Chapter 62: The Dart

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.

Marx himself could have written “The Dart,” for all its labor critiques. In the chapter, Ishmael discusses a common practice among whalers. During the chase, harpooneers row at the bow of a whaleboat, the most strenuous and exhausting post, and on top of that, they are responsible for loud shouting to rally the men. The problem with this arrangement is that the harpooner has the most crucial and difficult job on the boat — if he can’t harpoon a whale, then the headsman can’t kill it, and the voyage doesn’t make any money. So why exhaust the man you most depend on, before you most depend on him? You do it out of tradition, more or less, and because the officer is headsman, and officers don’t row.

But this is “foolish and unnecessary,” in Ishmael’s words. And as he generalizes out to the words that begin this post, he makes a larger point about about labor. Workers are the most important part of any industry — nothing can be produced without their labor. Exhaust your workers, and your industry suffers. Give them rest and ownership of their labor, and your industry thrives.

Chapter 62: The Dart

It’s the harpooneer that makes the voyage strong;
It’s the harpooneer that makes the voyage strong;
He needs to dart that iron hard and often long.

You give that kid the job of superman;
You row him ’til his feet can barely stand,
Then expect a dart with strong and steady hand.

And we sing it:

All along we’re wishin’
For the worthy manumission
Of the working slave that leads our long parade!

Give an idle song to the man in the corner,
Give an idle song, ’cause his corner does lead,
And his work will come when we create the need.
But the dart will miss if you work him like a steed.

And we sing it:

All along we’re wishin’
For the worthy manumission
Of the working slave that lead our long parade!

(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 25, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea January 29, 2011

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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