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If Work Dominated Your Every Moment, Would Life Be Worth Living?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/02/09/if-work-dominated-your-every-moment-would-life-be-worth-living

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This clip puts the exclamation point to this article:

~ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJPpW1bBTRI

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Some of it boils down to what you are willing to give up to have a certain standard of living and some of it has to do only with what you have to do to survive. Many Americans overwork themselves a jobs they don’t like just to be able to purchase things they don’t need. Many Americans also overwork themselves at jobs they don’t like just to be able to eat, put a roof over their heads and go to the doctor. Social safety nets help people become free of “slave labor”. No wonder the populations in the “social democracies” ring the bell on happiness while America can’t even get the hammer raised. Show me a person with a job they hate, no matter what the pay, and I will show you an unhappy person at heart. Is it any wonder almost half of the population voted for Trump? He might have been promising smoke and mirrors but the disadvantaged saw it as being better than the status quo Hillary was promising.

This is largely a male way of thinking. It’s atomizing the world without any logic or sense of reality. It’s science fiction.

Most women will have children and therefore have a time in their life when paid employment (‘work’) outside their home or domestic sphere does not dominate their life. When you are pregnant and the baby kicks you hard, females are politely reminded. Men do not have such a fertility time limit as women do. Nor do they have to deal with the physical, biological, chemical, psychological, etc. changes from a pregnancy and childbirth.

We need healthcare centers in every neighborhood------build a real support system for the community.

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And that means more jobs.

If someone’s goals and pleasure align with your vocation you should be a happy camper, but alone and away time is just plain healthy.

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We have to transform the nature of work. Socialists correctly describe work under capitalism as wage-slavery.

When Frederick Douglas went to work in a shipyard in Baltimore alongside white wage workers, he wrote:

"The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to ONE slave-holder, and the former belongs to ALL the slave-holders, collectively. The white slave has taken from his, by indirection, what the black slave had taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers.”

We should also remember Karl Marx’s aim when it comes to the abolition of work.
“…in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic…”

The World Socialist Party of the United States
~https://www.wspus.org/

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What does the author mean, “if”? Everyone who has to work overtime or take an extra job to keep a roof over their head or afford medical expenses is there already. Anyone who’d be homeless within a few months of a job market collapsing is thinking about it every day. And no, it’s not worth it, but we didn’t sign up for the country to go down the drain in successive recessions that the rich get bailed out of but everybody else pays for. Work is supposed to pay off, so you can actually live. When it doesn’t, you know the owning class is working to get slavery back.

No, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it to just exist while driving the engines that kill the planet. If anyone is just now figuring this out, welcome aboard, but some of us have been here far too long already and a serious solution is called for, yesterday.

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Cult behavior run businesses could be outlawed. Talking to a 23 year old who works twelve hour shifts and rotates to second and third shift several times during the month, “I can’t tell you how tired I am and how many times I have fallen asleep driving home. I am glad I do not have a family. Just me.”

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Taggart is tackling something of interest here, but we might refine this a bit.

Work means many different things.

  • It’s work because it expends energy to move an object.
  • It’s work because someone bribes or threatens someone to do it.
  • It’s work because it involves putting energy and attention towards resolving or improving some thing or things.

These do not come with the same costs. They do not resemble each other in value.

  • The first involves exercise; some moderate amount is good for people.
  • The second has no intrinsic value, though the particular work might have value or be damaging.
  • The third creates value.

The first should be engaged but limited by the capacity of the person. The third can be engaged in all day and much of the night, potentially, though some particular work might be more exhausting.

The second should not only be limited, but avoided altogether if possible.

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The author fails to realize in America - for far too many work does dominate every moment. Not because they want to, but because they need to keep roofs over their (& their families) head, their bellies full. These aren’t “middle or upper class” people who are bored with their own lives - these people can’t afford to “get sick”!
In the meantime as the middle class shrinks because manufacturing has been off shored to low/no wage nations, those workers are also working harder and longer hours - if they have been able to find new jobs.
“Leisure time” has been redefined and as policies that solely benefit the rich and corporate are enacted, more and more people will find as they continue to vote against their own economic interest in favor of those “cultural issues/racism” that they clutch their pearls over - work will come to dominate the lives of ALL working people!

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A great source on this subject would have been Barbara Ehrenreich. Not because she’s a cool German philosopher, but because she actually interviewed working poor people across this country, wrote a book about it - “Nickel and Dimed” was an up-front, hard-hitting read, even when it was written in 2001 before two Bush-era recessions made a whole lot more people poor:

“The ‘working poor’ … are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone.” - Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, p. 221

So maybe this isn’t just a cute what-if exercise? The privileged entrepreneurs had ought to ask themselves what they can do to not be a part of the problem.

I don’t even dare try to speak for the people in the poor countries the West bombs for oil. What if depleted uranium dominated your every moment?? I’ll just posit that they exist in large, and have words for their experience that go beyond “dukkha”.

Exactly… and it’s not just that manufacturing jobs went away, even though the planned-obsolescent crap still comes to our markets. It’s that the profit from that went to the wealthy, who also bowed out of having a country that would affordably educate and re-train the workforce that’d gotten those people so rich to begin with.

While reading this, the author is making the case that work is a destructive burden. It makes me wonder if the Right and the Left have anything in common so we can move forward as “united” American’s.
What are our commonalities?
How can we live together if we have this constant friction and antagonism?
If we are this far apart in the way we view our lives, what is the solution?

The essay cited by this piece regarding a total work society makes strong arguments against left-leaning economic and political views. Pieper’s essay is worth reading in its entirety.

Ugh, check your privilege, Taggart. Classic solipsistic, self-indulgent blindness of the rich. As others have noted, the vast majority of people aren’t letting work consume their very being because they want to. They are being forced to in order to not die. Modern capitalism is an insatiable gaping maw and they are the food, sacrificed by the millions so that a few can have more than they possibly need.