Our obsession with work

Here’s the Tweet that started me thinking:

Why are we obsessed with work?

Of course, the first thing to identify is the meaning of work.

Well, for me, it connotes something I least want to do — it wasn’t always that way.

Others will see it as their ‘life’s work’.

And I imagine a few people have never stopped long enough to give it much thought.

But think about our proto-human cousins. Save for any issue of language or how they communicated, I’m doubtful if work was their sine qua non (which appears the case with so many people) but, instead, the business of the day was staying alive. And that, in modern terms, is where I think we’ve arrived; namely, work is keeping us alive by dint of all it provides.

Fine as it goes.

But imagine giving a speech on work at a School assembly and either because you believe it the case or you were asked to frame things this way, your pitch would be to stress the importance of work and why everyone had to get the best grades possible if they wanted to climb the greasy pole of career success. Sure, you could talk about all the great advances that work had achieved, the ability to come fully alive in and through our work and you’re own love of the craft, but you’re bound to find one or two kids in the audience staring you down, who didn’t buy into your shtick — not one little bit. And then came the Q/A session. Those same kids said something along the lines that what you were describing was nothing like their experience apropos their parents/carers who hated what they did and only did so for the money.

What then? You tell them:

change jobs
or go self-employed.

Possibly, but from my purview, it’s all much of a muchness, particularly when, as is so often the case, your heart isn’t in it and money is the only show in town.

I’ll be honest though, this sort of post could never seek to resolve the rubric one way or the other. There will always be people who will opine upon work as a necessary evil; but, equally (and whether I believe them or not…), there will be a cohort who say they are doing their life’s work, which is akin to spiritual enlightenment.

Whatever your position, though, one thing is clear to me: work is the engine room of the capitalist programme and is at the core of the shitstorm (i.e. the Anthropocene) that’s lapping at our shores. And in that space, it’s about time we tried to reimagine a place where we all came together in a village-minded way and asked each other what we really needed beyond a car, house, material possessions and a bit of fun. Imagine instead living in the gift or time-banking economy and upending all we’ve been told about building pyramids for the Billionaire class — or whoever is pulling the levers these days.

To be clear, this post is only a primer for a much more detailed discussion on the subject but it’s my fundamental belief that the last thing we need right now is to discuss a better version of a moribund system and instead to start again as if we were all guardians of mother earth and not, by omission or commission, its death-dealing destroyers.

Take care.