Let’s face it…work is a mess…for many people, it’s gone and not coming back. And for those left? I wonder how many people actually like what they do as opposed to just getting a paycheck.
Our politicians think they can fix the work mess. Both left and right flail away about work in ways that more match their particular pair of rose-colored glasses (thank you, Immanuel Kant!) but what if what we are going through with work is….a divorce?
Work doesn’t want us anymore; but we cling to it, hope it will still love us, lie to ourselves about how much we still love it, and Work is the party that sees through the self deceiving BS. Neither party is sure where they are going next; they just don’t want to be together, deep down, any more. We say it’s necessary to stay together, but if you’ve ever been that situation, all you can think about is getting out, getting away from that which is causing you a lot of pain, necessity or no.
People getting divorced can’t see an upside when they’re going through it, all they are feeling is pain. But once apart, you can begin to heal yourself and come back around to “being productive”, which, in this case, we have no idea what that means.
23 responses to “After the love is gone….”
Yes, but what replaces “working for a living” and “paying your bills”? Are we all going to become wards of the state? Where’s the state gonna get the money?
Ah, yes, of course! But that’s not my intention to answer that here! It’s to point out that if we are in that “divorce” mindset, we’ll be working to figure that very question out! We’re not there yet, but I’m saying we WANT to be; the old relationship is broken, even if we don’t know what will replace it.
In this divorce we are like the non-working housewife/mother of the 1950s who has no other means of support. Except that in reality, she probably could at least get a pink-collar . . . job. In this divorce from work, even if work was abusive, how are we going to eat? Where are we going to live? Lilies of the field? Begging bowl? Raise chickens and vegetables? Where?
Amba, I think you give me a clue with your reference to the ’50’s woman. She didn’t have answers to your questions any more than I do. But that woman WANTS to change the game, more so than earlier generations. (A major theme of Mad Men is how 2nd Wave feminists navigate those waters
In our case, I think we will slowly but surely, trying to find the next path. The point of my post, is that the culture is still in denial about the divorce that I think is coming. We’ve still got a ways to go.
“the old relationship is broken, even if we don’t know what will replace it.”
I was just watching this. http://vimeo.com/63502573
I don’t think the actual problem is getting a paycheck. If the economy goes the way that it appears to be headed (and I don’t expect it to get there real soon; but eventually…), keeping people in enough income to support themselves will be entirely possible. For one possibility, consider if everyone got, at birth, a share account from which the dividends would pay room and board.
No, the problem will come in two places:
First, for a lot of people, work is what gives their life structure. They may not love it, but they do need it Some of them can work out what to do without it — when retirement forces them to. But they still have something to provide structure. But others, when they retire, find new work to structure their lives (even though they don’t really need the money). They may find another (at least part time) job, or they may get big into volunteer work. But others . . . just die. Whatever comes after the end of work, it will need to provide something for those kinds of people.
Second, what work provides is a way to do better economically. For lots of people, that doesn’t happen. But for most there is at least the possibility, however long the odds. And for some, hard work and some luck let them do far better than their parents ever could. Some people are happy just continuing on as they always have. But others will insist on having some way to “get ahead” — and if the structure of the economy doesn’t provide that opportunity, they will smash the economy so as to provide it.
Wj, thank you for such thoughtful remarks! Good to see! Let me address both points.
First, your point about structure is contained in the belief systems about work, but for a long time now, the foundations of those beliefs are coming undone. But, yes, a need for structure is there! This does not have to be work; it can be a variety of things such as charity, hobbies,etc. I call these non-work things “having a task”. A “task” is different than “work” in several crucial ways. The choice of task is more up to you than work, I think, so people choose tasks they are really interested in, even if others are not. Tasks are not critical to one’s survival/existence. Hence, you won’t starve if you don’t have a task. And, equally as important, all time spent and how it’s spent is YOUR choice, very much unlike work. People will choose the structure they impose on themselves.
Second, I feel you’re conflating “making money” with “work”. If you have something that people will give you more money for, it may not be work, per se. You could have a talent or knack or look that people will highly value. A friend of mine used to sort of manage a male model who made $35000 a day(!) He used to tell me that that guy had no idea of what work was; he just won the genetic lottery. I told him that if someone were to pay me $35k/day to stand around in my underwear while they took pictures…I wouldn’t care about work ever again…
If you can make people money, no one cares if you work hard or don’t work at all.
I accept your rephrasing: what (some) people need is a structure to their time and their lives. Currently, for most of them, work provides that. I could be replaced by other “tasks” provided those tasks are also sufficiently structured. that is, it isn’t enough, for these purposes, just to have a hobby. Because what is needed is something which is structure — having set hours on a regular basis, and probably is a set location or locations. Some hobbies are like that — I’m thinking of the local group which restores and runs steam trains. But others are not.
I don’t think I’m really conflaiting “making money” with “work”, except to the extent that currently, for most people, work is their only avenue to making money. If work ceases to be a necessity, we still need some way for those who are willing to make some sacrifice to make more money. Not because they need more money in any utilitarian sense. But because they either want to buy really expensive stuff or even just want the status that accrues to being rich.
To put it another way, lots of people work for reasons not directly tied to making “enough” money. If your Internet business has made you a multi-millionaire, you quite likely already have more money than you can possibly spend in a lifetime. But people in that position keep working. Some of them even start new companies. Clearly, they aren’t doing it for the money per se.
Maybe they just love what they do. Maybe they need something to structure their lives. Maybe they have an ambition to rank with Bill Gates and Waren Buffett — be names that everybody knows because of how rich they are, regardless of whether the masses really understand what they did to get there. Maybe it is simply a failure of imagination: it doesn’t occur to them to not work.
wj, again,thank you for your reply. Now we are getting closer to definitional terms! Let me ask; why do you think people need a set schedule with set hours and/or location? Isn’t that an artifact of work and not work itself? If someone has a task (as I am calling it) I’m not sure if they feel that need for those things. The task is what compels them not the “setness” of it. Flip it around for those who do succeed; it’s far from clear to me they have set schedules or locations.
My broader point is that the old calculation is becoming broken at a faster and faster rate. More and more, money is not merely a counting mechanism but a defining one; lots of people work hard and make very little, and that has less and less meaning as the culture moves onward. If you have “succeeded” financially, that’s what matters far more than work getting praise itself. In some ways, the older notion of work that formerly got high praise is now viewed negatively! In 1960 GM was proud to say it had 500,000 employees….now, that would not be seen as good! (nowadays GM has about 33,000 employees) At some macro level, if work itself had meaning, employers of huge numbers of people would get far more praise than they do, and they do not get that praise! It seems odd to hear “Work is highly important, and we’re trying to get rid of as many workers as we can.” I’ve always felt the Platonic Form of corporation would have zero employees; money goes in, widgets and more money comes out.
I wonder aloud how many people who have had a great deal of success “quit working.” Your last sentence implies they do not; but that may be just a holdover from older work culture. What are we trying to define here? I guess I’m assuming that “work” more closely relates to survival than what Warren Buffett does now with his time. Too much language related to work is too self-reinforcing; we need to break things down a bit finer.
Ron, I’m looking at the need for structure, specifically structure of time, after watching some of the people I know who have retired. (Not, by any means, all of the retirees I know!)
They were able to cope with vacations, where they were just on their own for a couple of weeks. (Although I note that, in most cases, they had themselves booked pretty heavily throughout, that might be just a matter of having lots that they wanted to do.) But once they had a long-running prospect of no structure, what happened? They seemed to be lost. Mostly they did nothing . . . just sat around “waiting to die.”
I recall, in particular, the time a decade or more ago, when my nearly 90 year old mother borke her hip. She was in a nuring home for re-hab after surgery. Her two bigest complaints about the place were 1) no Internet access(!) and 2) all of the “old people” there. Note that most of those “old people” were chronologically 20 years or more younger than she was. But they weren’t interested in anything, and didn’t do anything. Just sat there. And I think they are far from exceptional.
You may be correct that those who succeed young and do not stop working may just be hold-overs from the old culture of work. But I wonder if some of it may not be inherent psychology, rather than culture. (Admitting that the two are not totally independent.) And even if it is cultural, we still have to deal with the transition, and those who are already locked into that mindset.
wj, as much as I’d like to think that we will deal with the transition, I doubt that we will. It’s not unlike when we changed from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Younger people adapted; working at night, working in factories was very different than life on the farm. “Vacations” were more a creation of industrial culture than inherent. But I’ll bet older people chose to stay in the way of life that they already knew, and when they died out, so did that culture with them.
We may not deal with the transition well, but deal with it we will. In fact, we are getting a head start, because a lot of people who got laid off in the last decade were people in their 50s and early 60s, i.e. older people. And they have been seriously unlikely to gget rehired even as the economy has started to pick up again. Which means that they are facing the end of work earlier.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of my generation never bothered to save much for retirement. Even those whose income was such that they could have done so. Largely, they seem to have been blindly assuming that they would be able to save towards the end of their working lives, and that otherwise Social Security would be adequate to support them in the manner to which they were accustomed. Suddenly: no “last decade of their career” and no eligibility yet for Social Security either. (Or only on terms which seriously reduce the already inadequate monthly payments. Permanently.) Their only economic hope is that their parents, who did save, will leave them a siginficant estate at an opportune moment.
But we can start to see already how the transition will work. And what do we see. A lot of desperate people who are praying for long term unemployment to get etended. And otherwise are combining a frantic search for some kind of job with a depressed conclusion that they will never find anything. It’s a transition, but clearly not a pretty one.
As for the young people adapting, not sure how well that is going this time around. Industrialization was at least partially a demand pull phenomena. Young people move to cities and took factory jobs because it paid better than what they had before. The same reason that people in poor countries take jobs in sweat shops — that’s better, financially, than what they had. (And easier work, too. As anyone who has actually done farm work, especially subsitance-farming work, will know.)
But this time there isn’t really an alternate demand for people to pull young people into the new economy. At some point, those who are still living with their parents into their late 20s are going to discover that thier parents can no longer support them. And while they probably have found ways to occupy their time, that still leaves the question of how to provide for them economically. If we have ideas on how to do that, even ideas which are currently politicially poisonous, they are not prominent.
wj, your reply is highlighting why I started this blog in the first place! Part of the problem with the transition is that we are still working under older ideas of work; what it means, how relevant it is to people’s lives, etc. I have made that comparison to farm work more than once myself. I’m trying to map out, figure out and see what we can do to change the “mental landscape” of this problem, which I indeed see as a problem! Most of the proposed solutions are still stuck in the older mindset, and I’m convinced that we just can’t simply go back to what worked in past eras. (i.e. unionization)
I am in part working on the belief that things do not necessarily “find solutions”, even if the need for solutions is strong. That is what a frame of reference will do for you; the older work mindset has “explanations” for the people who have “failed”. (I put those terms in quotes because they may have had meaning at some point, but now they have lost their capacity to explain and deal with current realities)
As for age issues….I am most certainly in the group of problems that you mentioned. Bur I decided not to really talk about myself or to personalize this blog; I’m trying to look ahead, even there isn’t much ‘ahead’ for me!
“A lot of desperate people who are praying for long term unemployment to get extended. And otherwise are combining a frantic search for some kind of job with a depressed conclusion that they will never find anything.”
Hey, I resemble that statement.
Fortunately in my case, I got used to the “gig” economy when I was pursuing a career in the arts in my 20’s and early 30’s, followed by a long period of stability where I was able to save. But there are many people my age and in my position who were “good boys and girls” and who played by the rules and they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them.
In a way, I feel almost validated that the way I lived my life when I was younger–that made me a cautionary tale for my elders to relate to my youngers–has prepared me for the way we’re transitioning over right now.
That being said, I could still use another long period of stability until I get my second wind. You get tired when you get older.
Amen to that! I hear you all too well, as you may have seen on my Ambiance posts! Thanks for your remarks here!
BTW, I showed up as “brunobaby” in the first comment and then “Melinda.” So that makes two of me I’m supporting.
Such a cute couple… :0
There will always be “work,” as long as we define it as a way to survive. Eventually, everyone who can’t find a way to survive here will go someplace else, if there ever is a place that does have work.
I can’t understand why anyone needs structure imposed on them, but I know there are people who at least think they do.
But structure can’t be the real reason our society needs work. It needs it because there is no other way for the majority of people to survive.
You can’t just pay everyone enough to live and expect the society to continue. Who would pay them, for one thing?
The above is a link to a cartoon. ^^^
the older work mindset has “explanations” for the people who have “failed”
And part of the challenge of coming up with a new paradigm is that those who are most tied to the older mindset are also those who vote the most reliably. Which means that any approach to a transition, at least in the US, is going to have to be one which has minimal government involvement. Because, after all, they know that the only reason people are out of work is that they are unwilling to work — since when they were working age, there was always work for the willing….
That doesn’t mean that we won’t get thru the transition. Just that the options for doing so are constrained.
wj, and similarly, from the same cartoonist:
Apparently, we’re all Millennials here, although I suspect we’re all Baby Boomers. Hey, again I’m ahead of my time!