As Labor Day rolls around again, I wonder how many more of these we’ll have. Once upon a time, labor and those who did the labor were something to be celebrated, not despised, disdained, and reduced to servitude. But that’s where we’ve come to: laborers are disdained, the unions that protect them objectified as the enemy, while the corporations unions protect them from are held up as champions – and not only that, but, obscenely, as people. If the Republicans win in 2012, will we still have a Labor Day, or will it become nothing more than a totalitarian mockery, akin to National Socialism’s celebration of motherhood and women?
Serfdom and slavery do not seem to me things to be celebrated.
It’s a sad state of affairs to contemplate as the wheel of the year winds down, as summer gives way to autumn. Labor Day is, for Americans, the symbolic end of summer, the start of the football season. Endings are sad, and we seem to be facing so many endings. Not simply the end of laborers as folks to be celebrated and protected, but the end of our basic social compact and all sorts of protections – of the elderly, the sick, the poverty-stricken, children, women, veterans, the environment, our air, our water – the planet itself. And of the Constitution which guarantees us our “life” our “liberty” and “pursuit of happiness.”
In many ways it seems like an end of order, and that is, after all, the goal of nihilism, to serve chaos at the expense of order. Chaos is the ancient enemy of the Heathens. It has special meaning to a surly old son of Odin like me. It’s almost as though there were some form of political Ragnarök in the offing, with the Tea Party as the forces of chaos unleashed, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann playing at the Midgard serpent Jörmungandr and the Fenris wolf. And the god of these chaos children is being invoked not as a healer but as a vengeful destroyer. We will be neither liberated nor saved, but consumed.
Brothers will fight
And kill each other,
Will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
An axe age, a sword age
Shields are riven –
A wind age, a wolf age –
Before the world goes headlong
No man will have
Mercy on another
So says the seeress to Odin the Valfather in the Völuspá of the world’s ending, of Ragnarök.
It can be difficult to find hope at such a time, contemplating these woes. The days are growing darker, the rains come and the snows soon after, the nights grow longer and the cold envelops us in an icy embrace. When the wheel of the year has turned again, when winter ends and spring returns, will we see a spring of hope or a long slide into despair as the Tea Party continues to choke the life out of democracy and our economy?
If Americans truly celebrate Labor Day as something more than an extra day off, if it has any meaning at all, perhaps the memory of our liberation from corporate totalitarianism will be enough to keep the embers burning. Perhaps the forces of chaos can be driven back or even defeated. Perhaps our hopes for the Tea Party’s demise are not misplaced and the American voter will send them shuffling off after the dinosaurs, given a chance by nature and chosen for extinction. Perhaps by next Labor Day, as we approach Election Day 2012, we will be able to see things through more hopeful eyes.
After all, what sane person casts a vote for chaos?
Perhaps by then and for enough people the nihilistic platforms of the Tea Party’s presidential hopefuls will have been exposed for what they are. The promotion of greedy corporations and the greedy ultra-rich over the welfare of the American people, the fashioning of an anti-government narrative with the government, not these immoral forces of greed, as the enemy – a complete reversal of nature. Perhaps enough people will realize that without the federal government, nothing will stand between these rapacious forces and us, and realize that without the federal government, our children will be back at work in factories, without the benefit of health care and we the American people will carry the burden alone, carrying the rich on our backs, reduced to Old World serfdom.
Perhaps. But all that depends upon us standing up against chaos. Whether there be gods or no, we must play the part of gods, because unless you believe divine beings are going to fly to our rescue at our moment of greatest need, we are all that stands between chaos and the abyss. Sure, we can go down fighting the good fight, satisfied that we did our best, but wouldn’t you prefer to lift a toast to labor and live to piss it on the Tea Party’s grave? That, my friends, is living.