by Bob Hicks, Special to The Oregonian
Friday August 07, 2009, 5:59 PM
"By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to
the ground," Yahweh thundered as he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden
But for some of their children it's seemed more a benediction than a curse:
Work, because work makes life worth living.
In Oregon, which so many early white settlers considered a new promised land,
work was part of the promise. Work hard, work well, work with pleasure, and you
can build a new home. (And never mind that you're building it on land that's
been home to other people for 10,000 years.)
The question of work is central to civilization and individual identity. To
ask "What do you do?" is to ask, really, "Who are you?"
What are your values? What shapes your personality? Do you work for others,
or only for yourself? Do you work to live, or live to work? Do you do what you
want to, or what you have to? Does your work fulfill you, or wear you down? Is
it an opportunity or a trap? Do you respect your work? Can I rely on you?
Such questions may be more the province of psychologists and novelists than
demographers, but they're at least hinted at in "Oregon
at Work: 1859-2009," Ooligan Press' intriguing new look at the history
of labor in Oregon since statehood. Authors Tom Fuller and Art Ayre spent two
years digging into state records and crisscrossing the state, talking to people
about their jobs and their ancestors' jobs. The result is an Oregon family
scrapbook of anecdotes buttressed by statistics.
...This is an essentially sunny book. It has little about the deadening
effect of work, of unions and union-busting, of the hardships of immigrant
laborers, of racial restrictions, of environmental degradation, of the
confiscation of native land, of sweatshops, of the price that ordinary people
paid as they overworked themselves toward the grave.
OREGON AT WORK: 1859-2009 Art Ayre and Tom
Fuller Ooligan Press