The Anti-Work Bible
How Work Has Poisoned Our Lives and the Way Forward.
Think of the most decadent thing you can imagine. For me, it is platters of meats and cheeses, wines, bread in a high rises apartments above a city skyline. Do you imagine yourself there eternally? Or only for dinner? What cuts of meat are you eating, and is this the menu of every meal, or are you celebrating something special? When you imagine yourself rich, do you have visions of travel? For where, and for how long? Do you envision a future far in advance, one with a family, or one that sustains only you?
I envision temporary wealth. To have this feeling all the time would decay the decadence of it, and I’d soon be eating prime cuts of meat while not tasting them, and I’d be thinking only of the port I’d gulp after dinner. I would crawl into bed and imagine which duvet I’d want to buy instead of luxuriating in the one I own. I would always be looking for a new acquisition. That is the way of human life.
There is an American myth of the perfect life: create wealth, sell a company, retire early and invest your savings. You must have a mindset that aligns with work, and then when the work ceases, you must switch off that part of your brain. When someone retires, the human psyche is hardwired toward productivity. The daily routine of a retired man starts to feel like work. A mind that becomes polluted with work cannot ever return to a state where it admires the human virtues of Beauty, Justice, and Being beyond how much they contribute to your stock portfolio.
There is no way out of not working. Students get taught the goodnesses of pre-professionalism from grade school. We learn to internalize work. It must become the center of our lives. No wonder we all have employment anxiety!
Work became pointless. Work used to be about pleasing a God (or a larger entity) that might look down from the heavens and see and be content that you were giving back to the community. Now, work is so obscured from the onset that no one has any ideas to make of it. As a result, we see the creation of Multi-Level Marketing schemes, Commodity Trading, and jobs that feel like absurd reactions to a world gone mad. No amount of justification will remove the notion from our bones; work must be everything.
Work has been trying to rebrand itself into something trendy and friendly. Job descriptions now come pre-loaded with catchy predicates like, “Someone Who Hates Preprofessionalism, and Works as a Senior Social Media Specialist.”
There is no longer any correlation between the skill of your work and the remuneration involved. These absurdist jobs make ridiculous amounts of money, while money itself has become so abstracted from its original purpose that men can sell each other pictures of Bored Apes for their Twitter profiles.
Modern society supports this idea. In “Ways Of Seeing”, John Berger criticizes Western Art for celebrating female voyeurism and wealth. Lower classes did not have the capital to get recorded in oil paintings. Our admiration of classical art is a promotion of affluence. Today, our lives are influenced in the same way through exposure to unrealistic publicity.
Perhaps the solution out of work is the be artists. I believe that if we sit on the potter’s lathe or add brushstrokes to our canvas, financial rewards will follow. But- as any artist will admit- the networking, emailing, grant-applying, and conniving necessary for financial success beget a massive amount of work. My art practice became more similar to the Affiliate Marketer than the avant-garde actor.
Is work ever going to stop? Or have prices and the necessity of money in our lives driven us to work in jobs that are artificial, meaningless, and terrible?
We need to reassess what wealth means for our lives. Is it our prime cuts of meat in a city high-rise? Is it our early retirement in a foreign country? We must specify what the rich life is in concrete terms or we condemn ourselves to accumulate money without meaning or purpose.
We need to treat work like a drug we must curtail lest it leads to addiction. It requires our constant attention to the marketing messages we get exposed to. We need to lower our standards of living from astronomical to one of security, where mindset conquers materials.