HAT Forum, Saturday Jan. 7, 2012 11:00am - 1pm OISE

Date: Sat. Jan 7, 2012, 11:00am -1pm
TOPIC: WORKFARE (scenario for discussion below)

SCENARIO: Two hundred passengers plus a crew of twenty are shipwrecked on a remote shore. There is no way to communicate with the outside world and it is assumed that they will never be rescued. A major storm has blown the ship aground and it is tilting badly, making it impossible to use for accommodation. Fortunately there is access to the remaining food stocks, tools, personal possessions and general supplies. After seeing that all the passengers and crew are safely on land, the captain holds a meeting to determine how to deal with the situation. There is broad-based agreement among the group to work cooperatively, share all resources equally and take measures to ensure their mutual survival.

Extensive discussions are held focusing on what skills each person has and how to best deploy them. Jobs include fishing and hunting for food, building and maintaining shelters, making paths, guarding the enclave from dangerous animals, clearing land for planting crops, making and repairing tools, caring for children, the elderly and the disabled. Although this group is not expected to work the routine amount, which is approximately fifty hours per week, where possible, they are assigned modest tasks, carefully structured to account for their individual capabilities.

The captain has taken the initiative in helping to organize matters. However, he makes it clear that he is not the ruler and that major decisions must be made by the entire group, democratically. The survivors agree. In a relatively short time, they have constructed dwellings for shelter, established a fishery, organized groups to search for food in the forest and achieved a basic level of self-sufficiency.

About a year after the shipwreck, certain issues arise that threaten the cohesion of the group:
They refuse to help with other tasks when the sea is too rough for fishing.
The quantity and freshness of the fish they provide is declining.
They refuse to let others use the boats to fish.
The fishermen complain about others building make-shift rafts and fishing in their spare time.
The entire group convenes a general meeting and a majority agree that the fishermen are now in breach of the basic social agreement.
The fishermen reject the conclusion. The boats (which were life boats originally salvaged from the ship) are seized along with the fishing gear. Others in the group are democratically chosen to perform fishing duties. The group instructs the fishermen to engage in different jobs. Some reluctantly agree, others insist that they have been deprived of their “rightful livelihood” and refuse.

The work habits of certain members have resulted in a general consensus that their performance is consistently unsatisfactory. As well, other members are engaged in tasks that are no longer required by the group, since certain priorities have changed over time. Nevertheless, they refuse to accept new jobs. Many in the general group are beginning to express displeasure with the “less useful groups” claiming that they are not doing their “fair share” and in some cases, are disrupting the progress of others. The size of these groups appears to be slowly growing and the majority feels strongly that something should be done about the situation.

How should the group as a whole deal with the recalcitrant fishermen and the two “less useful” groups? Come join us and contribute to this theoretical discussion. All are welcome.

The Humanist Association of Toronto provides a focus of activities and discussion for Humanists in the Toronto area. Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto