Ok, this entry is essentially a continuation of the previous one, where I’d been speculating that fundamentally the vast majority of human beings do not seek freedom in the sense of freedom from constraints, or “negative freedom” as described by Isaiah Berlin, amongst others. Instead, they appear to desire more income in order to acquire more material goods, or to put it in a more bilious form, they desire to climb the rat ladder so as to attain self-satisfaction by comparing themselves with their fellow rats. So when people whine about work, it’s not really work they’re whining about, it’s what they perceive to be low income and status. Take the rat out of his rat cage and he’ll go nuts. He’d rather be in the cage fighting with his fellow rodents and occasionally scratching at the bars, rather than be placed outside his prison where he can discover that he’s alone, that there is nothing outside of his enclosure and that without interaction with his fellow rats his sense of self and purpose dissolves and he’s left stewing unbearably in a puddle of his own nothingness. A lovely situation, I’m sure you’ll agree.
I’ve come across a couple of other indications that work is, for most human beings, the prison they love. I’m still reading Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and The Last Man, a thumpingly good read, and came across an interesting side discussion. Fukuyama quotes a passage from Volume 3 of Marx’s Capital where Marx speaks of ‘the realm of freedom’ where Man will finally be able to realise his true potential. This realm of freedom will only be reached, however, once the realm of necessity is reduced, or in other words the time necessarily spent in producing life’s necessities is shortened. Marx states that ‘The shortening of the working day is its [the realm of freedom’s] basic prerequisite’. This, to me, sounds reasonable. Now Fukuyama also quotes Marx saying that in an ideal society one could “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner”. Doesn’t sound so bad to me, but tellingly enough in the footnotes Fukuyama states that “It is hard to believe that this famous vision from The German Ideology was meant seriously. Apart from the economic consequences of abolishing the division of labour, it is not clear that a life of such dilettantism could ever be satisfying” (My italics). Now, note the patronising tone of that remark. Acquiring the necessities of life in the morning and satisfying your basic needs so as to have the remainder of the day free is regarded as dilettantism! Apparently we should all be slaving our balls off 24/7 for....well, what exactly? I also feel obliged to point out the hypocrisy of Fukuyama’s remark. Here is a well-remunerated academic, paid handsomely for writing, reading and talking about topics he finds fascinating, living in a world where 95% of wage-earners hate their jobs and he condemns Marx’s vision as dilettantish! What a deluded hypocrite!
Something similar can be levelled against Noam Chomsky. Now I think Chomsky is a secular saint on account of his political writings and the world will be an even darker place than it already is when he passes on. Interestingly, though, Chomsky generally eschews discussing his vision of an ideal society. There is, however, one long and detailed interview with him from 1976 where he goes into detail concerning the Anarcho-Syndicate type of society he would favour. (Available at http://libcom.org/library/relevance-anarcho-syndicalism-noam-chomsky-interviewed-peter-jay) Thing is, when questioned about work and the fact that most people find it a drain and a crushing obligation, Chomsky becomes somewhat evasive. He states that “if it's [work] a task taken on just out of interest, fine, that can be done.” Ummm, yeah, sure, but how much of what we call work is like that. The interviewer replies by saying that “I put it to you that there may be a danger that this view of things is a rather romantic delusion, entertained only by a small elite of people who happen, like professors, perhaps journalists, and so on, to be in the very privileged situation of being paid to do what anyway they like to do.” Spot on, sir. It is precisely that elite who are having a fine time, and seem to be unaware of the privileged position they occupy. (For an in-depth critique of this interview, see Michael Albert’s article athttp://www.zcommunications.org/querying-young-chomsky-by-michael-albert)
So it would seem that not only do the majority not seek to escape work, the privileged minority elite, who should really know better, seem to be under the impression that everyone else is engaged in the kind of enjoyable, rewarding occupations that they work in. What a mess.
In conclusion, apologies for the incoherence of and ranting and raving element in this entry. I’m pretty jaded these days, angry at all the bullshit I see around me 24/7, loathe being a human being and regret having been born. I’m sure you understand:-)