While my mother is sleeping, I should be cleaning up my littered living space. Instead, I’m eating Post’s Maple Pecan Whole Grain cereal laced with half and half and reading the February issue (not yet online) of Harper’s magazine and listening to Josh Groban. Well, that was a few minutes ago. Now I’m at the keyboard instead of cleaning up my littered living space.
I’m blown away by an article in Harper’s called “Crapshoot — Everyone loses when politics is a game” by Garret Keizer, which explores the great divide between “players” and “workers.”
Some quotes:
— A player is characterized by the consciousness that he is different from ordinary people. That difference is key to his self-understanding.
–The Democratic Party offers to validate your identity. The Republican Party instead offers to give you an identity — that of a player.
— For the true worker, the pleasure is in the work. The pleasure of the player, on the other hand, is in “having it made.”
— Exculsion is contained in the very definition of the player. If everyone goes onto “the field,” it’s no longer the field. It’s a park.
— The player cannot imagine himself in different terms, but the worker has a second incarnation. When work is denied he becomes a fighter.
— People who say, “America is now a deeply divided country” are either facetious or naive. It has always been a deeply divided country.”

As Home Health Aids rally today in Central Park for fair worker wages, I am particularly attracted to some of Keizer’s reflections on religion:
“The most interesting kinds of religion, for my money, challenge the Gnostic pretensions of the player. The Buddhhist bodhisattva, for example, is a player who thinks like a worker. Elite in his attainment, he refuses to enter Nirvana “until the grass itself is enlightened.” Blessedness for the bodhisattva means joining the union When Eugene Debs said that as long as there was a criminal class, he was in it, that “While there is a soul in prison I am not free,” he was talking like a bodhisattva. He was talking like one of the worker saints. Not for nothing is Jesus remembered as a caprenter, like the stonecutter Socrates. Both were markedly blue collar in their approach to wisdom. Introduce them to a player, and their natural inclination was to take him down a peg……
“Consider you own call, brothers and sisters, “St. Paul (a tentmaker) writes to the church at Corninth. “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, but many were of noble birth.” Not many of you were players, in other words. The rise of evangelicals in American politics is the latest attempt to rectify that deficiency. It is an attempt with theological parallels in the frequently intoned evanglical credo — derived interestingly enough from St. Paul himself and distorted by any number of stadium preachers since — that it is “faith in Jesus Christ” and not good works that saves the believer. In the extreme version, the “Saved become players, with Jesus consigned to the role of their Unclue Guido. He made a deal for us on the Cross. We don’t have to work. Wer’re made man. The ethical agnostics, the observant Jews, the wetback Mexicans mumbling over ther beads in the backs of cattle trucks (the same people we hire at slave wages to watch our kids and diaper our parents) let them believe in the necessity of good works. It’s rather convenent that they do.
As for us, our Godfather is in heaven. Or maybe in the White House.

Keizer’s lengthy piece is worth totally quoting. Certainly worth buying the February copy of Harper’s to read.
So, before I get back to work, I’ll end with the following quote, which reminds me of what I used to tell my Dad: ” When the revolution comes, you know what side I’ll be on.”
The worker, on the other hand, has a second incarnation, and this is what makes him more interesting. When the opportunity of work is denied to hm, or too many of the fruits of his labor are withheld from him, the worker becomes a fighter. He and she have done this many times…….. You may say that players fight too, but that is a comparatively shallow statement. What players do is use weapons for toys — and workers. Jousting, counting coup, reciting one’s deeds and lineage in an epic poem — that is all player stuff, and the worker hasn’t got time for it. The worker’s approach to fighting is, like his approach to everything else, decidely workmanlike. The worker’s way of war is to bust heads and get back to work.
And I guess that’s what I’d better do.

1 thought on “self-indulgence

  1. Hmm… if I took the time to think about what I should be doing, I’d lose half the day. Enjoy your self-indulgence moments while you can!
    Interesting look at political/religious power and the way different types of people approach it. Food for thought.

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