Sabbaths: Public and Personal

Sharon July 11th, 2008

I was talking to Aaron about various things recently, and we were discussing the remarkable amount of attention his wonderful article about The Four Day Work Week is getting – the idea is getting a lot of national play, and so is Aaron.   This is terrific – CNN is calling and various legislatures are considering it as a policy – I’m so delighted about it, and proud that Aaron is having a role in moving our nation’s policy to something we definitely need – more balance, more flexibility, more environmental awareness.

We were nattering away, as we do, and I being an opinionated sort opined that a partial key to pulling this off, and avoiding a scenario in which middle and upper middle class employees get this benefit, and the poor and working class are increasingly screwed would be bringing back a mandatory day free of commerce.   That is, I think it is quite possible that the four day work week will make it into the public discourse – and work very well for millions of middle class Americans whose work can be done at any time.  I am concerned, however, about how this may play out in service sector work – the ways in which, for example, shift workers who already struggle to get enough hours to receive benefits may find the new policy enabling them to be pushed out of access to health insurance, among other things, or the reality that poor workers, already struggling with gas costs may be left out of such adaptations (this should not be seen as an attack on Aaron’s idea, which I agree with very much – I’m simply concerned with the implementation).

While it is hardly a panacea, one thing I think would actively benefit both working families and businesses is a legally mandated day free of commerce.  Why legally mandated?  Because without across the board implementation, it won’t happen – workers in this market haven’t the power to demand a day off for themselves, and businesses can’t afford to be uncompetetive.  The only way that we can close down both energy use and free most people to have a day off is with a legal mandate.  This would reduce carbon emissions, but it would also reduce the enormous pressure on shift working families – who often have no idea if they will have any free time, who often struggle to provide child care every day of the week at odd hours, and it IMHO, makes it less possible for service businesses to argue that they can’t afford to employ enough people to go to a four day work week.  

Now I have a funny relationship with this whole idea.  I grew up in Massachusetts, a state whose laws were shaped in part by its long history of Protestantism, and when I was a kid, everything was closed on Sundays – period. Not only couldn’t you buy liquor, you couldn’t buy anything.

Around the time I hit adolescence, most of the blue laws that regulated Sunday commerce (except for the booze-related ones – these had minimal effect because I lived in Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, and the NH “packies” were an easy trip for teenagers with fake ids – not, of course, ( definitely not, Mom!) that I was one of them.

And I was extremely enthusiastic about this deregulation – at first just because I was a teenager and while I had no money, in principle I approved of being able to shop any time I wanted to, and later, on the principle of religious freedom.  I believed strongly that the state should not have any part in establishing a sabbath of any kind.  I still believe that the establishment of a religious Sabbath should be entirely out of the territory of the state.  But I’ve come to believe that the regulation of commerce should definitively include a day in which commerce is not permitted.  And given the makeup of the country, I think the chance of that day being anything but Sunday is exactly zero. 

Now as a Jew, this is a royal pain in my ass in some ways.  Since I don’t engage in commerce on Saturdays, that means the weekend is out for errand running.  Since I live a long way from most shopping, that means that the weekend was when I did my errand running, if any.  Guess what – I’ll deal.  And so would the rest of us.  While parts of the economy, especially some tourist-based economic activities might take a hit, the truth is that the compensatory savings on not heating, lighting or running the business would be worth it.  And one of the ways I think it would most be worth it is in family culture – at the moment, most American families have nothing like a sabbath – they have no time that is only theirs, no time not taken up with work and shopping and running errands.  In some ways, this will complicate things – but then again, there are millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the world who do in fact keep a Sabbath, and will gladly share strategies for getting organized and being able to stay home.

Now I suspect some people will disagree with me strongly, and some business owners will say this would kill them, and I’m sympathetic, although I think I’m still in favor of it.  Ultimately, transport emissions and building emissions are going to have to come down far further than by 1/7 – we don’t have a choice.  Ultimately the changes that are coming as energy prices rise and the climate changes are far more radical than this.  The real advantage of this idea is that it isn’t far away in our national memories – as we approach harder, scarier forms of conservation and adaptation, the first tools in our box should be the ones we’re not afraid of, that feel familiar to us in some way.  There are still many areas in the US that do close down on a Sunday – while it may seem a bit archaic, things that seem archaic – ideas like frugality, victory gardens, pulling together and making do, along with a day when all the stores are shuttered and families are at home together, have the virtue of a warm familiarity in a desert of newness.

Which brings me to the question of why I call it a Sabbath at all – commerce-free day would probably make more sense were I proposing legislation, given my concerns about the establishment of state faith – I have strong religous, cultural and moral reasons not to want to see the government implying the Christianity is a national religion.  And yet, I do think of it as a Sabbath. 

The reason I do is that Sabbaths are associated with freedom in the Torah – Jews are taught that as we kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept us.  The idea of the Sabbath that informed both Christianity and Judaism derives from a simple idea - one day each week, we will be free.  No master can tell us what to do.   No boss can demand we give up our energies, our time, our dignity.  In our own homes, however humble, we are free to do as we wish that one day.  Jews are taught to see that freedom from work and the money economy as a gift – and we do, mostly.  It is hard work sometimes to establish that oasis in time – but rewarding, oh, rewarding to have a day each week in which we are truly free. 

Abraham Heschel claimed that the reason that the Torah says that “On the seventh day God finished his work” instead of “He rested on the seventh day.” is that on the seventh day, God was still creating something without which the universe would still be incomplete.  What was it?  Heschel argues that it is “menhua” or ” tranquility, serenity, harmony.”  That is, all the work of creation was incomplete without the idea of time to repose and enjoy it.  And not only were people given the Sabbath, but the whole world was given that time – animals were not to be worked, but turned out on pasture to do as they will.  That is, the Sabbath itself was a time of freedom for the whole world – and a time when humans were obliged to lift the burdens of others – other people, the animals in their lives. 

One could argue that for those of us compelled by the idea of a religious Sabbath, there is an obligation to lift the burden upon the world, upon nature as much as we can one day a week – that is, the way we can free animals for their own sabbath is reduce the pollutants we pour into their environment, to slow the process of building and expanding into their habitats.  Perhaps we can free the world of some of some of the weight others bear for us. 

Now most people are not Jews, and most people do not keep a sabbath, and most people will perhaps not much be compelled by the writings of thousands of year old Jews on the subject of whether they should be shopping on one day or another.  And yet, I think the idea of the Sabbath as freedom – both freedom from work and freedom to lift the burden we place on the rest of the world might be worth considering.  One does not have to believe in a God that ordains these things to believe that it might be valuable to take one day and devote it to our homes, our families, the reconstitution of ourselves.  What we do on those days we depend on our faith, our family, our lives.  But our ability to devote our time to ourselves, our ability to negotiate with employers for less work, our ability to balance the environment and our lives depends, in part, I think, on our ability to silence some of the demands that the world places upon us.

 I know how very hard it is to keep a Sabbath in world that always calls to us.  I do it…mostly. It can be done.  And I know that many people will not see such a time as a gift right away – and some may never see it that way.  When I was a teenager, with a boundless energy, the idea of a day of rest, home with my family, seemed outrageous, pointless – who would want such a thing.  But the truth is that there are millions of peoplw who want precisely that, and lack the power to negotiate it, and the support community to enable it.  Overwhelmingly, Americans state they need more time – more time for family, more time to recover from the stresses on their lives.  And if we are to soften the rigidity of the five day work week, IMHO, a part of that would be the recognition that work itself has limits, and cannot extend into every moment of our lives – that other things, tranquility, rest, autonomy, freedom reside there too. 

Shalom,

 Sharon

49 Responses to “Sabbaths: Public and Personal”

  1. Tara says:

    I’m confused about how implementing a commerce-free day (presumably Sunday) would help anyone work less. Those of us who work a traditional Monday to Friday schedule already do not work Sundays, and I have a hard time believing that the hours of service sector and shift workers wouldn’t simply be transfered to some other day, rather than cut back. In the end, I would think they’d end up working just as much, just not on Sundays. Have I completely misunderstood this?

  2. Tara says:

    Sorry, not work “less” per se, but fewer days.

  3. Conspirama says:

    Sabbaths: Public and Personal

    Jews are taught to see that freedom from work and the money economy as a gift – and we do, mostly. It is hard work sometimes to establish that oasis in time – but rewarding, oh, rewarding to have a day each week in which we are truly …

  4. Hank says:

    It would completely kill the tourism industry. How are you going to get out of town for the weekend if you can’t buy gas to get home on Sunday, assuming that you have gone more than one tank away from where you live? Would hotels be closed on Sunday? How about newspapers, television stations, etc – they all work hard all week, by necessity. How about working class folks who work two jobs and MIGHT have one day off a week anyway – no chance for them to get anything done, go to a movie, have their car serviced, etc if that one day is deemed a nonwork day across the board.

    No, I like my options. I’m happy to work a 40 hour week, and if my job permitted, I wouldn’t mind doing it in 4 days of 10, but don’t legally remove one day as an option for said work.

  5. StephenB says:

    Tara,

    Like Sharon, I too grew up in Massachusetts in the days of closed-down Sundays.

    The answer is that people in retail would all end up working pretty much the same 40 hour week that they worked before, only they’d end up doing it somewhere in the Monday to Sat. time frame. People end up more or less having the same time off, only there is more likelihood that people’s days off will coincide with other family member’s days off.

    As for me, I also agree that govt. has no business legislating religious sabbaths, but on a purely social basis, I’d love to go back to no-commerce Sundays. In my case, I work in a boys’ residential treatment facility, and am presently scheduled for Sundays. Health care, hospitality, emergency workers, etc. would still work, and thus, that includes me. What would be truly wonderful about this, however, is that all those stupid mall trips and store trips that my coworkers take the boys on, on Sundays would be off. They’d have to go to the beach, etc. or heaven forbid, stay back on our 170 acre campus of woods and fields.

    Stephen B.
    suburban MA

  6. Ani says:

    Yup- I remember the “blue laws” in MA- it was sort of amusing to me when they started crumbling- but the liquor that was sold in some stores- grocery types- was still not sold on Sundays so the rest of the store was open but the liquor section was cordoned off or the goods loosely covered…..

    I have mixed feelings about the whole idea of a designated “day of rest”- really don’t like the religious connotations-I guess that may stem from the overdose of religion that I experienced….. That said, I like the 4 day week idea a lot- think it could do a lot of good in terms of decreasing how much people have to drive, heating/cooling costs for offices, freeing up time for workers perhaps- lots of benefits there- I’d guess that Fridays would be the day of choice for most offices for the day off. But I hate the idea of mandated commerce closings myself…… too Puritanical for me……

  7. Sarah says:

    I remember this idea coming up on another person’s blog that I read, and someone telling about the small town in, I believe, Michigan where they lived. It had Sunday blue laws, but also a fairly large Jewish community who objected to the off-day being Sunday on church-and-state grounds. The local legislature agreed with them on the Sunday issue, but still felt that a day off was necessary, and let the local businesses decide. As it turned out, Monday was already their lowest-profit day because people tended to go in to whatever the nearest bigger city to shop then anyway, so the blue day was moved to Monday.

  8. Sharon says:

    There was a tourism industry during the era in which businesses were closed on Sundays – for a long, long time. Remember, they only started to be open on Sundays in my lifetime in many tourist areas – I lived in Salem, MA for many years as a kid, which is a serious tourist destination, and they still came. They just walked around, went to the beach and did different things on Sundays. Quite honestly, I think much of the tourist industry as it exists now is fairly screwed anyway – energy costs are likely to kill it far more dead than I ever could, even if I had the magic power. That’s not to say there won’t be one – but the idea that everyone could take vacations is pretty much winding to an end, and the idea of the short term drivable vacation is also probably ending – tourist destinations not on public transit lines, and without plenty to do besides shop are probably doomed.

    Tara, Ani, the thing is, I don’t think the four day work week will reduce emissions and driving as much unless at least some of the time, almost no one is working – that is, just shifting it around so that the office/ business has slightly fewer people some days in it won’t do it – they have to close sometimes. White collar offices will probably end up with people having their extra day rotate throughout the week, but service jobs won’t close at all without a mandate – nor will, IMHO, most shift work families get the benefits of a constrained work week at all – otherwise, I fear this is mostly a project for white collar workers. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally puritanical about it – it is true that the legacy of blue laws comes from the Puritans (in the north – they are tied into other religious traditions in the south), but the idea that one could restrain from commerce doesn’t have to be associated with religion in any way – I chose to do it here, knowing that I’d get just the responses I have, in part because I think that the religious context a lot of us think of it in -associated with Baptist or Puritan restrictions on the behavior of others – isn’t its origin.

    Sharon

  9. Jennifer says:

    It would be a major shift in thinking. I just wrote a long comment about the damage it would do the tourism industry to have just one weekend day to play — forgetting completely that I’d still have two: Friday and Saturday!

    There are certain industries I can’t imagine shutting down for a day, though, like airlines or hospitals. And you’d get major push-back from companies which do business internationally, esp. those dealing with the Pacific Rim — because for them, the work week would be shortened to 3 days (for time zone differences).

  10. Meadowlark says:

    I would prefer to keep the government out of yet another aspect of my life. Mandate this, mandate that, no thanks. They already are way more involved with what I do than I would like.

    How will public service workers (think firefighters, police officers, ambulance crews) be affected by this mandatory day of no-work? Because they obviously won’t be getting the day off. So is it triple-time, since Holidays are time and a half now? I know someone with a four-on, four-off schedule. A mandated sabbath wouldn’t be much help for that guy, would it?

    I just think that it’s one of those concepts which sounds like a good idea and alleviates the guilt of “having” by seeming to take care of those who “have not”, yet it causes more problems than it solves.

    Just my two cents.

  11. Hank says:

    “I lived in Salem, MA for many years as a kid, which is a serious tourist destination, and they still came. They just walked around, went to the beach and did different things on Sundays.”

    This doesn’t answer any of my concerns. If a family, say, drives more than one tank of gas away from their home on a Friday they have to return home on either Saturday or Monday, either cutting their trip short or eating up another day of work. (That wouldn’t even come up in your example of Salem, since the gas they bought when halfway home would be from somewhere that is not shut down on Sundays by law.) And if they do stay over until Monday, all the hotel staff would still have to work Sunday. And if they couldn’t buy food out that day, all hotel rooms would need to be equipped with kitchenettes. Many restaurants would not be able to stay open if not for the money they make on weekends.

    And how would this idea impact on things like flea markets and farmers’ markets that are traditionally only open on weekends?

    Since I’m assuming that essential services would still be manned – police, hospital staff, firemen – would all these people have to brown bag it on Sundays, since they would not be able to stop by their local restaurants and sandwich shops during their shift?

    Also, would bars have to close at midnight on Saturday? That alone would kill any and all support I have for the idea – Saturday is the only day many of us have to go out at night and enjoy music or drinks with friends.

    I get that you’re aching for a simpler life. I just don’t think this particular idea has much merit in today’s world.

  12. BuddyS says:

    I love the idea as Sunday as a no commerce day, plus we should have a no commerce week every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I’m not religious but Sunday is already a quiet day or relaxation for my family, we do our errands and housework on Saturday. Though it would not reduce my work week as I work a traditional Monday through Friday it would still encourage families and friends to spend the day together without the hassle of having somewhere to go.

    I do think one weekday could be virtual workday for white-collar workers. With a broadband internet connection I can access my work computer and phone from home. My work is currently talking about implementing this one day a week for all staff and I’m sure it’s a viable option for most white-collar workers commuting everyday. Of course face-to-face meetings could not be scheduled on this day.

  13. Brian M. says:

    Bergen County, NJ still has extremely restrictive blue laws, and formally justify it among other ways with the argument that “the physical, intellectual and moral good of the community requires a periodic day of rest from labor.” It is Sunday, but they are careful to keep non-religious arguments for it to avoid it being overruled on Constitutional grounds. It applies to commercial work, but not some forms of public service like firefighters.

    The Biblical interpretation argument is trickier. Heschel line about menhua being created on the 7th day does a great job of making sense of the Gen 2:1-2 passage you mention, which is one of the examples I give when I teach Biblical interpretation. But look at Ex 20:11, the section in the 10 commandments specifically about the Sabbath “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” The passage isn’t replicated in the Deut 5:12-15 version of the 10 commandments. But still. Ask yourself is menhua to be found in heaven or earth or the sea? If so then God must have created menhua on one of the first 6 days, according to Ex 20:11, if not are we to understand them as lacking harmony, serenity or tranquility? Besides in Gen 1, God repeatedly creates something “and then” sees that it is good. Can they even be good if they are lacking in menhua? If God is decreeing, creating, and then seeing that it is good, that sounds like a pausing during work to judge, isn’t it possible that he is taking brief moments of repose and tranquility even during the first 6 days? Can one be serene even while working? I’d have expected Sharon to assert that serenity, tranquility, and harmony could co-exist with labor. God seems keen to establish harmony between day and night already on the first day, and other forms of harmony later on in the story. Do the plants exist in tranquility or serenity already on the 3rd day? It sure looks to me like the Biblical story implies that “menhua” was already created during the first 6 days. Certainly, I find in myself many reasons I’d rather believe that serenity, tranquility, and harmony were present even in early stages of the unfolding of divine plans, rather than being a later addition or even a completing ornament, even if I think of rest, repose, or Sabbath as a completing addition or completing ornament.

    But basically I agree with Sharon on the secular-sabbath idea enough, that all I really want to nitpick are fine details of Biblical interpretation :)

  14. abbie says:

    Sundays are big days for our farm. The ice cream stand is incredibly busy Sunday afternoons (sundae, anyone?). Saturdays and Sundays in the fall, with pumpkin and apple picking, hayrides, and pies, are what keep our family farm afloat. We all work other jobs during the week and then work on the farm on the weekend. Since we’re closed from January til May, the idea of also being closed on Sunday every week probably means we’d go out of business. Unless, of course, everyone had a 4 day work week, and then maybe a Friday could make up for a lost Sunday.
    As a teacher, I don’t know what a 4-day school week would do for sports and other after school activities, although believe me I’d be happy to work 4 days a week. But I’m not sure what it would do for student learning, lenghtening the days.
    Here’s another idea that seems to fit in: in our little town, all businesses are closed down by 10pm. The traffic lights go to blinking, and people are not out, since there’s nothing to do (except get in trouble, I guess). But if everything were to close earlier, it would keep people off the roads and the stores, etc. would use less resources.

  15. bunnygirl says:

    I worked in the service sector for 10 years and although the blue laws were no longer in effect, few businesses had started adjusting to that fact. I used beg for my day off to be in the middle of the week so I could go to stores and restaurants when they were actually open.

    If you close down the entire service sector on one day, then no one who works in said service center gets a chance to do their business because everything is CLOSED. Meanwhile, the professionals with M-F/8-5 work weeks get to pat themselves on the back for doing the wage slaves such a huuuuuuge favor. Right. It’s the “favor” of needing to go to the bank and the doctor, to need a prescription and a haircut, to maybe need to shop for birthday gifts or a new pair of shoes, but your one day off is the one day nothing is open!

    I’ve been in the professional class for the better part of two decades, but I haven’t forgotten the hell that is being at work when all the stores are open and clocking out in time to see the lights turn off in every place you need to go to conduct the basic transactions of living. I would fight a mandatory blue law to my dying breath. Working people deserve to be able to transact business, too!!!

  16. MEA says:

    I’m all for a day off, and all for people being allowed to keep whatever day they want holy, but the last thing I want is for that day to be mandated by the state.

    The public library, where I work, is one of last places I’d like to see closed, or go to a 4 day week (though budgets have forced that on many systems). However, there is no reason not to schedule people for 4 ten hour days a week, or for technical services, where I work, not to shut down 3 days out of seven, saving a bit on lights, etc.

  17. Megan says:

    I could not manage a commerce-free day without going back to using my car more. Right now I generally take the bus to work during the week, and do errands on weekends.

    Living alone, working full time, getting more sustainable and trying to garden as much as I am, plus the added time it takes to commit to bussing and walking, I’m already strapped for time. I need the weekend, ALL weekend, to keep things afloat. If nothing were open on Sundays, I’d have to pay for that quality time with extra gas and convenience on other fronts, without a doubt. Sad, but true.

    I think the day of rest was well-suited to days past, when there was a lot more control over your schedule during the week and communities were tighter, more flexible and physically closer.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Stores and malls closed on Sundays was one of the great things about living in France (where many smaller stores and banks were closed on Mondays, too). Restaurants seemed to stay open as did key services (hospitals, etc.) remained open.

    Guess what? The economy was doing fine, and tourism is too. Needed gas? We just paid on credit card in the pump. Errands were just moved to another day.

    The result I saw was more people enjoying one leisurely day per week, spending time with their families, taking advantage of parks, visiting friends and neighbors, and otherwise defining themselves other than as just “consumer”: as family member, community member, even citizen (since voting, logically I think, was reserved for a day when nearly everyone was off).

    I think it sounds like a refreshing idea.

  19. Anonymous says:

    P.S. to my anonymous comment above:

    As someone whose spouse works in retail, I’d love to be able to have a reliable family day instead of constant weekend working and sporadic schedules, with stores seeming to milk their minimum wage workers for all they’re worth at all hours and at all holidays. In the name of family, sanity, and rest, I’d love to see stores not open on nat’l holidays like Thanksgiving and July 4th, too.

  20. Joyce says:

    This is the first time since adulthood I’ve wished I were older ;) , just so I could have been more aware of how my small town worked when I was a small child!

    When I was very little, the town was closed on Sundays, and most businesses were also closed Monday so they could have a full weekend. I know there were motels, restaurants, and all the accoutrements of a tourist trade, but I was too small to be aware of how they worked, or didn’t.

    Maybe this works best in smaller centres (which many environmentalists argue will be necessary, anyway). The fire department in my town was volunteer, and the members of the town police service worked out their schedules so they were reasonable and each constable had to work only every second or third Sunday (my older brother was a police constable, so I remember that much).

    I did a bicycle tour of rural England in the eighties, and many towns were closed on Sunday and one other day of the week. Each town seemed to decide their own day. This caused a bit of work for me, as it sometimes meant I got into one town at lunch time, only to discover it was deserted, and I had to press on to the next one. However, I never starved, or had to sleep out in the rain. It just added to the adventure. As I recall, I handled Sunday accommodations by booking in on Saturday and leaving Monday. I generally stayed at bed&breakfasts or hostels, so if there was a weekend staff, it was generally skeletal, on a ‘ring if you need us’ basis. Rooms weren’t serviced on Sundays.

    From my childhood, I also remember people talking about having to give up their lunch hours in order to run errands, and I remember huge lineups on Friday evening, when stores would stay open late to facilitate people like bunnygirl, who worked the same hours as all the other businesses (little kids remember that kind of thing).

    I can’t yet come to a conclusion on this one. It’s an intriguing idea. I would love to think it would work, but at the moment I see both pros and cons.

  21. Hank says:

    “Needed gas? We just paid on credit card in the pump.”

    I don’t have a credit card. Neither do a lot of other working Joes. It sounds to me, honestly, like the only people who got to take advantage of that day off were white collar and retail workers.

  22. Lance says:

    Another article with an alternative point of view:

    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/2962

  23. Emily says:

    If I were going to legislate this, I’d call my campaign “Take Friday Off.” Americans have very positive connotations with work-free Fridays.

  24. Joyce says:

    Most gas pumps around here accept bank machine cards, which seem to be more or less standard issue with a bank account these days.

  25. kathryn says:

    What if we chose a day that would not trouble any particular religion? I haven’t done the research but how about having everything closed on Wednesdays?

    Thanks for the great blog Sharon.

  26. Anonymous says:

    ““Needed gas? We just paid on credit card in the pump.”

    I don’t have a credit card. Neither do a lot of other working Joes. It sounds to me, honestly, like the only people who got to take advantage of that day off were white collar and retail workers.”

    Dear Hank,

    This is not an elitist issue, at least not in the context I was speaking of, since 95% of French people have debit cards (not credit cards, which don’t exist per se there) and anyone can if they wish have one with a standard checking account (which is what I thought was standard practice here, too, with the added benefit that the cards are usually free here).

  27. olympia says:

    As an hourly wage slave who works every other Sunday to help make ends meet (and who depends on insurance that is dependent on how many hours a week I work), I have my doubts about how well a mandatory day without work would do. If all our employers cared about more than the bottom line, it might do fine- but too many of our employers are eager to simply squeeze as much as possible out of us, while giving us as little as possible. My employer would be thrilled (as she has pretty much said outright) to see me without health benefits, which working fewer hours would accomplish.

  28. [...] Astyk at Causabon’s Book (”Sabbaths: Public and Personal“) admires that Aaron on The Oil Drum, “The Four Day Work Week: Sixteen Reasons Why This [...]

  29. Susan says:

    Sharon,
    Your description of the Sabbath is beautiful. Most of my adult life I have kept a sabbath as a Christian. I fear your idea to have a legalized or law mandated sabbath defeats the whole purpose of the freedom of sabbath…the freedom to chose. You are not proposing a day of freedom to rest. You are proposing we hand over to the government our freedom to chose.
    With respect, Susan

  30. Lisa Z says:

    Here in many places in Minnesota there are still no school activities on Wednesdays (for the most part) because Wed. night is church night–the same when I lived in Iowa. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, very Lutheran and Catholic.

    I’m going to agree with all those saying they don’t want the govt. mandating this. I think we can hope that it becomes a trend, as part of sensible business practices since businesses will want to save money as energy gets so expensive. But I’d rather not add to the ridiculous amount of laws we already have regarding personal/private issues.

    I see the Sabbath these days as a type of countercultural practice. And for some reason I feel great going against the flow and taking a day of rest on a regular basis. But maybe I should be hoping the whole culture adopts it anyway.

    Lisa in MN

  31. Anon. says:

    “Your description of the Sabbath is beautiful. Most of my adult life I have kept a sabbath as a Christian. I fear your idea to have a legalized or law mandated sabbath defeats the whole purpose of the freedom of sabbath…the freedom to chose. You are not proposing a day of freedom to rest. You are proposing we hand over to the government our freedom to chose.
    With respect, Susan

    You may be free to choose, Susan, but people whose employers don’t give them the option and who can’t get a better job don’t have that luxury. A commerce-free day might level the playing field.

  32. Theresa says:

    This idea really resonates from a Taoist point of view as well, which values the spaces in between things as much as the things themselves.

  33. John says:

    I love the idea of a commerce free Sunday, but….

  34. John says:

    Try that again, sorry, accidentally hit a button.

    I lived in MA when everything was closed on Sunday’s. And guess what everyone did? They took Sunday drive! It was part of the vocabulary. Can’t imagine what would happen if we couldn’t even do that on a Sunday. Some people live in beautiful surroundings and wouldn’t mind having to stay home. But others live in rotten conditions and if not working, need to take off somewhere.

    Anyhow, I work for an Insurance company. We transfer people to MA and RI and service existing policyholders. Call center only. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 and we are all in the office everyday. There is no way to go to a 4 day work week without closing the office for a 3rd day. All our customers would freak. They get mad we aren’t open later than 5 and they get our after hours phone service.

    I’ve been hearing about the 4 day work week gaining steam, and get depressed it won’t happen for me. I have 8 years on the job and I don’t want to give up vacation time, pension, 401K to change jobs that offer a 4 day week, so I’m pretty much stuck.

    It’s rotten that every time you change jobs in the USA, you start the clock over with vacation time. Now here’s an idea I could really get around, mandated vacation time.

  35. I live in Massachusetts and I was in my 20s I believe when Sunday shopping began. Of course I shop on Sundays now and then but I never felt it was a hardship not to. I was actually disappointed when booze was allowed to be sold on Sunday not sure why some gut old fashioned feeling that it was a good thing.

    Seriously not being able to shop one day a week just takes some planning. What was inconvienent was banking hours they were basically open m-f till like 5 and maybe Sat till noon. Many are still not open on Sun.

    When most retail places began being open on Sundays I felt sorry for the workers who often could never plan a day off, having every Sunday off allows for planning family time.

    Some things were still open, some gas stations, some restaurants, things like ice cream stands, convenience stores. I spent many weekends as a child camping I don’t remember having less fun on Sundays :) .

    I read quite a bit of PO stuff one common thread is complaining that the powers that be are not making plans for a post oil world. Complaints of lack of leadership, complaints of doing nothing about climate change and addiction to oil.
    I’ve read there are discussions about a national 55mph speed limit. That would be a law would you feel your freedoms limited by that law? Is your freedom to shop 24/7 so scacred that a law against it is a lack of freedom?

    People on many po list complain about candidates, reps, senators etc not telling the hard truth about energy, climate change, and the ecomony. They complain about main stream media “covering up” these hard truths with articles about speculators and drilling. No wonder. People on this list are supposed to be in the know and are still fighting against loosing their modern “lifestyle”

    Sharon has called upon us in this blog to reduce many of our comforts such as using less appliances, take short showers, grow food , can food, store food, buy more things used etc etc.

    And we’re whinning about one less day to shop. If things get as tough as some folks say it will make the old days of not shopping on Sunday look good.

    We have to adapt folks, this sounds like an easy way to ease spoiled Americans to reduce a few CO2 s etc.

    Beth CSA farmer Massachusetts

  36. Sharon, I haven’t read Aaron’s article on the four day workweek yet, but, sometime ago, i did go to the website of that guy who’s promoting it.
    The more flexibility we have the better it will be for all stake holders.

    With regard to legislating Sunday Closures, I’d prefer to support something like the proposed “Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA)” in America instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater by butting a blanket ban on retail in general , when there are willing workers , or Sabbath Keeping workers like Seventh-Day Adventists who are willing to sacrifice their recreation day which is Sundays for most Adventists, including myself.

    I started a group on facebook called “Pro Optional Sunday Trading Taskforce (POSTT) that is designed to keep tabs on issues related to Sunday Trading/Shopping/Commerce, Flexible Workweek and Sunday Blue Laws.

    You can search facebook for the group or go to http://groups.to/Liberty.

    Please “hit up the group” (register your opinions)

    and lets reason together

  37. Pea says:

    Hi Sharon:

    I’ve written to the mayor of Austin several times to suggest that we go back to the blue laws of old for Sundays. If we closed all nonessential businesses on Sunday, we could save 1/7(roughly 13% or more) of Austin’s total energy expenditure that is assuming that lights were turned off and climate control abated during those hours. Will Wynne claims to be progressive and interested in greener options, but someone from his office told me that the soccer moms would revolt if they couldn’t go to the mall and run their errands on Sundays. Somehow we managed this in the early 80′s and they manage in Europe. In Germany, most businesses close at noon on Saturday and people just plan ahead. It’s a small compromise, don’t you think?

  38. Mandy says:

    I moved to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides five years ago. Sunday here is still a day of rest. It is so peaceful. Nothing is open except essential services. No one works in their garden or hangs out washing they spend their time with family. It took a while to get use to it but I would not want to change it.
    Mandy

  39. Ani says:

    Sorry Sharon- but I have a serious distrust of legislating stuff like this, especially given the level of right-wing religious conservatism that has been attempting to rule the country for awhile now. I like the idea of 4-day work-weeks, and no I don’t think people need to shop all the time, but I don’t want it legislated. I want to keep the government out of my bedroom, off of my body and out of matters such as these.

    You know what I think? I think that many stores will just start closing for a day on their own, closing earlier, opening later, whatever. Same with offices. As the costs to heat, cool and light these places grows, as disposable income falls and customers are fewer and as the commute to work costs more, I think these things may happen of their own volition.

    As for stuff such as a 55 mph speed limit- the current one of 65 mph isn’t respected anyway so what makes anyone think one of 55 would be? I just drive slower to save gas- everyone passes me if I do 65 anyway so what’s the difference?

  40. RC says:

    I want three days off. I’m an agnostic so it is strictly practical and enlightened, not at all G** inspired for me. Yes, pharmacies may have to open, nurses and doctors and cops may have to work, but in the 1950s we had the Sunday closings, so we are not reinventing the wheel, just rolling it out in a refurbished condition.
    And yes, we really need three days, I am serious.
    Sharon, you, as a Jew: I am sure you are not pressing elevator buttons at your homestead {hey I was raised with Jews in Brooklyn} but do you work in the garden and write for the blog from sundown to sundown? Just curious.
    I enjoy the rabbinical legalities.
    If Aaron is going to be lobbying this thing seriously he needs to go to three days. Think about it. I love the idea.

  41. Florence says:

    I am a hospital pharmacist and of course we can’t shut the hospital down one day a week. However, I made arrangements with my employer so that I could work a 4 day week. No legislation required. I think people are going to have to take responsibility for their own lives–whether it is growing our own food, getting off the grid, whatever.

  42. Vegan says:

    I’m all for the 4 day week. In 1973 while working at UF Library, I worked 10 hours/day Monday through Thursday. How about legislating a 32-hour week for the same pay as the 40-hour week?

    Sharon, have you seen this?

    “Hunger Brings Anguish for Millions of Pakistanis”
    http://www.iht.com/articles/reuters/2008/07/11/asia/OUKWD-UK-PAKISTAN-HUNGER.php

  43. Rosa says:

    After my dad left when I was sixteen, I ended up driving my little brother to Nebraska to see him several times.

    Even then, in the early ’90s, if you were out on the two-lane highways after 10 pm or on a holiday or after 5pm on a Sunday, there would be a good chance of no open gas stations – I actually peed behind some bushes and slept in an out-of-gas car in a little town in Iowa when I was in my 20s, because nothing was open.

    Now, there are autopump places *everywhere*. Lots of towns are a bar, a church, and a gas station where you can buy gasoline 24/7. And I don’t have a credit card either – I have a debit card. It works fine.

    Personally, I think pushing back to a 40 hour work week would be a bigger improvement than mandating which days people can work. The Friskies plant in my home town didn’t add workers when it got busy, it just made everyone work mandatory 12 hour shifts. The meat packing plants do the same thing, and the pink-collar job I have now has 3 weeks of mandatory overtime at the beginning of every fiscal quarter.

    Most of the white collar workers I know work 50-60 hour weeks – my boyfriend typically works 50. So every quarter for a few weeks I go up to 46 hours and he tries to stay around 50 and things just fall apart. Or our kid gets sick, like last week, and I can’t take sick time so his dad takes it, but his work load doesn’t go down, so his dad works Saturday and I work Sunday.

    I’m waiting for the day those overtime hours are seen as robbing someone else of work, again.

  44. Rosa says:

    p.s. Mandy, is there a local food economy on Lewis at all? We vacationed there several years ago and the island was full of sheep but the grocery store was full of pork. It was very odd – like when I used to bike through the soybean fields in Iowa but not be able to buy tofu or soymilk in the grocery stores there. But I thought maybe everyone put up their own veggies & lamb meat, and only bought exotics at the store.

    Also, we planned to ride all the way across the island on a Sunday (for everyone else: it’s not that far) on our bikes because the bus didn’t run, but then there was a horrendous wind & rain storm & we ended up begging a ride to town from some poor man who was just enjoying a Sunday afternoon home with the family. It was not the brightest moment of that vacation, but it worked out OK in the end anyway. I still think the post bus is a concept we need to import to the rural parts of the States.

  45. Mandy says:

    Reply to Rosa
    As you say the island has a lot of sheep. Most people keep a couple for themselves when they are ready for the freezer. There is also a growers group of which I belong, any surplus produce can be sold at the Saturday market in Stornoway from May to December. More and more people are now growing what they can. But we lack a bulk dry food co-op. As all this sort of food needs to be brought by ferry from the mainland it would be expensive to set up and run. Hope you enjoyed your time here.
    Mandy

  46. Rosa says:

    We did, very much, despite our lack or reasonable planning. People were very kind to us when we messed up, and the island was beautiful. Also, we’d just been in Glasgow where I couldn’t understand a word anyone said, so it was a relief to hear English I could understand.

    I daydream sometimes about getting a writing grant and going to live in an abandoned no-electric no-phone cottage for the summer. And learning to cut and dry peat.

  47. Ailsa Ek says:

    I remember when they voted down the blue laws in Maine. The working class people were the ones in favor of keeping them, and getting rid of them was seen as purely for Yuppie convenience.

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