Another entry on my favourite bugbear (apart from existence): work. In last week’s UK budget the Chancellor announced that the state pension age would now be linked to increases in human longevity. The prediction appears to be that from around 2030 people in the UK will have to work until they’re 71 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/mar/24/state-pension-retirement-graduates ).
What this really brings home for me is the emptiness of the progress myth. Back in the 19th century, all of the Utopians thinkers (Fourier, Marx, etc) were predicting that industrial developments would inevitably reduce the amount of human labour undertaken and free up people’s lives. Instead we are seeing the opposite. As medical research and health development has lengthened life, child mortality has dwindled, populations have boomed, and so more material goods, food and living space is required for the 7 billion + bipeds to live. Hence the amount of required labour time has increased, not decreased, a wonderful example of the Janus-faced nature of so-called “progress”. Furthermore, leisure is no longer associated with the rich. According to recent studies, the richest are working the hardest and longest; only the poor are idle. This represents quite a turnaround from previous eras when those at the top enjoyed their “cultured” leisure while the masses toiled. This strikes me as remarkably pointless: you work more and more and accumulate more wealth so as to.......work more and more. Of course, the old hedonic treadmill and keeping up with the neighbour factor come into play here. Can’t afford to be seen to be slipping behind in the rodent status league!
To finish, this connecting of work to longevity also provides yet another incentive not to reproduce. Anyone in the UK who has a child now can be reasonably sure that the product will be forced to toil for even more of its existence than previous generations of Homo Rapiens. So the parents gooy-wooeying over their DNA dolls can rest assured that when they’re long in their graves, their sperm and egg mutants will still be hunched over the desk/machine toiling away, waiting and waiting and waiting until they can be released from their labour, so as to begin the steep descent back to the nothingness from whence they came and would have been better off never having been extracted from.