“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Our work is our service to the world. When we get paid for our work, we tend to refer to that as a job. Jobs are very important. Just listen to the politicians who promise us “more jobs” with every breath.
I’ve been wondering about jobs: At what cost is our everlasting desire to create more jobs? Are all jobs worthy, just because they’re jobs, and every person needs a job?
I live in Northeast Ohio, in the heart of the Utica Shale fracking area. Our politicians supported giving energy companies the right to use hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of natural gas and oil extraction, on public and private lands. In return, Ohio’s citizens were promised low gas prices and thousands of high-paying jobs. Our communities anticipated an economic boom of unprecedented scale. That has occurred in some cities and counties, and not so much in others. It’s clear that Ohio is currently reaping economic benefits from oil and gas fracking. It’s also clear that fracking is not without its negative consequences. So far we know that it brought contaminated drinking water and earthquake swarms. Other devastating consequences may come to light as time goes on. We have more jobs for people who need them, but at what ultimate cost?
Does that kind of work truly put us in service to others? I think of the Native American tenet of “Seventh Generation.” This is the idea that we must consider the consequences of our actions to the seventh generation. Assuming a generation is about 25 years that would be 175 years hence. What if Seven Generations were our most important consideration, before immediate reward and corporate profit? What if we made corporate decisions based on being sure a process would not prove to be harmful for 175 years into the future, rather than plunging ahead based on guaranteed corporate profits until some disaster forced us to do otherwise?
American folksinger, Peggy Seeger, wrote a song called “For a Job” that I discovered a few years ago. In it she writes that “every man needs a job,” and “will we live to tell that we gave the world for a job.” Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the song: The World for a Job.
For a Job, by Peggy Seeger
He'd give the world for a job
'Cause the job's his world
The earth's his oyster, he's the pearl
Gives him something to do, money in hand
Without a job a man's not a man
A man needs a job
Man on a mountain
Tearing that mountain down
Man in a forest
Building another town
The world is his wherever he goes
To do what he wants with
'Cause the world owes every man a job
What would he give for a job?
His heart and his lungs
Mutilate his body
Father mutant sons
Silicon and lint, espestis and coal
The world wants life, man wants control
But he'd give up life for a job
Ivory hunter, nuclear engineer
Rain forest logger, arms trader, financier
Makers of junk food, acid rain, CFCs
And all those things that bring death and disease
Made to waste, made without hate
Nobody needs all of those things
So is a job just a job?
He'd give the world for a job
He's runnin' wild
Blind fold, brainwashed,
Self centered, Pavlov's child
Turn forest to desert
Turn heaven to hell
Turn home into nothing
Will we live to tell how we gave the world for a job
The whole world for a job
We gave the world for a job
I went to the Buddhist Center (www.thebuddhistcentre.com) for information on the Buddhist tenet of “Right Livelihood,” and found this: “Right Livelihood is an important aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha encouraged his disciples to make their living in a way that does not cause harm and ideally that is ethically positive. Given that almost everyone’s life includes an economic dimension, therefore, our objective is to live a long and dignified life with the wealth obtained through “rightful means." “Rightful means” meant any occupation that did not cause unnecessary harm to other living beings. It also meant to be honest and ethical in business dealings.
We have created an elaborate and complicated civilization in which we depend on each other to perform many labors. Our work provides goods and services for others, for which we are paid money to support ourselves and our families. As a society, we should be aware of the implications and consequences of the jobs we create for our citizenry. It seems to me that one of the most important roles of our government and corporations is to provide its citizens with the ability to earn a “Right Livelihood.” That means ethical and honest work that will pay a living wage to its workers.
There should be jobs for everyone—jobs that honor the workers that do them and enable them to support themselves and their families, and that are worthy of the citizens who partake of the goods or services produced, and that respect the Earth and its inhabitants—to the seventh generation, as is the Native American Indian belief. And then, dear readers, we would truly be serving our world and all the beings that inhabit it!