Wednesday, April 7, 2010
An interesting one-two punch of widely-covered news stories landed on our collective eyeballs last week: first, the jobs report told us that more people have jobs now, or at least less people have no job; then, a bunch of miners died on the job. There's usually a bit of irony sprinkled on top of tragedy (Romeo & Juliet's ending is kind of funny, for instance), and the coal-black joke here is that those miners would still be alive and above ground if they were unemployed.
Not everyone's job is as bad as being a coal miner, but unless you're one of those lucky people who get money for what they love to do—and those people are fucking few and far between—you hate your job. It might not a particularly emotional hatred right now—you might have hated it at first and then settled into a semi-comfortable rut, like one of those once-passionate, now loveless marriages, only in reverse—but if I asked the majority of people on the planet if they hated their jobs, they would probably pause and say, “No, I don't hate it exactly. Parts of it are very enjoyable. I've had jobs that were a lot worse and if I stay here I can become assistant manager/senior fry cook/the guy who gets to hold the gun and order us around.” Let's face it—you hate your job, and if you don't, you probably should.
Some time ago I wrote a post about the problems with unemployment, but the reason you feel bad when you are unemployed is not that you don't have a job, it's that almost everyone else does. In Modern Capitalism, no one can literally force you to work, but if you don't work you don't have money, which means you are a failure. If you don't have a job, your parents, roommates, and the people you panhandle from will tell you to get one. If you don't have a job, society in general will conspire to make you feel like shit. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” the right-wingers will yell at you, while the left-wingers will try to enroll you in job training programs and reduced-price housing. If you don't have a job for a while, the government will stop sending you checks, advertisers will stop catering to your demographic, and even the bleedingest-hearted liberal will start thinking that maybe some people are lazy and don't deserve to participate in the global economy.
Everyone who tells you to get a job is cynical at best and a raving moron at worst. Jobs are the problem. Jobs rob us of our dignity and the majority of jobs destroy some small part of the planet. For every life-saving surgeon or genuinely good hearted social worker, there's two soldiers willing to fire into a crowd of civilians when ordered, or a pair of cops who just want to bust brown-colored heads. Coal miners only make the news when they die in the mines, but their jobs don't get better when the cameras leave—they're still sweating in the dark caves, prying black rock out of the ground, and contributing to an industry that is slowly filling the sky with smoke. Jobs are the problem, and if you're not part of the problem, you're part of the solution.
If I was a pragmatist, I'd advise everyone to get a job just to put sandwiches on the table and Flaming Lips records in your ears. But pragmatism is horrible and boring. Here's what you should do: if you don't like your job, quit. We probably only get one life, and thanks to “jobs” everyone spends the majority of it doing a series of unenjoyable menial tasks. Fuck that—let's all just quit. If you don't like what you're doing, you should do something else. If you, like the majority of people in the world, can't do something you find enjoyable and rewarding and keep a roof over your head at the same time, there's something wrong with the world's priorities, not your own.
Jobs mean dying in a mine, either all at once, literally, or very slowly, metaphorically. Yet most of us have them, and are glad we do. The alternative of homelessness and abject poverty is even worse. We just need to come up with better alternatives