Saturday, December 4, 2010

Of Labor

My twelve-page research paper for English 102.  The longest thing I've written to date.  It turned out alright, I think, if you can make yourself care about the source material. I could easily write an entire paper just on the Pinkertons, but I'll save that idea for another assignment.

Triumph and Failure: the Dichotomy of Labor in the East and West, 1870-1920

The mechanization of industry in the United States was a necessary step in the country's history. It allowed for us to achieve the economic dominance that has served our country so well, while also allowing us to avoid the overt belligerence that eventually proved to be the downfall of the British Empire. However, it was not without its costs: it exacerbated the already-inflamed labor disputes that had been brewing since the turn of the 19th century. It wasn't until the 1870s, however, that the labor disputes became routinely violent, as “the workers rose to protest violently against what they considered to be their ruthless exploitation by employers” (Dulles 108). For the next fifty years, the country was swept up in a class struggle that affected every worker from coast to coast, from factory worker to logger to coal miner and everyone in between. The 1920s were an era of relative calm, as a series of victories by the employers of the country had demoralized and weakened the unions, and the first great wave of American consumerism temporarily obfuscated the plight of the common laborer (Dulles 232-3). While the labor disputes from 1870 to 1920 in both the East and the West contributed to the eventual adoption of fair labor policies, the disputes in the West were fundamentally less successful than those in the East, due to more government intervention and stronger negative public opinion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Food and Memetics

I helped at an event hosted by EdCC. It was called "A Taste of Sustainability" and focused on raising awareness of green living in general and sustainable food in particular. The work I did consisted of helping with decorations (balloons) and standing at a booth to answer questions about a local organic grocer (PCC), which, for the record, I had never heard of before that day. If this seems strange to you, rest assured you are not alone: it was uncomfortable.

As soon as I was informed of what I was doing, I set to reading all of the literature at my disposal as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This helped; I could now tell people what bulgur was. "Think if rice and couscous got together and had a baby," I prepared to say to anyone who asked (no-one did. Alas.).