Day 415 – Work Sucks
Well no, of course work doesn’t suck. Work, i.e. producing useful goods and services or working on big science and big art (or even small science and small art) is all very good. What sucks is wage slavery masquerading as “the path to a better tomorrow.”
One day, whilst driving the 30 Express, I realized why gun violence and suicides were both rising in the United States faster than all other industrial countries. Both phenomena are being driven by the impossibly unsustainable lifestyles so many Americans choose to pursue or are forced to endure.
Now, that being said, there are many people in the world who have certain abilities and ambitions that, when cultivated, can benefit individuals and the planet. There are driven individuals who should express their egos (I’m picturing many of the scientists/researchers/IT people at CERN and similar installations) and work their asses off. But what about people who took some shots, had modest successes, yet never achieved escape velocity and fell back to earth. For the rest of us, myself included, it’s time to ask the question “how much is enough?”
I brushed up against numerous people at the bus garage who were there because they really didn’t like their lives outside of work. To those folks I say “go for it,” do those extra shifts, collect that overtime. I also ran across a few who said “what else would I be doing?” That always catches me off guard as I’m somebody who always knows there are other things I could be doing.
Either way those folks are making choices and living with those choices. Those were, comparatively, the happy people. The people I worried about were the ones who, for one reason or another, seemed always out of breath. The ones who, true or not, felt they had no choice but to work, work, work.
While I was in service with TriMet, even part time, I felt constantly rushed. There was never enough time. And I realized I’d felt that way at every job. Gotta get this project done so you can going on the next one. Gotta get those bigger projects. Gotta advance.
But then something you didn’t see coming happens and somebody else zooms past you on the advancement ladder or the whole structure crumbles around you. You get angry. You go home, but you’ve spent so much time focusing on work there’s no resilient support structure at home to help. Besides you’re not the only one struggling, your partner has been having a rough time, too. The relationship, already thin in spots, frays and becomes another source of stress. You say you want to split up, but, in grand New York City tradition, neither of you can afford to live alone and on it goes. The only choices seem negative.
Meanwhile the economic reality has been developing thusly:
Is it any surprise when confronted with multivariate personal stresses set against a backdrop of staggering wealth inequality “hopelessness” is the result.
Work doesn’t suck. As Ben Knox, the old beachcomber of “Local Hero,” points out succinctly when offered enough money he’d never have to work again, “we all have to work Mr. MacIntyre.” Also there’s the tired old chestnut, oftimes used by creative directors to motivate interns, that “work is love made visible.” What sucks is being trapped on a treadmill with little hope of escape other than a final exit.
And with that I’m off to walk my dog.