Our duty to prosper

By Melissa Hardiman

By Melissa Hardiman

There is a great amount of attention being paid to work as an expression of duty. There is a wave of resentment being directed at people who are labeled as having no willingness to work. These people are deemed to be seeking handouts, some sort of free ride.

We may or may not scold senior executives who are getting a free ride, as Robert Reich points out so frequently on Facebook. Bernie Sanders is another critic of the executive free ride. They are excused on the grounds that they have jobs. Executives who are paid far beyond the value they add are getting free rides. This brings them to the level of immigrants who are criticized for not being willing to work.

We are, as the saying goes, wound around the axle on the subject of prosperity, work, jobs, and worthiness. The relationship of these concepts is my subject in this post.

I suggest that we begin by accepting the notion that we are obliged to prosper. This is to say poverty is not an acceptable condition. Prosperity is a relative term. I take it to mean that we have enough resources to meet our needs and have enough left over to share with people. The extent of the sharing is a personal decision.

Obliged means we are required to challenge our own excuses for not prospering. The guidance we have been given is that if we ask, we shall receive. If we knock, the door will be opened. If we seek, we shall find. To not accept and act on those directions reveals a lack of understanding of our place in the scheme of things. To not prosper, in my view, is to cop out of being our whole selves.

The basic premise is that to fail to prosper means that we fail to accept fundamental truths, and we fail to accept our appointed role in this world.

  • Work: to make ourselves useful by expressing our natural talents
  • Prosper: have enough material goods to meet our own needs, and enough beyond that to share something
  • Worthiness: the combination of working and prospering
  • Job: another person’s concept of how we should keep busy

Let us examine the concept of work. Many people confuse work with having a job, and most people dislike their job. Work, as I understand it, means being useful. It does not mean having a job, although having a job is one of the potential ways to be useful.

Celebrity musicians provide a good example of prospering through being useful. They may record a song that moves us in ways that we value, and they might sell millions of copies of their artistry. Celebrities do not have a job in the sense that factory workers or corporate accountants do.

The confusion we are working with comes from mistaking having a job as proof of some degree of personal responsibility. Many senior executives are simply ripping off their employer. They add little or no value.

The prescription I recommend is to stay true to the definition of work: being useful by expressing our talent and passion. Let us dismiss having a job as evidence of a commitment to prosperity. The commitment we need to make is to be true to ourselves, and to accept our natural relationship with abundance.

Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1% of the U.S. labor force. In the U.S. labor force, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. Among the states, Nevada (10%), California (9%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8%) had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in their labor forces.—Pew Research

And this comment on the Pew report:

It appears to me that once again Americans are blaming the people that can’t fight back for all that is wrong. This is always the case when the economy for whatever reason goes south. The pitchforks come out to get those “aliens” out of our America, even if some of them have roots in one of the western states that goes back when this was in fact their country. Oh, but we have Manifest Destiny on our side.

When we assume that immigrants lack a desire to work we do them, and ourselves, a great disservice. We should first examine our own assumptions. A wave of immigrants cannot affect our prosperity if we truly own our prosperity. The challenge, as I see it, is to own it.

I suggest that we demand prosperity, and that we demand it of ourselves. It emerges naturally when we work, which means being authentic and real, even if people who observe us remain critical.

And finally, we would do well to bring the concept of work into the concept of jobs. Jobs have become so dreary and discouraging. They need to be reconnected to the values of work.

This is a good TED Talk on my topic: http://www.ted.com/talks/mia_birdsong_the_story_we_tell_about_poverty_isn_t_true#t-165198

Your thoughts?

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