected in our exorbitant rate of incarceration, massive school dropout, high crime rates and perpetually high unemployment.

Truth be told, just about all the systems that kind-of solved various problems for the last 200-300 years don't work anymore. They are completely out of alignment with the forces at work today:

Faced with such massive shifts, many political thinkers and activists are disoriented. The left-right spectrum is no longer a genuinely useful tool of analysis. In the U.S. we hear calls from all points of the ideological spectrum to take America back, recapture the American dream, restore America's place in the world, "save" this and "defend" that. Elsewhere Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other organizations are also dedicated to restoring a long-gone-and-never-to-return economic, political and social order.

Isn't it crystal clear? Every minute we spend grieving over the loss of the old world order is time we are not spending on imagining and creating the new one.

Times like these are rare. They call for activists to rethink our collective and our individual commitment of time and other resources. Our problem is that we that we are thinking too small, not too big.

Fortunately, more and more people instinctively grasp that we are living in extraordinary times of enormous potential. Throughout much of the world, including the U.S, the attraction to Barack Obama derived partly from the awareness that the old answers no longer apply. It is no surprise then that the disappointment with Obama comes from the perception that he turns out to be completely wedded to old ways of seeing the world and totally loyal to the existing centers of power.

Another world is already happening. Consequently, another world is not only possible, another world is necessary. The quest of the World Social Forum and the US Social Forum is one prominent manifestation of the search for new solutions and new forms of organization. *******

Correction. Shari Saunders, the author of last week's column on Place-based Education, is an associate Professor at the University of Michigan.

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