What’s wrong with work and life — and why.
For the vast majority of people, our time and therefore our lives are spent doing paid labor. We work to live.
Human beings require food and protection from the elements to stay alive. Unless a person is born to sufficient wealth, or is cared for by someone with sufficient wealth, nearly every human literally has the same choice — work for money or die.
Now, people typically strive for more than bare subsistence — usually a lot more. Whether it’s by comparing oneself to others or the influence of corporate marketing or simply absorbing the psychology of our consumer culture, once a person has enough money, she/he/they usually strive for more.
This potentially boundless desire for more can be seen as the engine for capitalism, progress and the free market.
Hidden in all of this is an unstated compulsion and systemic manipulation. We work more and more to meet this desire for more than is needed. This might be fine except that one option is essentially off the table. And that is the option of working fewer hours.
Nearly every job that offers fewer hours — that is, part time employment — offers less money than is required for subsistence. It’s very rare that you can live off of a part-time job. That means you must work full-time, or MORE than full time. Even if you could achieve it, more leisure is demonized — you are labeled as lazy. Of course, for truly wealthy people, they are deemed to have EARNED leisure. They are exempt from accusations of laziness.
You’ve Sold Your Life — Or Was It Taken From You?
Your time IS your life. If the bulk of your waking hours are NOT your own, but the property of an employer, and your alternate choice is starvation and death, then YOU ARE NOT FREE. Freedom is, by definition, having choices.
Some people are addicted to work and are willing slaves. Others enjoy work but wish to have more leisure and do not have that option. Some are sickened by the very thought of spending an entire lifetime doing work to simply survive while enriching an employer — or worse, shareholders.
The Problem Is Not Just Capitalism. And the Problem Is Not Inevitable.
Here in America and must of the West, our dilemma is shaped by the financial system we live under, by this form of capitalism. But exploitation and the theft of our time (and our lives) existed under, say, Soviet Communism as well. The identity of the exploiter shifts, but the exploitation itself remains the same. It has taken many forms.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. And our survival as a species requires that this terrible pattern of abuse be ended. Because all of this has fueled a boundlessly demanding consumer culture and that is leading to ecocide. It’s so close that nearly everyone can sense it.
We let this go on for far too long. It’s not just burning fossil fuels, although that is certainly a huge part of the problem. But it’s also the endless wasted hours, stolen lives wasted producing mostly useless, or certainly unnecessary, crap. And it’s even worse than that. We burn fossil fuels producing crap. We burn fossil fuels transporting crap. We often burn fossil fuels using crap. And then we waste land and destroy the ecosphere disposing of crap.
We must produce what we need, and do even THAT in an ecologically sound way. We must end oil and replace it with clean energy. And we must sharply reduce what we produce.
Will We Suffer With Less — Or Experience Joy?
The prospect of less is typically portrayed as a terrible one. We will have to get by with less. We won’t be able to enjoy our lifestyle. We will need to get used to NOT having things we have long enjoyed, things we expect, things that have almost defined us.
I would suggest that, handled properly, this is a wonderful thing. We can awake from the fever dream of the godlike quality of “stuff.” We sacrificed our time and therefore our lives producing and consuming stuff. We fight with each other over stuff. We compete for stuff.
We are divided by, and find ourselves consumed by anger, fear and hatred over stuff. We can’t have proper sensible humane relationships with our fellow creatures when we behave and think like that. We can’t experience the beauty and wonder of our world when we see it as merely stuff to take and consume.
This glorification of stuff is killing us. It’s the engine of capitalism, but also the engine of death for our species and all of the creatures that share this Earth with us. We must end this thinking, this bad attitude, this unsustainable and ecologically deadly pattern.
It’s time to reject the systems, the leaders and the thinking that has brought us to this terrible state. It’s time to take back our time, to rediscover each other and our planet. It’s time to replace greed, and fear, and lust for power, and ideology with a clear look of reality.
We live together on one planet and have a short experience, usually just a few decades, of life. We can live that life in joy and harmony and in touch with our common experience and our beautiful planet. Or we can continue with the adrenaline rush of hatred, fear, anger and greed.
Even the “successful leaders” on this planet live awful soulless meaningless lives. They may feel successful, but not very deep below the surface, they understand that what they are doing is empty. They know that the stuff they have, that the fine meals and wine, that the honors they reap, are all just marking time on a tiresome journey to nowhere.
We don’t have much time. Let’s end this nonsense and choose life and love. We CAN do this and nobody can stop us if we put in the effort. Indeed, nobody with an ounce of sense would want to stop us.