The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability :: Monthly Review ›


I have a confession to make: I do not work. I am on SSI. I have very little work value (if any), and I am a drain on our country’s welfare system. I have another confession to make: I do not think this is wrong, and to be honest, I am very happy not working. Instead I spend the majority of my time doing the activity I find the most rewarding and valuable, painting.

The very first thing that people ask me when I say I am a painter is “Do you sell your work? Are you supporting yourself?” I actually do sell my work, but I do not support myself from these sales. I hate this question and I feel ashamed no matter how I answer it. This is because I always feel like this question is a test; a test to see whether my lifestyle and hobby are legitimate; and money is the gauge of this legitimacy. Is money really where all value lies? Are my art and my lifestyle really less meaningful because I do not support myself financially?

Due to my disability (arthrogryposis multiplex congenita), I paint holding the paintbrush in my mouth instead of my hands; I use an electric wheelchair for mobility. When I first realized that due to my impairment I might be unable to work in a traditional job, I was worried about my financial future, but it never occurred to me to worry about my life’s value as a “nonproductive” citizen. However, I think that I am unusually fortunate to have been raised with a belief in my own inherent value, because many disabled people seem to carry a deep “non-working guilt,” even if they are successful in other areas.

 … Being impaired or not being normal (which, as I have said, with the help of family and technology and with perseverance can be overcome) is not sexy by common standards and neither is dependence. The fact is that impairment reveals our interdependence and threatens our belief in our own autonomy. And this is where we return to work: the ultimate sign of an individual’s independence. For many disabled people employment is unattainable. We often simply make inefficient workers, and inefficient is the antithesis of what a good worker should be. For this reason, we are discriminated against by employers. We require what may be pricey adaptations and priceless understanding. Western culture has a very limited idea of what being useful to society is. People can be useful in ways other than monetarily. The individuals who I marched with may not have paying jobs, but they spend hours each day organizing protests and freeing people from lives in institutions. Isn’t this a valuable way to spend ones time? Disabled people have to find meaning in other aspects of their lives and this meaning is threatening to our culture’s value system. Though education, legislation, and technological developments may work to level the employment field for some impaired individuals, we should keep some fundamental insights from Marxist economic theory in mind, particularly the theory of surplus value, which dictates that higher profits result from the ability to pay less for labor power than the value imparted by the worker. The same rule that often excludes the impaired from the traditional workplace also exploits the able-bodied who have no other choice but to participate. The right not to work is an ideal worthy of the impaired and able-bodied alike.

No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.

Erin Bow (via writersrelief)

(via castehindusstolemybhagwaans)


Palma Violets – “Best of Friends”


Palma Violets somehow find some middle ground between garage rock and shoegaze pop on their debut double-single “Best of Friends”/”Last of the Summer Wine”.  “Friends” is easily the stronger of the two, feeling like the teenage anthem of 2012.  Palma Violets may be an unknown name here, but they’ve already scored decent success off the single in the UK, which is a great setup for their debut LP, 180, set for release this February.  In fact, the band recently scored a nod from the BBC (Sound of 2013 Longlist) and NME (#1 track of the year).  The merging of genres that emanates throughout the tracks – psychedelic rock, catchy pop, sweeping melodies – is truly a wonder, especially for such a young band.  It should be an interesting 2013 for Palma Violets, so their SXSW sets are going to be high on the priority list.    


Video: WHY? - “The Water You Walk”


Earlier this month, indie hip-hop outfit WHY? dropped a winter/Christmas-themed track called “The Water You Walk,” which will appear on a forthcoming 7” along with “Waterlines,” from this year’s rather muddled but occasionally good Mumps, Etc. This week, they dropped a video for the track as well, featuring some serene and beautiful winter-themed footage along with a creepy Santa Claus figure lurking ominously in the background. 

Frustratingly, the track is actually better than a lot of the material on Mumps..., a record that I liked a lot initially but soon found myself growing tired of. The dream pop keys of “The Water You Walk,” along with its lurching snare rolls and ominous melody, make it a rather eerie standout amongst typically jovial Christmas songs.


Watch the video, which was directed by Erika Ochoa, above. The “Waterlines”/”The Water You Walk” 7” will be out at some point in the future on Anticon.

I’m glad the first snow was a really fantastic not disappointing one.
I was awake all night as it happened, but I would almost rather have woken up to it.

I’m glad the first snow was a really fantastic not disappointing one.

I was awake all night as it happened, but I would almost rather have woken up to it.