WARNING: If you do not want to read a post that goes to meddling both theologically and politically, then do not read this post. Stop right here.
“It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.” I tried to find the origin of this phrase, but no one seems to know. It’s been around a long while though. Several people thought it was from an old John Wayne movie, but they couldn’t verify it. It does sound like something John Wayne might say. Somebody’s got to get this done, so better just dig in and do it.
Dirty jobs, dirty work, is there a difference? Mile Rowe makes a case for both the need and the dignity of dirty jobs, but dirty work seems to have the connotation of bad deeds. The dictionary defines dirty work as “activities or tasks that are unpleasant or dishonest and given to someone else to undertake.”
Does somebody really have to do it? It depends on the dirty work we are talking about. If that work is to harm another person, even kill, then maybe we not only need to rethink the need to get it done but also to understand that having someone else do it for us is the same thing as our doing it ourselves. Morally, it’s wrong.
Most of us know some version or other of the story of Jacob and his favorite son, Joseph. Joseph had 11 brothers and they were all jealous of the extra love, attention, and gifts that Jacob lavished on Joseph. The brothers finally reached their limit and decided to do something about it. They decided to kill Joseph and make it look like an animal attack. That would be the end of that. The brothers would no longer be faced with the fact that Dad like Joseph best and they would be free to live their lives in peace.
But then Judah rethought the equation and devised an even better (in his mind anyway) plan. Genesis 37:26-27 tells us, “Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed.”
Oh what a great idea! We will simply sell our brother into slavery, make a little money, and let him live. After all, he is our brother.
With brothers like this, who needs enemies? I remember hearing this story as a child and being horrified and angry, even incredulous, that anyone could sell their own brother into slavery, except the reality is that we do it all the time. We don’t call it slavery, but it works the same way.
We set up and continue to live in economic systems that make it very easy for people to get into debt they cannot possibly hope to repay. Even when we pass laws against doing this, it is up to the person mired in debt to fight it when those who hold the note break the law. Often those who held the original debt sell the debt for pennies on the dollar to professional debt collectors and let them do the dirty work. I’m not saying all debt collectors break the law in attempting to collect, but you would be astounded at the percentage of debt collectors that blatantly and constantly break the law. It’s much higher than you might think possible. They don’t care. Even when they are taken to court and lose (although they are much more likely to settle the case when confronted with their misdeeds), they have so many cases that they still make an enormous profit.
Worse even than the debt situation is the way we target people for prison. Children, little children, are tagged as bad seeds as young as kindergarten and then are treated as such until they finally get kicked out of school and sent to juvenile detention or adult prison. There’s even a name for it: the prison pipeline. While in prison they are often used as cheap labor. They might be earning a few cents an hour, but the prison then charges them for all kinds of things including food to supplement their meager diets. If you think anyone in prison has it easy I encourage you to go check out a real prison, not a minimum security prison where white-collar criminals are sent to do minimal time.
These are just two examples of ways we sell our brothers and sisters into slavery. The truth is we are awful to our brothers and sisters. Sometimes it’s out of jealousy. Sometimes it’s out of greed. Sometimes we do it because we got the idea that we are better than other people. Sometimes we do it to bolster our own power over others.
At the risk of spoiling the end of the story (in case you have never read Genesis or seen “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”), although the lives of the brothers take a bad turn for the worse after selling Joseph into slavery, in the end they reconcile and become a family again.
It’s about time we reconciled with our brothers and sisters and became a family again.
By the way, you are perfectly free to disagree with any or everything I have said. If so, please post about it on your own blog and not on this one. I have no desire to argue with you about it and I will simply remove your comments and arguements.