- 更新于：2020-04-29 11:17:24
XIV. Learning to Play
“BUT in either case,” exclaims an indignant mother, “the child ceases to be a child—under either the democratic or the capitalistic plan—”
No, madam! The object of a genuine democratic education is to enable him to remain always a child.
“Then,” says another interlocutor, “I must have misunderstood you. I thought you conceived of education as growing-up.”
Growing up, yes—out of the helplessness, the fear, the misery of childhood, which come only from weakness and ignorance: growing up into knowledge and power.
“But putting aside forever his toys and games,” protests the mother. “Forgetting how to play!”
No, madam. Learning rather to take realities for his toys, and entering blithely into the fascinating and delightful game of life. Forget how to play? That is what he is condemned to now. It[Pg 91] is a pity. And that is precisely what we want to change.
“By setting him to work?”
What! are we to quibble over words? Tell me, then, what is the difference between work and play?
Or rather, to shorten the argument, let me tell you. Play is effort which embodies one’s own creative wishes, one’s own dreams. Work is any kind of effort which fails to embody such wishes and such dreams.... When you were first married, and began to keep house—under difficulties, it may be—was that work or play, madam? Do not be afraid of being sentimental—we are among friends. Is it not true that at first, while it was a part of the dream of companionship, while it seemed to you to be making that dream come true, it was play—no matter how much effort it took? And is it not true that when it came to seem to you merely something that had to be done, it was work, no matter how easily performed?—And you, my friend, who built a little house in the country with your own hands for pleasure, and worked far beyond union hours in doing it—was not that play?
It was your own house, you say. Just so; and it is the child’s own house, that cave in the woods[Pg 92] which he toils so cheerfully to create. And it was their own house, the cathedral which the artisans and craftsmen of the middle ages created so joyously—the realization of a collective wish to which the creative fancy of every worker might make its private contribution.
You know, do you not, why we cannot build cathedrals now? Because craftsmen are no longer children at play—that is to say, no longer free men. They toil at something which is no affair of theirs, because they must. They have become the more or less unwilling slaves of a system of machine production, which they have not yet gained the knowledge and power to take and use to serve their own creative dreams.
But men do not like to work; they like to play. They want to be the masters and not the slaves of the machine-system. That is why they have struggled so fiercely to climb out of the class of slaves into the class of masters; it has been that hope which has sustained them in what would otherwise have seemed an intolerable condition. And that is why, as such a hope goes glimmering, they join together to wrest from their employers some control over the conditions under which they work; and also why their employers so often prefer to lose money in strikes rather than concede[Pg 93] such control—for the sense of mastery is dearer even than profits. That is, incidentally, why so many workers prefer a white collar job to a decent union wage—because it permits them to fancy themselves a part of the master class. And finally, that is why the industrial system is now at the point of breakdown—because a class of workers who have no sense of mastery over their jobs cannot and will not take enough interest in their work to meet the new and stupendous demands upon production. When pressure is put upon them, they revolt—and hell is raised, but not the production-rate.
Every production manager knows that even our most efficient industries are producing far less than their maximum; and he knows why. The psychology of slavery does not make for efficiency. There was a time when inefficiency didn’t matter—when infants in agony from lack of sleep and girls terrorized by brutal foremen could produce more than could be sold, and were preferable to workers who had to be bargained with. Capitalism denied the worker the right to dare to think his job his own. But the wiseacres of capitalism now encourage the worker to believe his interests identical with those of his employer; they take out some of his wages and give it back to him in[Pg 94] a separate envelope and call it “profit-sharing.” But the production manager knows that such a mess of doubtful pottage will scarcely take the place of their birthright. He knows that he has got out of the workers the utmost that their slave psychology will permit. He knows that there is no use to go on telling them that the business is their affair. He knows that the only thing left to be done is to make it their affair—to put into their collective control not only wages and hours, but what they create and how they create it. The job must be theirs before they can put into it the energy of free men. Their creative wish alone can bring production to its maximum. But that is not what he is paid to do. He, too, is denied the right to shape industry to his dream; he may not make it efficient; he must try to make it more profitable. He, too, is a slave ... a slave who wishes his master would set him free to play for a while with this great beautiful toy. He would show us how to increase production by 100 per cent on four hours work a day. He would show us how work could be made a joy to everybody. He would—but what is the use? He sits and looks out the window and wishes that something would happen. Perhaps these young men and women who have le