Work of the World

Work of the World began as JamSideDown in March, 2004. The first post was a reaction to the train bombings by al-Qaeda in Madrid. A few entries were written in 2004 (“The Money Campaign: A Diary of the Alibris IPO“) but published in 2006. The site went quiet from roughly 2013-2016 when I ran a business school campus with students from 120+ countries and the odds of being misunderstood approached certainty.

I rebranded the site Work of the World in 2016. I restyled it in 2017 are retained only ten percent of the original content. I had blogged heavily around the invasion of Iraq, which I generally supported at the time it happened, wrote about the 2008 election almost daily, covered the financial crisis in 2008-9 and the first Obama term in fair depth. These posts did not age especially well. In 2009 I began to use Twitter to share useful articles, to get something momentary off of my chest, or to engage in brief conversations. For these things, and for therapy generally, I favor Twitter over blogging.

Going forward, I intend to focus more heavily on the politics, economics, and technology of work and income, but there will be a mix of many things. To those who wish that I would enable comments, please use Twitter. My experience to date is that blog comments create a lot of janitorial work. I mean no offense to janitors, but it is not my preferred way to spend time.

As some have noticed, the name of the blog comes from a poem by Marge Piercy that I have always liked. I hope the blog does it justice. Here it is.

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


Marge Piercy, “To be of use” from Circles on the Water. Copyright © 1982 by Marge Piercy. Source: Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)