WORK: A Love Letter
‘… our toil and labours daily so extreme, that we have hardly ever time to dream …’ Mary Collier, ‘peasant poet’, from ‘The Woman’s Labour’ (1739)
‘… look at your hands, your peasant hands, your big ugly hands …’ mother (c. 1977)
‘… this is the world now …’ David Peace, from 1980 (2001)
We all sell ourselves a little… sometimes we get to name our price, and sometimes not. What we have, what we are, and what we endure; exchange value, use value; the Stankhovian accumulation of the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the years. Sometimes, just to live is an act of heroism. (Seneca, c. 4BCE-65CE)
That night, in that place, that place that was made for moral pursuits, for the sanitation of mind and body, that place that was bestowed by D——, for the benefit of his workers, that place that is the stark simulacra of the lost (and imagined) pastorale that has been obliterated by the mill and its smoking stacks, that night, in that place, you looked across the grass, across the paths, above the pitiful trees that mock an imagined forest, that night in that place you looked up to the clock that was the black sun that fronted the factory wall. That was your time.
On this day, now, in this time, we stand in the spot we imagine you to be, and look around us. The clock on the factory wall is fallen; all that is left is a dark and circular void, a shadow of a place where time has been. It is a shithole, we say, an ugly shithole. We say we are sick of the drizzle and the flatness and the ugliness of these places made for a prescribed and moral leisure doled out in meagre portions by those who own our time, and we count our blessings that we can leave this place, and that the makers of these places do not own our time. We count our blessings that we can leave and not return, and that we can make, in part at least, our work, our time, our own. And I give thanks that my hands, my big ugly hands, my peasant hands, can work, and write, and love, as I would wish. And I look at my hands, and I love them.
But can I say, J—–, that I love you, I love your hands, I love you for the work you did, because you had to, (I wish you had not had to), and I love you for the fact that you took this place, and, (for want of a room), spat in the face of those who prescribed its usage, and hurled your supposed vice at their supposed virtue. (I wish you had not had to, I wish you had not had to).
DECRIMINALISATION OF PROSTITUTION:
Communication Workers Union Resolution For The TUC Women’s Conference. Scarborough 2009
Conference calls on the Government to decriminalise prostitution. While the activities of women who work as prostitutes are subject to criminal prosecution then they are less able to access support and help from agencies when they need this. The criminalisation of those who work in the sex industry also creates a division between working class women who are all combating poverty and sexism. We believe women who work as prostitutes, are entitled to the support of women trade unionists not our collusion in their repression.
This is so moving and perceptive, delicately bringing your themes closer together, with the postscript a ray of light.