I have now found again a way to read Brad Warner as part of my routine. Socio-politically I feel he has not seen through enough of the delusions but his down-to-earth Zen is very interesting. He blogged about people inviting him to speak needing to see the actual costs of so doing, and then being willing to pay those costs; he described a recent example where he had been considered overcharging asking for what was reasonable. Following a number of comments complaining about Brad’s so-called complaining he countered with this blogpost.
Brad gets a lot of comments, many of which fit into the proliferation category so I didn’t read them all. But my mind started considering “what is a job?” Brad refers to his own way of life as a job, and that sparked my question. I also read a teacher’s post that could have been written by me when I was teaching – of which I now have a different perspective.
What a job is needs to be placed into a community context. As human beings we must work for each other using different skills to help build a better society. What Brad does certainly fits into that category. Therefore a society ought to then provide him with the wherewithal to live sufficiently. It seems that Brad has that. Living sufficiently in the US is a problem because of the prohibitive cost of living, and this is where the problem starts as Brad was saying that if he gives a talk people should recognise this cost of living and pay accordingly.
Theravada is different as everything is donation. If a monk were to give a talk I presume the monastery would pay the costs if the donations did not make it up. I did however pick up something interesting one time when staying at a Theravada monastery in that it seemed possible that the abbot was inhibited by responsibilities to Thailand Central – the monastery was part of the Forest Sangha. Theravada also offers free dhamma books (by donation only), and Brad has to make a living through the sale of his books. It appears those royalties are not sufficient.
Now my discussion so far has not really addressed the main issues but has described some of the factors that have arisen in the discussion. The real issue is why is someone who has so much to offer society and works hard to give help, why is that someone struggling to make a living?
That is because the nature of jobs has become so skewed by society. The jobs that people do are not for the benefit of the community but are for the benefit of the profits of the 1%. If you want to be paid well you create their profits, and in so doing can usually end up contributing to some destructive process – destruction of the environment by BigOil, destruction of environment and health by BigFood and BigPharma etc. Brad’s contribution to society is beneficial, most people’s jobs sadly are not. Even caring jobs such as the teacher become hamstrung by rules and regulations that prevent genuine caring from happening.
Yet teaching as a caring job, even accepting being hamstrung, is one of the better jobs because most work is wage-slavery. And the money needed to survive in US society is part of that enslavement. The cost of living and then taxation are kept high in order to ensure that people like Brad find it difficult to live outside the wage-enslavement. Most of the people commenting on Brad’s blog are not so fortunate as Brad in that although they maybe have more money their daily life is enslaved. Brad has gained some element of freedom from that slavery, and there must be some envy. I could imagine that a wage-slave factory worker reading Brad’s blog would look at what he has to do in the factory and then see Brad as a whinger. Of course the commenters would not be in such a job but they would be wage-slaves, but a different sort of wage-slave – a deluded wage-slave in that they might well feel they have chosen their job. But deep down all people know their jobs are wage-slavery, and it is a question of how much people see the enslaved component of their work. And the simple question to ask to be clear about this is:-
“Would you do the job for free?”
or perhaps it might be better to ask:-
“Would you do the job for a subsistence living?”
Perhaps if all jobs only paid a subsistence wage, the 1% would not be able to manipulate society into the exploitative mess they now have created.
I envy my own situation now having enough money to live comfortably in retirement. But when I look back at all the stress I went through I have earned it. I would still have been a teacher but would have looked harder to be outside the system as a teacher so that I could be a genuine caring teacher. But I suspect that is not available – maybe in a commune.