Why do we still pretend crap jobs give our lives meaning?
Leaf blowers are everything wrong with capitalism. . . . I’ll explain that in a minute.
We all know times are irredeemably grim, and they’re only getting worse. The unemployment level in America seems to be setting the record books aflame, and for some bizarre reason those numbers correlate nicely with the number of Americans under 40 living with their parents again. Understandably, the entire country is a little on edge. If I spend more than 30 minutes around my parents, one eye starts twitching, a dull ringing settles into my inner ear canal, and I start to think Rachel Maddow (which they leave on 24/7 as if she’s Christmas music at Macy’s) makes some logical sense. Point being, in terms of discomfort, I would imagine living with your parents in your late thirties ranks somewhere between erectile dysfunction and having a brain-eating parasite.
Anyway, back to unemployment. The Economic Policy Institute recently released new numbers showing, “Unemployment has especially skyrocketed for young workers in the COVID-19 labor market. . . . The overall unemployment rate for young workers ages 16–24 jumped from 8.4% to nearly 25% from spring 2019 to spring 2020 … Spring 2020 unemployment rates were even higher for young Black, Hispanic, and Asian American/Pacific Islander workers – close to 30% for all three groups.”
Unemployment is raging. Out. Of. Control.
Forgive me a quick aside about the inner workings of systemic racism. As those unemployment numbers make clear, not every problem in America involves racism, but every problem in America also involves racism. Systemic racism deniers refuse to comprehend this. When shit is bad for young people – it’s even worse for black young people. When life sucks for the elderly poor in the United States – it sucks even more for elderly poor Hispanics. If the police are using weapons of war to crack activist heads – they’re cracking black activist heads twice as hard. If there’s a clean water problem in America – the water in Indigenous communities isn’t just unclean, it has chunks of shit in it!
(Usually chunks of something Dupont used to produce Teflon™. I mean, what’s a few thousand people with cancer in order to ensure the egg slides right off the pan?)
Now let’s break down this unemployment problem because much like a good one-night stand, you must get to the bottom. (I’m only half sure I understand what that sentence meant.) So, the surface problem is obvious: a lot of young people are unemployed. They don’t have money, they can’t pay rent, they can’t pay their student loans, they can’t afford food or life, they can only buy a regular coffee at Starbucks instead of the Frappe Unicorn Caramel Almond Juice Latte™. So that’s one reason employment is important.
But if we excavate down to the second layer, we find a more important – and largely censored – quandary: Why should we all have to be slaves to the labor market to survive in the first place?
Many people work their asses off grinding away at awful monotonous crap that shouldn’t even have to get done at all. Our economy overflows with useless work. Utterly meaningless jobs, profoundly redundant tasks, excessively bureaucratic nonsense, woefully vapid spectacle production, joylessly soulless drudgery. They proliferate everywhere one looks.
For example, daily outside my apartment window, in a parking lot, no fewer than three Leaf Blower People (technical terminology) blow the fuck outta thousands of leaves. The entire neighborhood sounds like the middle of a nonconsensual monster truck rally for three hours every single morning. And as if that’s not inane enough, most days it’s windy out. The leaves return to their original locations 15 seconds after the guy blows them. So – much like a fluffer on a porn set – his work doesn’t last long.
Not to mention, why do leaves have to inhabit a particular location anyway? At the risk of sounding like a radical, let the leaves be leaves! Let them do their thing. I’m a strong supporter of leaf self-determination. It’s not like they’re scorpions and allowing them to run free near domiciles is a downright danger to society. No one has ever found a leaf in a parking lot, gasped with horror, then bellowed, “The children! Will no one think of the children?!” Plus, we’re talking about a damn parking lot. What car can’t park on leaves? (Other than a Kia.)
And why the hell hasn’t someone invented a leaf blower silencer yet? We have a silencer for shooting people’s heads off, which one would hope happens far less often than leaf blowing. Where’s the Dyson vacuum guy when you need him? Get to work, mate! Invent the silencer. You can’t retire now – your legacy is not nearly secure. All you did so far was come up with a funny vacuum and a hand dryer that sprays fecal matter all over people at public restrooms. (Yes, scientists found that public restroom hand dryers simply hose us all down in shit flurries.) Well done, Dyson. Invent the leaf blower silencer post haste or you’ll be known as the “feces laminator” forevermore.
So, we can agree leaf blowing is a nonsensical job. Much of the machinery of our society is filled with work, that pays people, that is inconsequential, insubstantial, and hollow. Yet, many of us do these jobs because we are wage slaves. We must hold down bullshit jobs to survive. David Graeber wrote a great book about inhuman empty jobs, and although I haven’t read it, I’m going to pretend I have to impress you. It’s a tremendous book. Can’t believe you haven’t read it yet.
So this is the part of the column when I hit you with a groundbreaking, snot-snorting solution that rocks your boat and soils your pants. Here it is . . . How about NO?
How about no more wage slavery?
A lot of the jobs in this country don’t need to get done at all, a lot of them can be done by technology, and a lot of them could be thrown out if we just had a cultural awakening that scientifically analyzed our society to maximize efficiency, health, and sustainability instead of profit, profit, and profit.
So at this point in the debate, people who suffer from Stockholm syndrome defend their wage masters by belching, “We can’t get rid of all those jobs and give people houses and food and clothing without endless life-draining soul-bleeding work – because then what will people do all day? People need to work at jobs they hate. It gives their lives meaning.”
To that person I respond – Wow, what a rousing defense of slavery. It’s the same thing they said on the plantations. “If you free the slaves, then what will they do all day?”
Well, if the people newly freed from their jobs have a passion, I assume they’ll pursue that. But if they don’t have anything they enjoy doing, then I actually don’t know what people will do with themselves — maybe choose to count their farts — but that’s fine because that’s called freedom. Many philosophers with far thicker gooey brain matter than I have said that we must create our own meaning for our lives. We must seek out and ascertain our own life purpose and folding shirts at Banana Republic is not a good answer. If people had the time, freedom, understanding and education, they would happily pick their own significance and aspirations. No one spends 23 hours a day grooming high-end dogs — making sure the ass hair is perfectly coiffed — because that gives their life drive. They do it because they need the money. How many people keep trimming the labradoodle’s “reardo” or folding the shirts or blowing the leaves after they win the lottery?
This reminds me of a TV news story I saw about a blue-collar worker who won the lottery — millions of dollars — and said he was going back to work at the factory on Monday. And the news report gushed over how tremendous this was. “What a great guy! He’s going back to the factory!” But honestly, that shouldn’t be celebrated. It’s the result of a cultural brain disorder. It means he’s been indoctrinated so thoroughly, he can’t see life outside the factory. That’s like a prisoner who can’t leave the prison. It’s not something to have a goddamn ticker-tape parade over.
We should want all the unemployed people to have jobs — because currently, without the jobs, they can’t afford their lives. But we should also discuss regularly how one day, preferably soon, we should not want to have these jobs — at least not full-time, slaving away at mind-numbing labor the employee loathes. But that conversation can’t be had on our mainstream media or even most alternative media. Everyone must partake in the wage slavery all the time because this is America – The freest country in the world! My boss told me so.
Oh, and how will we pay for a leaf blower not to blow leaves? How about using the trillions we pay for wars that are never won.