Dirty clothes, clean hands

Listening to old Dylan, the line “His clothes are dirty, but his hands are clean” resonates–I remember how much the line meant when the song first appeared: I was living at Black Bear, and the image of the hard-working country lad doing honest work outside the crumbling “system” was our [male] fantasy. There’s a whole line of reflection from this image about the sex role stereotypes it supports, but I want to talk about the class implications. I am still astounded at the success of American consumer culture in erasing the idea of the working class. No one is working class anymore, we are all middle class–until we’re not, and then we’re just failures.

The implication of Dylan’s line, for me, is that doing honest manual labor, the quintessence of being working class, absolves one from the guilt being a “capitalist tool” by having a physical product to show for the work. As the economy becomes a knowledge and information factory, with data managers of one sort or another predominating, from the grocery clerk to the mechanic who must each be competent computer operators to succeed at their job, the sense of connection to physical work products becomes obscured…


Fred is a Teaching Artist, an arts integration advocate & a social justice activist. He is near completing a two-month Residency as String Game Performance Teacher at Calabasas Elementary School in Watsonville, CA, and performed at the 2015 Santa Cruz Storytelling Festival. He also serves as Teacher Consultant for Professional Development with UCSC's Central California Writing Project and as their Technology Liaison to the National Writing Project. He is a Connected Learning Facilitator and coordinates Face To Face Drop Ins on Connected Learning biweekly at Arts Council Santa Cruz County. He teaches self-directed & connected learning via real-world projects & string games through his Original Digital Project, an Associate of the Arts Council.

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