We are finally wrapping up a multi-month major remodel of a new home and will shortly be hosting an open house for the architecture firm and the general contractor. I have asked them to invite everyone who worked on the unit to come see the finished product. Several people have commented to me how generous this is. This is the kind of thanks I have difficulty accepting (but I’ll try as per Rick Hanson!) because to me it seems like it’s just the proper thing to do. After pondering why for a bit, I will assert that it’s an American value that one should get to enjoy or at least experience the fruits of one’s own labor.
Most likely it simply never occurs to most people to hold such an open house. Doing significant construction is not without stresses, and often an official completion date is elusive. I think I was inspired to do this after our involuntary refinish due to flood in our previous home. We had an issue where some metalwork needed to be touched up and the craftsman in question offered to do it gratis in return for the opportunity to photograph the work in-place – he had never gotten to see the finished product on site. At the time I thought that was really unfortunate – I know that savoring a finished product is very important to me.
I am reminded of Mike Daisey and his “Agony and Ecstasy” character of the Chinese factory worker encountering a finished iPad for the first time and experiencing it as magic. That character turns out to be fictional, but the capturing power of that storytelling is undiminished. It was a tragedy that the worker could toil at their own physical expense and never know what for.
Karl Marx identified this as Entfremdung, explained by Wikipedia as “estrangement”, for his Theory of Alienation whereby capitalist production alienates people from their humanity. Admittedly, Marx’s Entfremdung applies much more to exploited factory workers than to the craftsmen and women (hmmm, were there women? I can think of one…) who get to contribute to a luxury remodel – merely not seeing the finished product in place is a long way from being unable to determine the means, location, goal or assigned value of production. Folks working at the top of their game are much less easily exploited. None the less, I’m glad to give them the opportunity to fully savor the results of their labors.