Often, how something is titled turns out to have unintentioned aptness,
as though the Spirit has deliberately planted the name in order to play
a joke on us. "Something More" has that quality. The estimate
of two hours per day to do the work of the seminar did not anticipate the
volumes of material and the challenge of downloading, editing, printing,
reading, reflecting upon and responding to so much text. Since I had participated
in an on-line peer day in January I did not feel too surprised at that.
I had anticipated roughly thirty pages of text each day for the thirty days, or 900 pages total. My edited printouts of this seminar, including three longer articles uploaded by Learners, totals 991 pages or almost ten percent more that I had guessed. When I say edited I mean I removed before printing many "quoted" or repeated lines of messages, simple courtesy responses, seasonal greetings and well-wishings, and extra lines added by the Union BBS software. By the end, even with file compression, I filled three diskettes with material.
We had more troubles with the BBS than I had previously experienced. This created a certain bonding among learners as we coped with a common problem, but it impeded communicating about it!
We had a profuse stream of assignments, and each assignment had multiple parts. To the conveners, these assignments were important and when they said credit would not be given until all assignments were submitted the messages seemed to bend time as learners belatedly realized they had missed early assignments.
That being said, I found the seminar to be very exciting, and the give and take with conveners and other learners a great spur to my thinking. I would suggest, as modifications to consider for future seminars, that on-line conveners either outline a clean process for the use of the time, or list assignments and due dates in the pre-seminar packet sent to learners.
What is the relationship between work, business and community?
I played a role in the "emergence" of this topic during the seminar. Eva Harkness made a comment in our small group conference about reconnecting to her family as a step to finding the meaning of community in her life. My response and her clarification started an interesting "thread," and, with her approval, I moved what we had written over to the general discussion conference so the other learners could participate.
In the waning days of the seminar, a Learner said he had taken this seminar to find out about spirit in the workplace, and felt disappointment with the time devoted to discussing community. I disagree. I believe work, community and spirit have great relevance to one another, and the success of capitalism in pushing morality (or spirit) out of the marketplace has created many problems both within organizations and our society.
Kenneth Lux in his book, Adam Smith's Mistake: How a Moral Philosopher Invented Economics and Ended Morality, identified Smith's mistake and where it has left us. Lux argues, as do many economists, that Smith's book,The Wealth of Nations, provided a powerful argument for capitalism as a method and as a system of morality. In his famous pin factory example, Smith demonstrates that with a division of labor, ten men could make 48,000 pins a day, while the ten of them working alone might make 200, total.2
The system of morality before Smith had been dominated by the Church and believed that benevolence was good and self-interest was bad. When Smith says that the butcher and baker, by looking after their self-interest, provide goods (interesting the double meaning of the word "good") of benefit to society which benevolence would not have motivated them to do, he neatly reverses what previous moral philosophers had held to be good and bad. Lux calls this flip-flop transvaluation. 3
Smith's ideas provided the philosophical and moral foundation for the ideology of the emerging merchant-trader class forming at the time of the publication of his book. If self-interest is the highest moral value, then the merchant does not have to care about his workers and his or her family, or even age. Taken to its extremes, which England did in 1832, this means that even government should not "interfere" with the natural market value of wages, or offer its poorest citizens any social supports or protections.
Charles Dickens devoted his career to writing about the cruel effects of this denial of caring and social support. Dickens clearly shows how twisted the morality had become in A Christmas Carol. In an exchange between the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's former partner, and Scrooge, Marley explains what his business should have been:
Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.4
1. Person, We start with a whole, living breathing person. Because of the theft of the commons by the aristocracy, this person is displaced and forced off the land and becomes a
2. Laborer. A laborer exchanges his or her time and skills in exchange for wages. These wages are considered a liability of the company, and logged in the ledger books as
3. Labor. Labor now becomes another cost of doing business like machinery and raw materials. It is subject to the "invisible hand" fluctuations of supply and demand like any other
The baby shortage and black market are the result of legal restrictions that prevent the market from operating as freely in the sale of babies as of other goods. This suggests as a possible reform simply eliminating the restrictions. 6