- Probably no other sentence comes up at a party as often as: “So, what do you do?” There is an unspoken question behind this: “Are you useful?” Work determines our social status: tell me what your job is–and I’ll tell you who you are.
- This situation is all the more schizophrenic in that we take every opportunity every day to escape toil and work: who voluntarily uses a washboard, if he has a washing machine? Who copies out a text by hand, if he can use a photocopier instead? And who mentally calculates the miserable columns of figures on his tax return, if he has a calculator? We are bone idle, and yet we glorify work.
There is definitely something to working hard. It means being a productive and contributing part of society from a wider point of view, but it also gives individuals a sense of purpose, sense of value, and sense of satisfaction. I have no doubt that the satisfaction I get from working hard is very related to the "work fetishism" (as the author puts it) that our society has. These two things are very intertwined.
However, we all need to value ourselves and feel satisfaction at the end of the day. I know that even in high school and middle school, before I worked hard or even knew what real work was, I would feel irritated, sluggish, and achy after a lazy day of video games and television. I couldn't sleep and was restless even though I was tired.
I also know that I have much less respect & value for other people if they do not work. By work I don't necessarily mean wake up and go to the office and come home every day. I don't mean receive a paycheck. Students are still some of the hardest workers I know, albeit a totally different type of "work". I mean do something that requires some sort of physical and / or brain power. Something that is not something that you 100% want to do. Something that challenges you and gives you something to work on and work towards. Goals, aspirations, and, most of all, movement towards those goals and aspirations.
It is easy to sit on the couch and play video games. It's easy to play video games while aspiring to be a video game designer. But aspiration is nothing without movement. I aspire to be a good singer one day but the fact that I (1) cannot sing, (2) am tone deaf, and (3) have never once tried to change either of those things mean that that random aspiration is utterly worthless. It is nothing more than a passing, fickle thought that has no bearing on who I am or what I do.
It is also easy to sit on the patio and nap in the sun. It is easy to go to bloody marys at 10am, go to the salon at 1pm, nap at 3pm, and go to the club at 9pm. For those who say "no, it's not easy to shop and drink all day...do you know how tired I am?" I would respond, "fuck you and go sit and work in an office all day." That's tiresome. That's frustration. That's exhausting. But that's work. That's doing something that is part of something bigger that gives your measly existence on this planet some sort of something that is bigger than you. Some sort of impact on the world around you.
Some of this lack of respect may stem from jealousy. I am jealous of you. But, let's be clear, I am not jealous that you are able to consistently post photos of you and all your friends drinking at noon at the beach multiple times a week. I am jealous that you can find some sort of happiness and satisfaction living like that. I cannot. I cannot sit on the beach day after day and be personally okay with myself at the end of the week, month, year. I'm not sure you can either, but oh well. That Instagram filter sure makes you look happy. And for that, I am jealous.
Another thing that may cause the lack of respect is the fact that I have a very hard time relating to people if they do not having some sort desire to do something (and the followthrough to act on their desires). if you do not have the desire to be better, act better, work better, be bigger, impact others, create, etc, then what do you have? It's not 'are you useful to me?' but rather, 'can you benefit my life in some sort of positive way?' Can you teach me something new? Can you widen my worldview? Can you provide companionship or have a conversation that will stimulate me on the level I desire? Can you help me out of a jam or provide insights into a tough situation? How can you do these things if you entire life is spent at the beach drinking and your biggest challenge in the last six months involves someone getting drunk and getting angry at someone else and then puking on your shoes? Or your biggest ordeal was that the PS3 controller died and the store was already closed and you lost the boss battle? I don't hate getting drunk or playing video games as a way to unwind. I do not respect people that do it day in and day out and are okay with that being the extent of their life.
I find that I am less likely to trust you, rely on you, or make an emotional commitment to you if you don't work because you are less relatable, you are living in a different world than me, and you appear to not have the ability / desire to be reliable. Work isn't hard. It's a bitch. It's annoying. It's challenging. But hard...no. Not everyone can do calculus. But anyone can work. (see definition of "work" above.)
My roommate would call me out for hanging out with some utterly worthless party animals this summer. They made their money selling weed/coke and working as busboys at a bar/club thing. My roommate was like "how can you stand to hang out with them? They don't do anything. That is a gross way to live. Wake up, drink, surf, swim, drink, go work an hour shift while drinking, and then drink more." I agreed with him. But I didn't stop hanging out with them on occasion. I was searching for some sort of worthless, lazy, nothingness so that I could (1) feel better about myself and my situation and (2) take a few moments to not deal with the outrageous amount of stress I was under. The best way to relieve stress to hang out with people who have no stress and no worries. They can't stress you out and they don't give a fuck about your stress because they can't relate. It was awesome. They were what I needed. But did I trust them? No. Did I respect them? No. Did I enjoy the time I spent with them? Oh yes.
I don't know. Just do something. Anything. Work. Create. Inspire. Help. It's gotta be better than not doing those things.
Maybe it's all, as the author says, a gross pile of work fetishism. Maybe it's all just western societies brainwashing of me. But if we lived in a world where we didn't all want to be better, get better, move up, impact others, work our asses off, etc, then what would we have? What would the world be? What would people do, how would things operate, etc? That is an interesting thought experiment for another day.