Tuesday, April 26, 2005


by AJ/Skald

If a household gets a washing machine, you never hear the family members who used to do the laundry by hand complain that this "puts them out of work." But strangely enough, if a similar development occurs on a broader social scale it is seen as a serious problem -- "unemployment" -- which can only be solved by inventing more jobs for people to do.

Proposals to spread the work around by implementing a slightly shorter workweek seem at first sight to address the matter more rationally. But such proposals do not face the fundamental irrationality of the whole social system based on market relations. While reacting to one manifestation of this irrationality (the fact that some people work long hours while others are jobless), they tend at the same time to reinforce the illusion that most present-day work is normal and necessary, as if the only problem were that for some strange reason it is divided up unequally. The absurdity of 90% of existing jobs is never mentioned.
-- Ken Knabb

Ahhh... what a great quote. "The absurdity of 90% of existing jobs...", doesn't that sum up most employment? Your average Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, McDonalds, corporate office jobs come to mind. I've worked plenty of jobs like that and they are indeed absurd. Boring. Monotonous. Useless.

I celebrate developments like Amazon.com,.... do I really need a poor slob to ring up the books for me?

The problem-- without these absurd activities, a great many people would starve- given the current system. Not sure what the mega "solution" is... but for starters, a simpler life helps.

A radically simpler life makes part-time work livable. I did it myself when van living. I had a very comfortable life working part time at Roly Poly and also teaching English. I worked less than 20 hours a week but ate very well, had a social life, and even saved money.

Then there's the young homeless professional plan... wherein you work fulltime, but only half the year (or every other year). However you slice it, half the work is necessary.

And it doesnt feel like a hardship. Once you begin simplifying, you find that most of the junk you spend money on is unecessary and unfulfilling anyway. All those gadgets-- they dont bring happiness beyond a fleeting thrill.

People do this differently, but I advocate a slow and gradual approach. Start whittling down a tiny bit at a time. Move to a slightly cheaper apartment. Get rid of a few things, a few clothes. Trade in the new car for a used car.

Take a break whenever you feel you are depriving yourself. Dont force it. Once comfortable at the new level... set out to simplify a little more. Thats how I did it. It took a few years. But eventually I lived in a Nissan Sentra! Not that Im selling that option, but it shows how far you can go. And its always a comfort to me knowing I did it-- Knowing I could do it again, if necessary.

Whatever level you stop at, youll find that your needs are fewer while your options have increased. Your need for work is lessened. Your options for leisure, fun, travel, art, friends, family, etc. have increased. And thats what its all about.


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