You want to work for a living

No really, you do.

See, you’re a human being. And human beings are social animals. That means we are born with a host of strong drives that bind us together into communities which work together toward common goals.

To be a human in modern society is to belong to many of these overlapping and interlocking communities, from apartments to internationally alliances, from families to Fortune 500 companies, from friendships to fraternities and well beyond.

And one of the most important drives which binds us together in so many ways is the our desire to contribute to the community we are in. We not only desire to belong to a community, we vitally need to devote our energies to said community. If we cannot, we feel empty, purposeless, and isolated.

Modern life does such a poor job of arranging for this deep need to be vitally met that most people think they only work for a living because society forces them to do so. They assume that if people did not need money in order to survive, life would be one long vacation that never ended.

This is a perfectly understandable from the point of view of the average tired, stressed, harried worker. Whether you are the mailroom drudge or the top boss, there are many days when you really don’t feel like going to work in the morning and wish you were anywhere else but at your job. The average person of today does not love their job, even if it’s the one they chose as a career in their college days, and from the point of view of the leisure deprived masses, an endless supply of what they feel they get so little of sounds like the best possible thing in the world.

It’s like a person suffering from dehydration thinking nothing could be better than a lake of their favorite beverage, or a child dreaming of a world of unlimited candy. It’s perfectly understandable. But in the end, it’s not really very realistic.

Realistically, eventually your need is sated and other drives come to the fore. You have enough to drink, you get tired of the candy…. and you have had enough vacation, and want to get back to work.

If you are still not convinced that we have a very strong drive to contribute our labour to a community, ask yourself this : why are little kids so eager to try to ‘help’? It is universally known that wee ones are always trying to participate in what the people around them are doing. They want to feel included and valued. It is only later in life that we become jaded and guarded and lose contact with this desire, as school, jobs, and other obligations put us into a permanent state of leisure deprivation, and we dream of that unlimited vacation with nothing to do and nobody to answer to at all.

But really, wouldn’t you get bored? Don’t you remember getting bored of summer as a kid and kind of wishing school would start again? If you could have the exact same income with no work, what, exactly, would you DO all day? There is no leisure activity which would not grow tiresome after a while. Sooner or later, just pleasing yourself would grow very boring, and you would get tired of deciding what to do with your time all the time, and you would look for something more meaningful to do.

This, incidentally, is a major cause of malaise amongst the wealthy, especially the so-called “leisure class”, especially amongst the generations which come after the founding of the family fortune. It is a patently cruel thing to expect human beings to do nothing meaningful with their lives simply to fulfill some ancient patriarch’s fantasy that “his children won’t have to work for a living”. And the cruelty is compounded tenfold by society’s firm insistence that their lives are wonderful, the best lives possible in our society, and how dare they not be blissfully happy when they are living out our dreams?

And this malaise plagues society in general, because our jobs are cold and impersonal and almost never give us the feeling that we are valued and recognized for our labour. They just reluctantly cut you a paycheck and that is supposed to be it.

And society on a larger scale requires nothing of us at all in terms of labour. It doesn’t even ask us to pay our taxes. It just takes them. In days gone by, our communities required some degree of labour from all citizens in order to function. In a primitive society, everyone has a defined role, things they are required to do in order to keep their society functioning. But in modern times, all we do is vote. One question asked of us every four years. That’s a fairly thin diet by anyone’s standards.

So really, you do want to work for a living. It’s just that modern society does such a lousy job of making you feel connected to your community and valued and recognized for your contributions that you lose sight of all that and dream, instead, of a permanent vacation which would likely turn into a nightmare.

The real secret is in doing what you want to do, not in doing nothing at all. And being a human being, what your want to do is work hard at something which is meaningful to you and be recognized and valued for it.

Human beings want, and need, to work.

2 thoughts on “You want to work for a living

  1. Just don’t let conservatives find out, or they’ll push even harder for workfare.

    I wonder whether workfare would work if it were voluntary, so you could choose either welfare or workfare. It would probably work if, firstly, it paid better than welfare, and secondly, there was no chance of just finding a normal job.

    * If it paid better, people would want to have access to more money; supposedly, that’s why welfare recipients get about half the living wage, so that getting a job is an comparatively attractive prospect. Some people, with issues about “taking handouts,” would probably choose workfare even if it paid the same, but more people would choose it if it meant having money to go out to dinner once a week and buy the occasional DVD like a normal person.

    * It would have to be during a depression where there’s no chance of finding a real job, because if workfare were voluntary, workfare recipients would be searching through the workfare job listings looking for something doable, and at that point, why not just job-hunt? That way you get a job that pays more.

    I know what I would do if I suddenly became obscenely wealthy tomorrow. But not everyone could think of an answer to how they would employ their time if they didn’t have to worry about money. I wonder how they solved this problem in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The only non-Starfleet people we ever meet are great scientists and artists.

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