Wendell Berry and Elance

I just joined as a freelancer on Elance.com and while trying it out (I haven’t had a client yet) I realised this whole setup contradicts Wendell Berry’s vision of keeping things local as much as possible. Even so, I joined because it occurred to me that not to do so was to tread the path towards obsolescence. Indeed, I joined, but not without a twinge of guilt! Is there really a need to get additional work and pay from people you’ll most probably never meet face to face? Isn’t there some element of greed and unbelief and discontent at work here? “Having food and clothing let us be content.” “My God shall supply all your needs.” To be sure, Elance and O-desk and other websites which offer online jobs to freelancers are a Godsend to many young Filipinos who otherwise would be jobless. And a Godsend it is indeed! Some (maybe many) of these young people who were practically penniless before now earn an average of $2000 a month. In my country that’s a lot of money. But for those who already have a steady well-paying non-online job, is it really necessary to join the online hunt for more jobs in order to earn more money? I’m just thinking out loud, so to speak. Something like this ought to be viewed with theological and spiritual lenses, just like everything else. Already one problem I see is how work now all the more cuts into the Day of Rest. Another is the consequences of putting a lot money so quickly into the hands of young people who are not ready for it. At any rate, I’m letting my account stay and see what happens. My inclination is not to actively seek for clients, but if perchance someone wants my services then I’ll take it from there. But going back to Wendell Berry…

A human community, then, if it is to last long, must exert a sort of centripetal force, holding local soil and local memory in place…. A good community, as we know, insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. A good community, in other words, is a good local economy. It depends on itself for many of its essential needs and is thus shaped, so to speak, from the inside – unlike most modern populations that depend on distant purchases for almost everything and are thus shaped from the outside by the purposes and the influence of salesmen.

– Wendell Berry, “The Work of Local Culture”, What Are People For? pp. 155 & 158

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