Our Work Clothes

A reflection of Luigino Bruni on the earthquake, work and feast day: topics that deal with family in his opening address at the VII World Day of the Families that begins today in Milan

Comments - Those four deaths, our life 

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire on 26/05/2012

logo_avvenireFour of those who died in the Reggio Emilia Region earthquake were working. They were working at four in the morning on a Sunday. There is something different about dying while working. In these times of crisis and suffering for lack of jobs, the death of these workers tell us many things, they send us many messages. First of all, through tragedy, they tell us that in our age, all centered on consumerism and money, places of work still exist, as well as that shift work and  shift – workers, whom the present crisis has made harder and embittered; shifts of citizens and businesses which, through their work efforts, keep our country afloat, and who offer serious reasons to hope that we will make it. Those workers died at four o'clock on a Sunday morning. They died while working on a Sunday, at night, instead of compromising or demeaning the value and the meaning of Sunday, the day of the Lord, while paradoxically elevating and ennobling it.

We would have had other words and felt other emotions , always tragic but different, if these workers, both Italian and foreigners, had died underneath the rubble while having fun dancing in a club or shopping in a 24/7 mall.  Someone might have added "if" and others "but" to those hypothetical deaths;  but to die while working on a Sunday night has caused greater pain and increased the value of those lives, of those deaths, of that night, even of that Sunday.

In our society it isn't human work or the effort put in it which are the enemies of the feast day and of Sundays; they never have been. Their real adversaries are lifestyles founded more on consumerism and on seeking income and profits, which  then enslave the workers from whom is stolen the Sunday as the day for restful enjoyment. He who lives and loves his job, lives and loves the day of rest and the times of feasting (enjoying). The very word ‘feast’ comes in fact from fesia which is the root of feria as well, that is, a work day. A society which offers too few jobs and makes work too precarious, ends by negating Sundays as the day of rest.  Let's not forget that the first thief of Sundays is unemployment, not work, because when you are not employed or under-employed, you are not only robbed of work, but also of the feast day: a feast day without work is never a real and full feast. And vice versa.

If you work but don't observe the day of rest, you no longer work, but you experience instead the state of slavery, even when you are well paid. It is becoming ever more a normality when the great capitalistic businesses hire youth, give them high salaries, luxury cars and future rapid career growth, but at a price (invisible yet very real) that's too high, having to renounce feast days, and eventually, life. If feast days are gone, and therefore those for family life, perhaps leaving only enough time for some entertainment and distractions, in these workers there is a progressive drying up of the wells from which you draw working energy, only to find oneself burnt-out and exhausted after only a few years, as a worker and as a person.

Both individual and collective life function only when the feast day and work are allies, when the time for the one establishes  and prepares the time for the other, even in the same places - and the farming and artisan culture knew this well.  There is not enough celebrating today in society and in the workplace, where without its' symbolic strength, are not able to create a sense of belonging to a common destiny, as well as create the ties which keep a human community together. It is of great importance to celebrate especially when one is suffering, when times are hard. This is why we must all  re-learn to enjoy ourselves in this late-modern economic society, even in our  workplaces. If one is not able to "waste" some time for some celebration, the whole working period is impoverished and one truly wastes everything. A working person knows, for example, that to not be able to join in a colleague's birthday or wedding celebration is a strong and clear signal that that particular working environment is slowly losing its appeal and is becoming a sad place to be.
If we wish to overcome cynicism and pessimism in this age of crisis, and these are the very diseases of every crisis, we must re-discover, politically as well, the great symbolic  and bonding strength of the real feast, even in the workplace, in schools, in the offices, at the iron furnaces, in different departments and with our dusty clothes: "Work isn't dirty." Never tell a worker who arrives from his job that  "he is dirty". You must say: 'He has the traces of his job on his clothes.' Remember that" (Edmund De Amicis, Cuore).

All of Luigino Bruni's comments on Avvenire can be found under Avvenire Editorial.

Follow us:



The Economy of Giving

The Economy of Giving

Chiara Lubich

«Unlike the consumerist economy, based on a culture of having, the economy of communion is the economy of giving.... 

Formy comic strips!

Formy comic strips!

Do you know the mascot of the EoC website?

Who’s online

We have 571 guests and no members online

© 2008 - 2019 Economia di Comunione (EdC) - Movimento dei Focolari
creative commons Questo/a opera è pubblicato sotto una Licenza Creative Commons . Progetto grafico: Marco Riccardi - edc@marcoriccardi.it

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.

This website uses “technical cookies”, including third parties cookies, which are necessary to optimise your browsing experience. By closing this banner, or by continuing to navigate this site, you are agreeing to our cookies policy. The further information document describes how to deactivate the cookies.