Essentially Speaking

Let’s try to be honest for a moment about the idea of “essential work” in the American economy.

Work has always been essential, but our culture has never been honest about who’s doing it or how.

[To be clear, the dominant culture has never been honest with itself: we consistently try to obfuscate the terms of the contract, but our “essential workers” throughout history have always been clear about their end of the deal.]

Follow the ubiquitous war metaphors to their conclusion, and it’s clear that workers and cotton swabs are essential to the fight against the coronavirus in the way that soldiers and bullets are essential to a real war effort: valued collectively for their potential expenditure, but individually quite expendable.