Noni hasn’t written a macro-philosophical op-ed for Angry Bear in a few years. She adds a different touch to our macro.
By Noni Mausa
Endurance, Shovedown and Pancaking
Over the past few years I have been trying to put a name to a dominant part of the human economy. Its defining nature is that it is essential, is ignored, is underpaid or even punished, and is done anyway.
Let’s call it the Endurance Economy. Many apparently unrelated activities fall into this class: Philosophy and religion, journalism, music and art and literature, farming and ranching, crafts and intricate skills, inventing and experimentation, child rearing, nursing, teaching, military, whistle blowing, emergency aid and rescue, blogging, and many more.
Without necessarily knowing it, we all depend on the “endurance sector” for our stability, support and sustenance. In its many guises, it is respected in theory (political speeches and most of country music praise endurance work,) but in practice it’s taken for granted and generally paid at or below cost and always below its value. Often it is even treated with contempt from those most dependent upon its services. Yet those most deeply rooted in the endurance sector say, “What, give up farming / children / my music / my faith? I cannot do that.”
I have written before about shovedown, where tasks are passed down the organizational ranks — federal to state, state to city, city to citizens, and citizens to immigrants, foreigners, or slaves, de facto or de jure. Endurance workers are the natural “buck stops here” of shovedown. And they are always human beings. Corporations, machines and other nonhuman entities cannot be part of the endurance economy because they don’t have the capacity for accepting a necessity and persisting in it.
With one exception — the earth itself, its plants and animals and living systems, is the base of the endurance economy. The living earth is not capable of any choice other than endurance.
So far, so good. But you run a terrible risk when you shove down more and more tasks and burdens. Eventually, pancaking results. Those who endure, can endure no more. They run out of energy, their bones break, their land goes to dust, their children die of hunger.
Pancaking is the end point of inequality. Like an earthquake-stricken parking ramp, the layers collapse and crush what is beneath them.
I think everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, is attached to the endurance economy. But some are consumed by it. Some, like the earth, have no choice but to persist. Since their work is essential it should be recognized, if only to selfishly monitor when it is at risk of collapse.