The union stuff is interesting and thought provoking. I had dinner last night with three of the most intelligent, thoughtful people I know and someone I only met yesterday for the first time but who also impressed me with his particular brand of practical idealism. We had a very interesting conversation (or really, they did and I listened), about how we (those of us in this committee) seem willing to keep trying to slay dragons that may actually be invincible and what good was it in the end, to which I don't think we came up with an answer but the shining idealism at the table would have lit candles.
The sessions yesterday and today are intended to teach us how to be better union reps. I need a lot of help in this regard, and although I love the work of the committee I'm on I don't think anyone takes me particularly seriously as a "union" person. I don't take myself seriously as a union person. I consider myself an idealist, too, but tend to shy away from anything that hints at fundamentalism or absolutism. I admire the goals and ideals of the union, but not always its rhetoric (for example, I refuse to refer to my union "brothers and sisters" except ironically). I am interested in the concept that people will sometimes be willing to break laws to defend the Collective Agreement - but are not laws another form of Collective Agreement, at least in a democracy? At least in theory? And I am as aware as anyone else that Democracies can get things badly wrong, can go "collectively" mad (as Mr. Lawrence said memorably of the Japanese), and also that a union is only as strong as its members, who individually don't care much about anything or anyone but themselves. Also, rampaging idealists can do a lot of harm.
Not that any of my committee fellows are anything close to "rampaging" - they are all serious, thoughtful, well-meaning and honourable, and I'm glad to be working with them and try hard - not always very successfully - to live up to them.
An unexpected bonus yesterday was some discussion of how to interpret a collective agreement that wouldn't have been out-of-place in a theory classroom. I'm paraphrasing here, having left my notebook at the office, but the substance of some of it was that a clause in a collective agreement shall be determined to mean exactly what it says, and normally the intentions of its author should not be taken into consideration unless there is some ambiguity in the wording and even then an interpretation must be based as closely as possible on the meaning of the actual words, even placement of punctuation (there was a memorable example of the misuse of a vergule or forward slash).
Today it's human rights.
*Lest anyone be alarmed at the mention of two doctors appointments - they are routine checkups by eye-specialist and orthopedic surgeon respectively