August 28, 2007

IN PRAISE OF HICKS


Caption: Orthodox icon of John the Baptist.

A while back, El Cabrero was challenged by a Goat Rope reader to write about the five things I most admire about Jesus. It took me a while to respond since I haven't found anything not to admire.

(He didn't seem to think much of goats if Matthew 25 is right, but that could be a mark of supreme wisdom.)

Anyhow, that's the theme this week. If this is your first visit, please click on yesterday's post.

The second thing I'm going highlight about Jesus reflects my personal prejudice as a hick from West Virginia. According to our pals at Wikipedia,

Hick is a derogatory term for an unsophisticated person from a rural area.


One of the few things the Roman and Jewish ruling classes would have agreed on was that Jesus was a hick. And a dangerous one at that. Indeed from the point of view of anybody who was anywhere in the ancient world, Jesus was a nobody from nowhere.

For sophisticated pagans, Rome was the place to be, and if you couldn't be there, you should be at a nice estate in the countryside worked by slaves or someplace like Athens or Alexandria. For Jewish rulers at Jerusalem, Galilee was a rural backwater whose residents were religiously suspect.

Then factor in social class. Both pagan and Jewish elites lived off of the labor and sufferings of the lower classes, whether of peasants or slaves or others teetering on the edge of oblivion. The gospels refer to Jesus as a tekton, which has traditionally been translated as carpenter but can mean any kind of manual laborer.

In a world where food security was not a given for most people and was tied to the land, a tekton would often be a landless peasant living a life even more precarious than that of those who tried to scratch a life from the soil and had to render up their surplus--and often their necessities--to the ruling classes.

Jesus knew all about living on the edge. He pretty much stayed there all his natural life.

Then factor in official credentials. Not only was he considered to be a lower class hick, but he had no official sanction to do the kind of stuff he was doing. Over and over in the gospels, people keep wondering "Who is this guy anyway? What's he think he's doing talking and acting this way?"

So the next time you get called a hick, smile, thank the person, and say you're in some pretty good company.

THE WORKER IS WORTHY OF HIS HIRE. According to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research,

Unionization substantially raises wages and benefits even in typically low-wage occupations, according to "Unions and Upward Mobility for Low- Wage Workers", a report released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Inclusion.

The report, which analyzed 15 of the lowest-paying occupations in the United States, found that unionized workers earned about 16 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Unionized workers in these same industries were also about 25 percentage points more likely to have health insurance or a pension plan.

For workers in these low-wage industries, unionization raised their wages, on average, about $1.75 per hour. In financial terms, the union effect on employer-provided health insurance and pensions was even larger.


SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN... Here's an elegant response from Paul Krugman to the right wing attack on the Children's Health Insurance Program.

BUILT ON SAND. Excerpt from a long but good article in the New Republic about our neglected infrastructure:

Here is Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations: it is the "duty of the sovereign or commonwealth" to erect and to maintain "public institutions and those public works, which, though they may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society, are, however, of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, and which it therefore cannot be expected that any individual or small number of individuals should erect or maintain." Infrastructure is the classic public good that the free market does not and cannot provide. On the scale that is necessary, only the federal government can make the difference.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

2 comments:

Bonney said...

OMGs, I totally want to go back to school and write a paper on Jesus being a hick...STELLAR. The Jesuits would have loved it.

El Cabrero said...

If you do, will GR get a footnote?