Welders and philosophers. I am a welder. And a philosopher. Sort of.

Bertolt-Brecht

Bertolt Brecht.

I was a certified welder.

How much of a philosopher I am is for others to judge. I am a student of philosophy. I am a dissertation short of being a doctor of philosophy. It is a dissertation that will never be written. The course work is done.

When I read that Republican Marco Rubio said last night that we need more welders and fewer philosophers it brought back memories of welding.

Around 1970 I enrolled in a welder training program at the Watts Skill Center in South Central LA. I became certified in arc, gas metal arc (MIG) or gas tungsten arc (TIG) welding.

I used those skills later when I worked at U.S. Steel’s Southworks.

I am not getting into the policy issues that may or may not have been discussed by the boobs running for the Republican nomination for President.

I am only commenting on the dualism of Marco Rubio. That one is either a welder or a philosopher and that it is defined by your salary, university degree or certification.

During my time at the Watts Skill Center, the students, mostly African American plus a few Chicanos and whites, would pile into a couple of cars and go to a local place for lunch. One of the guys would bring out a bottle of white port and lemon juice and then the philosophizing would begin.

Sometimes it would be hysterically funny. Other times it was serious and pointedly subversive. It would often be no more than doing the dozens. But if philosophy is defined as the search for truth and the meaning of being, we welders in training were doing philosophy.

This made me recall the poem by Bertolt Brecht:

Study from bottom up,
for you who will take the leadership,
it is not too late!
Study the ABC; it is not enough.
but study it!
Do not become discouraged, begin! You must know everything!
You must prepare to take command,now!
Study, man in exile!
Study. man in the prison!
Study, wife in your kitchen!
Study, old-age pensioner!
You must prepare to take command now!
Locate yourself a school, homeless folk!
Go search some knowledge, you who freeze!
You who starve, reach for a book: it will be a weapon.
You must prepare to take command now.
Don’t be afraid to question, comrades!
Never believe on faith.
see for yourself!
What you yourself don’t learn
you don’t know.
Question the reckoning
you yourself must pay it
Set down your finger on each small item. asking:
where do you get this?
You must prepare to take command now!

6 thoughts on “Welders and philosophers. I am a welder. And a philosopher. Sort of.

  1. Who would have ever thought we retirees would be forced to go and try to find work to support us after WEP/GPO has stolen most of our earned Social Security. My kids want a list of “practical” gifts to get me this year. Hmmm, let’s see. A leather jacket, but not a jacket to wear to keep warm. A welding jacket to protect against sparks! How about one of those new-fangled welding helmets with the clear glass window that turns dark instantly when it sees a spark? Those did not even exist 40+ years ago when I was taught welding! Unfortunately, a lot of us may well end up welding or some other work not as something we would enjoy doing to get a few extra dollars to spend as we like. We will be out there because we HAVE TO make ends meet, facing cuts in Social Security, higher property taxes, higher medical insurance, even new garbage fees for some of us. If Rauner has his way, we will even have a new tax on our pensions. A good time to know how to weld. Maybe I will go brush up on it at the community college. I heard some of them give senior citizens free tuition, only charging the lab fee. I better hurry, though. Rauner failed to pay the community colleges the money they were owed from the state, so any tuition discounts for seniors will probably disappear soon.

  2. I too can weld. Long live the Downshifters Hot Rod Club. And I fancied myself a sculptor at times, welding found metal objects into things like: Man and His Works, a Reciprocal Process Toward Dehumanization, a Tribute to Robert Redford. Some views of philosophy weaved in there.

  3. …always liked this poem by Brecht:

    The Burning of the Books

    When the Regime
    commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
    teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.

    Then a banished writer, one of the best
    scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
    became enraged: he’d been excluded!

    He rushed to his desk, full of contemptuous wrath,
    to write fierce letters to the morons in power.
    Burn me! He wrote with his blazing pen.
    Haven’t I always reported the truth?
    Now here you are treating me like a liar!
    Burn me!

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