A shitbeat concerning my value as a human.
I’m coming now to the slow, frustrating realization that as an adult, my life will ever be dominated by performing paid labor. This will and must be the primary consideration in any decision, no matter how big or how small, I make as an adult human living where and when I do. It’s an awful thing to wake up to out of a late, heady adolescence. The first green buds of freedom are blooming into translucent flowers tattooed with “WORK WORK WORK,” that awful reminder that my worth as a human is measured solely by how much money I can sell my time for.
I don’t see any escape, either. I could settle into that pattern, a drink or a toke at the end of a day to forget for a few hours; weekends crammed full of friends and parties, crammed even more full of dread at the thought of the coming Monday. What a sad, constrained prospect that seems. To be sure, I am grateful for my ability to earn a living. Compared with most other humans, I’m absolutely swimming in the cream of life, separated and buoyant. And as far as jobs go, I do like mine. I did choose my own path and I’m content on a daily basis. But this concept, the idea of life as the slow prostitution of giving life-hours for monies which I in turn trade back for more life-hours, is starting to make me feel like a numb dead end. The world is a company store in a company town. There is no individuality. There is no end game.
A few days here and there for a backpacking trip or a music festival, this is not the freedom I dreamt of as a child living with my parents. And of course I don’t want to be a child again. I like that I can have boys over and swear and smoke as much weed as my little lungs can take, but then I must face the overarching twin themes of adulthood: death and taxes. I must pay rent, I must perform my self, the social niceties that are required to maintain interpersonal relationships. Even as a woke individual, which I consider myself to be, I must live within the constraints of the spacetime I occupy. I can’t take three months to wander the Andes. I can’t live spontaneously. I would get fired, then need to get hired again, and the stress of that is deterrent enough to throw cold water on my daydreams. At least I can have daydreams.
I would love to revamp the system. I don’t think everyone—or truly anyone—needs to work 40 hours/week in order for us to continue living in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. There are so many jobs that could be done more easily and efficiently by machines and this is something that scares us. We should celebrate that fact! It seems to me, too, that there are whole sectors of the economy that exist for the express purpose of creating more work. There are so many goods and services—take for example the whole production of femininity—that need not exist at all. Time and energy spent waxing body hair, selling juice cleanses, creating “fashion,” are wasted in my eyes. Creating a need, thus creating a market, thus creating cash flow, this process is repulsive to me. Surely the New Deal was a net positive, and I understand that the creation of a need for labor under the economic paradigm of the day is desirable. Surely, within this paradigm, high rates of full-time employment are great. But a New New Deal that maybe restructures our concept of work/life balance, tipping the scales away from work and towards living, would be even greater.
We could easily accomplish this. Even in the world now, even in the consumption-driven global economy and with this universal, pathological lust for growth, growth, ever more growth, there is room for improvement. Among developed countries, the US has pretty abysmal stats reflecting paid time off. Most workers in OECD states get about one month of guaranteed, even legally required paid vacation/holidays per year. We in the US have nothing like that, there is no paid time off requirement to speak of in this country, not even paid parental leave (source: centers for policy and economic research, f*ck proper citations).
What I wouldn’t give for the chance to take a sabbatical every few years. What I wouldn’t give to live in a world where the labor theory of value didn’t apply directly to living human beings. Our economy is wasteful; it wastes resources, it wastes human lives. It hurts to be a cog in this machine, right down to the soul. And of course, as the Buddha said, desire is the root of all pain. Good for those who are able to overcome and achieve Nirvana. But maybe life shouldn’t be just about denying the self in order to be a good cog.