Thursday, June 28, 2018

Working hard. Or hardly working.

There was a book review in yesterday's Times that, imho, is well-worth taking a gander at. You can read it here. It considers the central problem of our age: what is work, and what role do we, humans, play in it?

Here's an excerpt from Graeber's book, from Strike! Magazine where portions were originally printed:

"In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain and the United States would have achieved a 15-hour week….In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen....

"Instead technology has been marshaled…to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have been created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swaths of people…spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound."

In other words, there are a whole lot of paper-pushers out there who add very little to the common good. That's Graeber's pov, anyway.

I've always myself extrapolated from Viktor Frankl's classic "Man's Search for Meaning," when I think about my place on the planet. We all have to do a lot of dumb things as we wend our way through life.

In fact, I've come to believe, it's less what you do that leads to a sense of self-worth, but how you do what you do.

How well you create even a lowly banner ad. How you help your colleagues. How you try to make things better. Even, how you bring hope and laughter to tough situations.

Going back at least to Melville's "Bartleby," people have been disconsolate at work--finding no purpose in what they do day after day after day. A wise man once said, "if you don't hate what you're doing four days out of 10, you're ahead of the game." 

I think that's true with a lot of things. Work, relationships, even children.

There's value, however, in coming in. And self-respect that comes from doing your best. No matter what.

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