Workingman’s Blues

Words and music by Bob Dylan

Live, Tollwood Munich 7/1/14

There’s an evenin’ haze settlin’ over town
Starlight by the edge of the creek
The buyin’ power of the proletariat’s gone down
Money’s gettin’ shallow and weak
Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory
It’s a new path that we trod
They say low wages are a reality
If we want to compete abroad

My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf
Come sit down on my knee
You are dearer to me than myself
As you yourself can see
While I’m listening to the steel rails hum
Got both eyes tight shut
Just sitting here trying to keep the hunger from
Creeping its way into my gut

Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues

Well, I’m sailin’ on back, ready for the long haul
Tossed by the winds and the seas
I’ll drag ’em all down to hell and I’ll stand ’em at the wall
I’ll sell ’em to their enemies
I’m tryin’ to feed my soul with thought
Gonna sleep off the rest of the day
Sometimes no one wants what we got
Sometimes you can’t give it away

Now the place is ringed with countless foes
Some of them may be deaf and dumb
No man, no woman knows
The hour that sorrow will come
In the dark I hear the night birds call
I can feel a lover’s breath
I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
Sleep is like a temporary death

Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues

Well, they burned my barn, and they stole my horse
I can’t save a dime
I got to be careful, I don’t want to be forced
Into a life of continual crime
I can see for myself that the sun is sinking
How I wish you were here to see
Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking
That you have forgotten me?

Now they worry and they hurry and they fuss and they fret
They waste your nights and days
Them I will forget
But you I’ll remember always
Old memories of you to me have clung
You’ve wounded me with your words
Gonna have to straighten out your tongue
It’s all true, everything you’ve heard

Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues

In you, my friend, I find no blame
Wanna look in my eyes, please do
No one can ever claim
That I took up arms against you
All across the peaceful sacred fields
They will lay you low
They’ll break your horns and slash you with steel
I say it so it must be so

Now I’m down on my luck and I’m black and blue
Gonna give you another chance
I’m all alone and I’m expecting you
To lead me off in a cheerful dance
I got a brand new suit and a brand new wife
I can live on rice and beans
Some people never worked a day in their life
Don’t know what work even means

Well, meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues

Justice Ginsburg on Bias in Workplace

Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware.FN6

FN6. An example vividly illustrates how subjective decisionmaking can be a vehicle for discrimination. Performing in symphony orchestras was long a male preserve. Goldin and Rouse, Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians, 90 Am. Econ. Rev. 715, 715–716 (2000). In the 1970’s orchestras began hiring musicians through auditions open to all comers. Id., at 716. Reviewers were to judge applicants solely on their musical abilities, yet subconscious bias led some reviewers to disfavor women. Orchestras that permitted reviewers to see the applicants hired far fewer female musicians than orchestras that conducted blind auditions, in which candidates played behind opaque screens. Id., at 738.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in dissent.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 372-3 n.6, (2011)



Robert Browning and Mr. Justice Marshall


[from] Rabbi Ben Ezra

by Robert Browning

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”


But not everyone agrees.  As Mr. Justice Marshall wrote in his dissent in Mass. Bd. of Reti. v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 324 (1976):

“Thus, an older person deprived of his job by the government loses not only his right to earn a living, but, too often, his health as well, in sad contradiction of Browning’s promise: “The best is yet to be,/The last of life, for which the first was made.”






Ain’t I a Woman?

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
Delivered 1851
Women’s Rights Convention, Old Stone Church (since demolished), Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

“Home Sweet Home”

by Winslow Homer c. 1863

  When Union and Confederate troops happened to camp across rivers from each other, it became a common practice for their bands to engage in musical exchanges. They would take turns playing their own favorites, eliciting cheers from both sides, and then the bands would play “Home Sweet Home” in unison. After one such interlude, a Confederate soldier wrote in his diary, “I do believe that had we not had the river between us that the two armies would have gone together and settled the war right there and then.”

[from] The Elephant’s Journey

by Jose Saramago

It happened, early the following morning, when the soldiers were still barely awake, that an emissary from the basilica of saint anthony appeared in the camp. He had, he said, although not perhaps in these exact words, been sent by a superior of the church’s ecclesiastical team to speak to the man in charge of the elephant. Now any object three meters high can be seen from some distance away, and Suleiman almost filled the celestial vault, but, even so, the priest asked to be taken to him. The cuirassier who accompanied him shook the mahout awake, for he was still asleep, snug in his greatcoat. 

There’s a priest here to see you, he said. He chose to speak in castilian, and that was the best thing he could have done, given that the mahout’s as yet limited grasp of the german language was not sufficient for him to understand such a complex sentence. Fritz opened his mouth to ask what the priest wanted, but immediately closed it again, preferring not to create a linguistic confusion that might lead him who knows where. He got up and went over to the priest who was waiting at a prudent distance. You wish to speak to me, father, he asked, Indeed, I do, my son, replied his visitor, putting into those five words all the warmth of feeling he could muster,

  • How can I help you, father,
  • Are you a christian came the question,
  • I was baptized, but as you can see from my complexion and my features, I am not from here,
  • No, I assume you’re an indian, but that is no impediment to your being a good christian, 
  • That is not for me to say, for, as I understand it, self-praise is a shameful thing, 
  • Now, I have come to make a request, but first, I would like to know if your elephant is trained,
  • Well, he’s not trained in the sense that he can perform circus tricks, but he usually comports himself in as dignified a fashion as any self-respecting elephant, 
  • Could you make him kneel down, even if only on one knee, 
  • That is something I’ve never tried, father, but I have noticed that suleiman does kneel motu proprio when he wants to lie down, but I can’t be certain that he would do so to order, 
  • You could try, 
  • This is not the best time, father, suleiman tends to be rather bad-tempered in the morning, 
  • If it would be more convenient, I can come back later, for what brings me here is certainly not a life-or-death affair, although it would be very much in the interests of the basilica if it were to happen today, before his highness the archduke of austria leaves for the north,
  • If what happens today, if you don’t mind my asking,
  • The miracle, said the priest, putting his hands together,
  • What miracle, asked the mahout, feeling his head beginning to spin,
  • If the elephant were to kneel down at the door of the basilica, would that not seem to you a miracle, one of the great miracles of our age, asked the priest, again putting his hands together in prayer,
  • I know nothing of miracles, where I come from there have been no miracles since the world was created, for the creation, I imagine, must have been one long miracle, but then that was that,
  • So you are not a christian,
  • That’s for you to decide, father, but even though I was anointed a christian and baptized, perhaps you can still see what lies beneath,
  • And what does lie beneath,
  • Ganesh, for example, our elephant god, that one over there, flapping his ears, and you will doubtless ask me how I know that suleiman the elephant is a god, and I will respond that if there is, as there is, an elephant god, it could as easily be him as another,
  • Given that I need you to do me a favor, I forgive you these blasphemies, but, when this is over, you will have to confess,
  • And what favor do you want from me, father,
  • To take the elephant to the door of the basilica and make him kneel down there, 
  • But I’m not sure I can do that.
  • Try,…

Copyright © 2008 by Jose Saramago and Editorial Caminho, S.A, Lisbon.

English translation Copyright© 2010 by Margaret Jull Costa

Visions of Labour

by Lawrence Joseph

I will have writings written all over it
   in human words: wrote Blake. A running
form, Pound’s Blake: shouting, whirling
   his arms, his eyes rolling, whirling like flaming
cartwheels. Put it this way, in this language:
   a blow in the small of the back from a rifle butt,
the crack of a blackjack on a skull, face
   beaten to a pulp, punched in the nose
with a fist, glasses flying off, ‘fuckin’ Wobblie
   wop, hit him again for me,’ rifle barrel slammed
against the knees, so much blood in the eyes,
   rain, and the night, and the shooting pain
all up and down the spine, can’t see. Put it
   this way: in the sense of smell is an acrid
odour of scorched metal, in the sense of sound,
   the roaring of blow torches. Put it in this
language: labour’s value is abstract value,
   abstracted into space in which a milling machine
cutter cuts through the hand, the end of her thumb
   nearly cut off, metal shavings driven in, rapidly
infected. Put it at this point, the point at which
   capital is most inhumane, unsentimental,
out of control: the quantity of human labour in
   the digital manufacture of a product is progressing
toward the economic value of zero, the maintenance
   and monitoring of new cybernetic processes
occupied by fungible, commodified labour
   in a form of indentured servitude. Static model,
dynamic model, alternate contract environments,
   enterprise size and labour market functions,
equilibrium characterisation, elasticity of response
   to productivity shocks: the question in this Third
Industrial Revolution is who owns and controls
   the data. That’s what we’re looking at, labour cheap,
replaceable, self-replicating, marginal, contracted out
   into smaller and smaller units. Them? Hordes
of them, of depleted economic, social value,
   who don’t count, in any situation, in anyone’s eyes,
and won’t count, ever, no matter what happens,
   the truth that, sooner than later, they will simply be
eliminated. In Hanover Square, a freezing dawn,
   from inside bronze doors the watchman sips
bourbon and black coffee in a paper cup, sees
   a drunk or drugged hedge fund boy step over
a passed-out body. A logic of exploitation.
   A logic of submission. The word alienation. Eyes
being fixed on mediated screens, in semiotic
   labour flow: how many generations between
these States’ age of slavery and ours? Makers,
   we, of perfectly contemplated machines.