The 9-to-5 Dream
My son is a creative writer. I think he’s wonderful, but only time will tell if he can support himself this way. Like most artistically inclined liberal-arts graduates, he had to find a “day job.”
My son works full time in a hotel, which in this economic climate is precious, but he never knows his schedule from week to week. I see how frustrated he is, never being able to plan, never getting into a rhythm. Sometimes he starts at 8 in the morning, sometimes 3 in the afternoon, sometimes 12 at night. He related to me how he no longer knows which day it is, how each day runs into the next, a blur. He also shared how difficult it is to concentrate, given the circumstances. Although my heart goes out to him, he is one of the lucky ones: He has a job that at least gives him eight hours a day.
My daughter, also a college grad, wasn’t so lucky. She is looking for that full-time, entry-level corporate position in PR, and while she networks and freelances in her field, she had to find a job to pay her bills. She was offered a full-time hostess position at an upscale restaurant. Sadly, she too never knew what her schedule would be from week to week; even worse, she would go in to work, only to be told two hours later to go home because they didn’t need her anymore. The frustration in her voice was heartbreaking. Also heartbreaking is the economic reality: the fact that she was rarely given enough hours to pay the rent and couldn’t even try to pick up another job, given the unpredictable schedule.
So I was both fascinated and grateful to read The Nation’s May 11 cover story, “End of the 8-Hour Day.” It explained the depth of both the scheduling problem and the part-time problem that are facing this generation of employees. I had no idea that 41 percent of young people (those in their mid-20s and early 30s), including 49 percent in the African-American community, learn about their schedules a week or less in advance. The Nation gave context and history to the issue, along with analysis of the difficulties in challenging this trend and examples of young activists who are doing just that.
I have to say that I do not understand this side of corporate America. Corporate profits are up. Leaving aside any moral issues, these profits are dependent on healthy consumers in the long run. Are we so disconnected or historically ignorant that we don’t see this dependency?
new york city
The Root of All Good and Evil
David Nirenberg’s essay “Power and Piety” [May 18], reviewing Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, served a primary purpose: It convinced me to buy the book. Although the article ridicules Armstrong’s thesis of downplaying religion’s role in justifying or enacting violence, it had the opposite effect on me. Armstrong is far more right than seemingly wrong. Along with her, I am convinced that religion is used by political powers to do their bidding, especially when it comes to violence. I am a Presbyterian minister, currently serving a church in Marin County, California, and speak primarily from a Christian point of view. While Nirenberg points out the contradictions in the Gospels concerning their teachings on nonviolence and violence, most critical scholars today accept that the Bible is the Bible interpreted and in no way would construe Jesus’ greater message on love as having a violent expression. Less critical readers are easily persuaded by those outside the faith to fight for their causes and use biblical justifications to do so. Armstrong seems so right in her portrayal of religion’s true side—that of compassion, peace, and loving justice.
point richmond, calif.
Thank you for David Nirenberg’s excellent discussion of the complexities of religion and politics, and the question of which one might be responsible for our policy and actions. He provides a penetrating analysis, not just of the books reviewed, but of the difficulties associated with trying to segregate issues for analysis and then having any substantive basis for understanding human motives and behavior. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to do.
How dare The Nation suggest that religion has in any way been responsible for violence! The Vatican has explained that the Inquisition was not responsible for the torture and death of thousands of witches: The Inquisition held a few scrupulously fair trials, which exonerated many of the accused women, but local civic governments went wild and are totally responsible for the horrible things that ensued. As for the Crusades, they were conducted by greedy merchants—mostly Arabs and Jews—who wanted to establish a spice trade. And so on, throughout history.
No, religion has confined itself to teaching the eternal truths: God created the universe in six days; Jonah lived in the belly of a whale; Moses called out, and a million or more Israelites assembled from the cities and farms and mines and construction sites in the farthest reaches of Egypt in one night and followed him as he wandered through the desert for decades; in a fit of pique, God sent a deluge that covered the planet in water three miles deep, which drained away after everybody but Noah and his family had been killed (I wonder where the water drained to—California and Texas could sure use it now).
Religion knows this because it says so in the Bible, which was written by God and is therefore perfect. The alleged factual errors and self-contradictions in the Bible occur because God “works in mysterious ways” (i.e., He lies).
Let’s face it, religious belief is lunacy and, even worse, it is an affront to the very god it pretends to worship. Please, start treating it accordingly.
Paul A. Alter
Praise for a Poet of Fact
JoAnn Wypijewski is a poet playing in prose. She deserves her own sandbox.
William D. Cohan’s “Preet Bharara, New York’s Anti-Corruption Crusader” [May 18] described Seymour Lachman as the author of the 2006 book Three Men in a Room. He is actually a coauthor of the book, with Robert Polner.
In his “Liberal Media” column [Feb. 2], Eric Alterman said that Greta Berlin “wrote on her Facebook page” the following: “MOSSAD [the Israeli intelligence agency] just hit the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag….” He should have noted that Berlin had reposted the comment from an acquaintance.