In its Latin etymology, humble means “close to earth” (from humus ‘earth’). In current times of financial capitalism’s crisis, accompanied and followed by the industrial crisis, in which money – especially paper money – is a depreciated good, the “return to the earth”, to humility, appears to be the true way of salvation. The humblest jobs are the most dignified and profitable. Starting from the very first one, working the land, the work of the farmers who grow crops and rear animals. Farming activities marked the transition of the mankind from a savage and primitive state to the state of civilization about ten thousand years ago. It is the most important job since we need it to satisfy a basic need, ensuring survival itself. And today there are many people, even among graduates and in the middle-class who choose to work the land again as a refuge from a technologized society that grows unhealthy and poor both from an economical and spiritual points of view. Mattia Di Nicolo, Yuri Marchionni, and Valerio Pierantozzi, for example. Three friends in their thirties who have left their temporary or somewhat steadier jobs to start an organic farm respectful of biodiversity together.
A survey conducted by Coldiretti shows that there are over 70 thousand young people who return to agriculture. But there is also another side of the planet, which in Italy takes the shape of a nightmare. For many workers, especially immigrant women and children, working the land means slavery. They are “invisible” to the world and to dignity: without a contract or with false payrolls, they toil over 14 hours a day for less than 3 euros per hour, often with no access to clean water and sanitation, in exposing their lives to serious health and safety risks. Some of them are even forced to do drugs in order to support the weight of so many days of zombie life. In Calabria, Puglia, Campania, the slaves of the earth are more than 100 thousand. Mostly, it is a business run by the local underworld. In the silence of the institutions, hidden from the police and from the media. In other developed countries, however, working the land means a wealthy perspective, not only for the “owner.” Switzerland offers up to 3 thousand euros a month to aspirant farmers.
Working in one’s garden plot is also a peaceful experience. It means learning to take care of a plant and an animal, from sowing and sprouting to all the other stages of development. It cultivates responsibility, stability, love, harmony, and peace. Father Tonino Guerra invited people to “boggle the imagination of young people with the view of a growing leaf and with the slow appearance of color on the tomatoes”. It is the humble work of a teacher who “grows” the students as their own garden plots, following and transmitting good coexistence rules with attention and respect for everyone’s free and original personality. A good teacher’s “seeds” of knowledge and know-how, of human and civil virtues, and training “to being citizens of the world,” make the “plant” of the adult person grow, transforming it into a good worker for the sake of humanity.
The artist works the land too. The sculptor shapes clay, wax, plaster, iron, bronze, and carves wood, stones, and marble, the painter draws, composes, and uses colors to create new forms of life in his works, following the nature’s example or inventing rules of composition and finding new meaning in the world. Thus – says the philosopher Immanuel Kant in The Critique of Judgment -, the artist’s humble genius, which works between rationality and imagination, produces beauty. Art is regarded as one of the “highest” cultural expressions of human activity, along with intellectual activity. For the Greeks, the seven muses oversaw the seven excellence areas of human creativity: poetry, history, song, music, tragedy, prayer, theater, dance, astronomy, and geometry. The path of the artist is also a “career.” There are specialized job search sites (see artjob), a National Union of Artists (Asnai), a register, and many associations. Also the number of the so-called “street artists” is growing. In Italy, there are at least 10 thousand of them, including jugglers, tightrope walkers, acrobats, mimes, dancers, and singers. Only in Rome and Milan, over 3 thousand street artists enrolled in the municipal registers.
The art of building is a way to work the land and transform it in accordance with the needs of man. The mason “measures” and with the help of chisels, trowels, spatulas, picks, shovels and hammers, builds and embellishes houses. Seemingly, architects and engineers organize the space, equipping it with the technical tools necessary to meet human beings’ biological needs of safety and beauty.
Humble means also “down-to-earth” (from ilium, ‘pelvic bone’). Long story short, a humble work is a concrete “useful” job. Also doctors, nurses, and policemen, for example, have a straight back and their feet on the ground. That is, those who spend their time, skills, and expertise to help humanity to feel good, they are in the service of health and well-being of the personal and social bodies.
In common usage, the term refers to those who humble “is on the ground”, at the bottom, in the social hierarchy. The waiter and the domestic worker, for example, perform operational tasks on the orders of someone. But, as the philosopher Hegel showed in “Phenomenology of Spirit”, who depends on the other, between the servant and the master, it is the latter. The Lord is the true slave, because it depends on the other’s work. So who is really “down” is who hierarchically – and often economically – occupies a higher position.
In common usage, the term humble refers to those who are “on the ground”, that is, at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Waiters and domestic workers, for example, perform operational tasks following someone’s orders. But, as the philosopher Hegel showed in Phenomenology of Spirit, between the servant and the master, the one who is dependent on the other is the latter. The Lord is the true slave because he depends on the other’s work. Thus, those who occupy higher hierarchical and often economical positions are actually in the “lowest” position.
Work carried out with humbleness, love for life, the world, and for themselves. Yet, unfortunately, there are also humiliated and humiliating jobs. The former are those where proper dignity, the deserved compensation and the merit of their true value are not recognized to the realization of the human person and the development of their human principles. The latter offend the dignity of the person and cannot even be defined as work. Work, in fact, is an activity that involves the use of energy and resources to achieve a goal that should be a service useful to our society, for which one gets a compensation adequate to the autonomous and dignified existence. Any other condition is a slap in the face of a civilization of work, law, and the man.