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Happy Labor Day!

We always thought Labor Day had something to do with Back-to-School White Sales. Imagine our surprise, then, upon meeting Louie "The Tool" Fabrizio and listening to some of his stories. Louie looks to be approximately 600 years old, yet one gets the feeling he is well preserved given what he's been through. We met him at a local park where he was washing his feet in the public fountain. Far from being self-conscious about the state to which he has fallen in his twilight years, Louie warmed quickly to our interest. With his permission, we started the tape recorder. Unfortunately, we missed the first few minutes of his reminiscences, so we begin this transcript mid-sentence...

Louie "The Tool" Fabrizio: ...you know, people who do real work: airline pilots, aerospace workers, bricklayers, bakers, boilermakers, shipbuilders, carpenters and joiners, chemical workers, textile workers, communications workers, electrical workers, farm workers, fire fighters, flight attendants, food workers, garment workers, government employees, grain millers, hotel employees, restaurant workers, letter carriers, locomotive engineers, longshoremen, machinists, sailors, miners, musicians -- the guys who play polkas and stuff at Bar Mitzvahs, not these grungy slacker faggots you got today -- nurses, secretaries, oil-rig roustabouts, chemical and nuclear plant workers, painters, security guards, plasterers and masons, plumbers and pipe fitters, cops, roofers, steel workers, truck drivers, chauffeurs... It goes on and on. Information Economy my serene Illinois ass!

SloanRageBoy: Gotta hand it to you, Louie, that's some list. I never thought about it that way. Reading way too many issues of Sloan Management Review, I guess. But that was a long time ago, wasn't it? I mean, today it's all computers. We live in an Information Society now.

LtTF: Ah, don't hand me that crap! You kids all got suckered by that "management" line. All you white collar punks think you're on the Dream Team inside the inner sanctum. More like the inner rectum if you ask me. Computers? Hah! They've turned you into a generation of pussy secretaries!

RB: Now, hold the phone there, Louie. You just said yourself that secretaries do real work. Only we don't call them that these days. They're Administrative Assistants. And they're not all women anymore, in case you missed that.

Emma GoldmanLtTF: My point exactly. And hey, I'm not one of your typical sexist pigs, no sir. Ever hear of Emma Goldman? She wadn't no secretary, bub, I can tell you that for sure. She was a fuckin anarchist is what she was -- out there inciting to riot before your daddy was ever born. Goddam what a woman! And I want to tell you, she could give head like you wouldn't believe!

RB: Well, uh... OK, let's talk about your experiences in the labor movement -- some of the stuff you were telling me before I started taping.

LtTF: This is all new to you, ain't it? I mean, Samuel Gompers, the Knights of Labor, the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, the Wobblies, Sacco and Vanzetti, George Meany, the United Mineworkers, John L. Lewis -- the guy with the eyebrows -- the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the UAW, Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters? Any of this mean anything to you?

RB: I've heard of the Teamsters, yeah. They just had a strike or something, didn't they? Couldn't get a package out to save your life.

LtTF: You call that a strike? Why in my day, there'd be blood in the streets. We was out there bustin heads, arm-in-arm solidarity going up against a wall of Pinkerton goons. Longhaired preachers promising pie in the sky and captains of industry in their morning coats taking tea on the 14th Floor of General Motors in Detroit while we was singin Joe Hill songs around jungle campfires outside Chicago, hog butcher to the world. Glory Days that Springsteen wasn't quite around for...

RB: I have no idea what you're talking about.

LtTF: Nah, I bet you don't. Ever read any Marx?

RB: No, but I used to see him on TV sometimes when I was a kid. All I remember is something about a duck and a hundred dollars.

LtTF: Not that Marx, you asshole! Karl Marx. The Manifesto, Das Kapital...

RB: That sounds German. Was he like a Nazi or something?

LtTF: Give me strength! It's all a mystery to you, isn't it? The Spanish Civil War, the Depression, Dubya-dubya Two.

RB: Well, depression is no joking matter. I know that. A lot of my friends are taking Prozac. But dubya... dubya what?

LtTF: World War II. The Big One. I don't know. They teach you anything in school?

RB: Mostly what I remember is a bunch of stuff about figuring depreciation on capital expenditures. Plus I took a film course.

LtTF: Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky? Any of Eisenstein's stuff?

RB: No, it was more like The Nutty Professor, Animal House, Caddyshack. That sort of thing.

LtTF: Kid, I think we got no common ground to go on here. Lemme ask you this. Whaddya do for a buck?

RB: Well, marketing mostly. Computers, software, networks, telecomm.

LtTF: And you're happy doing that? You get paid pretty good?

RB: Oh yeah, the pay is great. But it's not all that much fun really.

LtTF: Fun? You want a paycheck and fun too? I guess I don't get it. We used to work 16-hour shifts in the Pittsburgh mills. You try shovelling hot slag sometime in 125 degrees half drunk outta your mind. See how much fun that is!

RB: No wonder you had such an adversarial relationship with management. You were inebriated. It's not like that today. We have pizza most Fridays and we can even dress down one day a week. No jeans, but we get to go corporate casual...

LtTF: I don't believe I'm hearing this. Look, I know truckers so pumped on crystal meth they can't hardly move their jaw from all that talkin -- even though nobody else is in the cab -- because they been driving for 36 hours and they got beer stains all over their undershirt and fried okra grease all over their damn pants. Now that's what I'd call "corporate casual"!

RB: We frown on substance abuse in the workplace. What's okra?

LtTF: Amazing.

RB: What? It's not me that's strange, oldtimer. You're just out of it. Don't you read the papers? The stock market's headed for Jupiter. Unemployment's way down. What's your problem? Maybe you're just jealous because you had to break your back to earn a living and we don't.

LtTF: Well, yeah, it was tough. I remember me and this guy name of Paul one time unloading boxcars fulla lumber. This was outside Rochester New York back around '66. Musta been at least 110 in those cars. It was hard work and we were only making about a buck an hour, but we unloaded the b'jesus outta those suckers and we had a good time too. He kept telling me some weird shit about this character he called Monty Python. And he musta read a lot of them head comics too, cause he told me every damn one, frame by frame. What this guy said to that guy and what happened then. Like that. Some of it was pretty funny.

RB: Yes, we have humor too. Many of us have Dilbert strips tacked up in our cubes.

LtTF: What the fuck's a Dilbert strip? Sounds like some kinda bacon substitute.

RB: Dilbert is a character in a cartoon series by Scott Adams. It's hysterical stuff about how the workers are always getting screwed over by the boss. You'd love it. Everybody does.

LtTF: Sounds like a regular laugh riot. So tell me, what are you doing for the Labor Day weekend? Gettin away from it all, are you?

RB: Not really. You see, with us, there isn't the same separation your generation perceived between work and leisure.

LtTF: Yeah, I hear you can get some pretty fancy poontang on them computers nowadays...

RB: Poon tang? I don't think I want to even ask. No, I've been installing Microsoft Outlook 97. It's really a terrific PIM.

LtTF: I had a terrific PIM myself this morning, but never mind about that. What's this were you installing? Storm windows? Aluminum siding?

RB: No, no, it's software. It's a program that helps you keep track of important industry contacts, schedule your time, things like that.

LtTF: Hey, that sounds great! I could use some of that out here on the old park bench.

RB: Did you get downsized?

LtTF: [checking inside pants] No, I don't think so... What happened, see, is I got OLD. This probably comes as a shock to you, but it's really quite natural.

RB: Were you keeping abreast of developments in your field, learning new skill sets?

LtTF: Probably not. I'd thought to go back and get my MBA but by that time I was too strung out on smack. I was pullin down pretty good money there for a while, after I dumped the wife and kids. Now all's I can afford is sterno.

RB: You seem to have a really bad attitude, Mr. Fabrizio. Did it ever occur to you that that might be the cause of your pessimism and resentment?

LtTF: Well, it was either that or living with that harridan from hell and her six snot-nosed brats in a single-room furnished apartment for 13 years. But maybe you're right. Maybe it was just my lousy stinkin attitude.

RB: Is there anything that interests you today? Any intellectual passion that really gets you going? I mean, you are a senior citizen, but they say it's never too late.

LtTF: Actually, there is one thing. You say you know a lot about computers, huh?

RB: A bit. Well, actually I'm pretty savvy in that department. Don't like to brag about it, but...

Y2KLtTF: Yeah yeah, whatever. Here's the deal. You know about this Y2K business then I guess?

RB: You mean the Millennium Bug? Sure. But how do you know about it? I would have thought something like that would be above your lowly ken.

LtTF: Fuck you. I read it in the Wall Street Journal, whaddya think? We get the Journal right here in the park every day. Anyway, the thing is, seems like things are gonna be pretty screwed up on January 1 2000. Pretty chaotic, right?

RB: That's what I hear.

LtTF: And like, the monetary system could be fairly, shall we say, helter-skelter in the ensuing weeks, is that not correct?

RB: Nobody's really sure, but yeah, it's possible. People are pretty worried it seems.

LtTF: So what do you know about electronic funds transfer?

RB: A little... but wait a second, what are you suggesting?

LtTF: Hey, you are a quick study! You picked right up on that one!

RB: I have no desire to be involved in anything illegal.

LtTF: Not even if you could walk away with a cool ten million? Come on, what are you, stupid?

RB: No, but unlike yourself, I do not wish to profit from others' misery.

LtTF: That's rich. Who do you think gave you your Information Society, the freakin tooth fairy?

RB: Well, I admit there have been abuses...

LtTF: No kid, there have not been abuses. There has been Business As Usual. These modern tycoons are no different from John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. They're fuckin pirates! They got you doing their dirty work and believing you're on some high-tech Save-the-Whales trip at the same time. What a hoot! What do you think is gonna happen to you when you get to be my age?

RB: I have quite a good 401k plan, actually.

LtTF: And you think you'll be able to buy all your favorite toys with that, huh? How much do suppose a new computer will cost in 25 years. Not to mention software, storage, bandwidth...

RB: Stop it. You're scaring me.

LtTF: Well good, good! Now who do you know who can patch us into the Goldman Sachs trading desk at, say, about ten-thirty friday night on December 31 1999?

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed
if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital,
and deserves much the higher consideration.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Message to Congress, 3 Dec. 1861
(published in Collected Works, vol. 5, ed. by Roy B. Basler, 1953).

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press.
Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press.
All rights reserved.

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                                     Entropy Gradient Reversals
                                     CopyLeft Christopher Locke


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