Work: the only show in town

The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror. — David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

I’ve said it many times but work is the last thing we want to do or should be doing . . . with our time/life.

Anything but goddamn work*.

Of course, you may have a very different purview of the current world and that’s fine but absent the money would you aspire to, wish to or dream of what you’re now doing or have done in the past?

I wouldn’t.

What’s the alternative?


What is the alternative?

Now, I’m no historian, anthropologist or archeologist but I’m pretty sure — damn sure in fact — that give or take a few hundred years, we weren’t all brainwashed to believe in the myth that work was the only game in town. I don’t want to speculate on what we might otherwise have done, and of course there would have been a lot less of us to have to wrestle the problem to the ground, but I’d like to think we weren’t wired to eat, sleep and drink work to the exclusion of all else; or that we thought our lives were determined by our job titles; or we had a sensibility that ensured we knew the difference between earning a living (a strange turn of phrase) and being true to who we are but not through the workplace.

But, even if I’m misplaced or slightly addled in my invective, I’d like to think that if you went far enough back in our history you’d discover that work wasn’t something we did — not in the sense that it is now understood — but we merely lived and everything we did was shaped around that (if you can call it that) lifestyle; namely, we knew how to find food, shelter and water and make a fire when and if we needed it.

I recognise that these dirt-under-the-fingernail times are not coming back and no one is wishing for a more hunter-gatherer existence (they seem to have been consigned to the reality TV paradigm) but surely there’s got to be a better way to conceive of our lives and the generations to come (if the planet can still support them . . .) than the current modus operandi of work, i.e. a pyramid structure where a few people at the top make a lot of money and the rest of us, well, we endure as best we can, for as long as we can.

What else do you suggest smartarse?

. . . [T]herein lies the problem.

You see, it’s not just work that’s the problem, it’s the fact that the whole neo-liberal/capitalist structure has been built on the shores of our labour and if money is going to continue to make money, then there is no way we can break the cycle or so it seems. In other words, it’s not just work that’s at stake but the whole world order; and if that ends, what then?

Yes, what then?

Of course, we’ve come close before when the banks started to wobble but so far, at least in the West, things have not changed sufficiently to upend our reliance on work.

Perhaps the truth is that there is and never will be an alternative. We’re hoisted by our own petard and we’ll just have to lump it but I do wish, in fact, yearn for, a different set of questions and/or promises from those people who so explicitly and fervently proselytize work as if that is what we’re all born to do.

Phooey I say.

Great gobs of phooey.

I do recognise that part of me is talking rubbish — not for the first time — because otherwise I would not be chained to the wheel of daily misfortune but I have, thank god, escaped the meatgrinder once in my life to paddle my own quixotic canoe and I’ve promised myself not that I’ll get back to those halcyon days but I will take some time away from work before I have to return to the fray one last time. This isn’t so much an item to tick off my Bucket List (which I don’t have in case you’re wondering — I’m too pessimistic for that!) but something that I need to do to, if it doesn’t sound too highfalutin, so that I can get back to the land, find my soul and reconnect with my ancestors.

Anyhow, I’d love to know what you think — about work that is.

Or put it another way, if you weren’t working or didn’t have to, what would you do with your time?



PS. Please find below the latest podcast that I’ve managed to find on Spotify with Stephen Jenkinson — in case you’re interested. (If you know me, you’ll know why I’m sharing this — I hope.)

*Please read the Abolition of Work by Bob Black