Jens Oliver Meiert

On Work

Post from April 26, 2017 (↻ June 10, 2017), reflecting Jens the .

This was idling in my drafts and is good enough to bridge a few days until we talk about quality web development again.

It is not work, but overwork, that is hurtful; and it is not hard work that is injurious so much as monotonous work, fagging work, hopeless work.

—Samuel Smiles: Character (1871).

Quite a few people appear to loathe work.

Others, clearly not just referring to Silicon Valley people, appear not to loathe it.

Is that difference really for as trivial reasons as we may at first think?

One may argue that it’s due to the fact that people feel forced to dedicate a good amount of their time to something they don’t want to do, for perhaps meager pay.

But there are others who dedicate even more time to work, sometimes for no pay.

So where is the disconnect?

What if I told you [that] just because I work behind a desk doesn’t mean I don’t work hard.

Figure: Not the issue here.

Being forced to do something?

Yet nobody gets “forced” to work anymore anyway. There’s no one standing behind people threatening to do horrible things to them if they don’t go do the job they loathe. There’s no external force, that is, and no direct one, at least.

And so there may be an internal force. Such internal force could, of course, be powerful. (Our beliefs make our reality.)

And with an internal force that makes people loathe their work, there may come this idea of retirement. Wanting to retire early, or worrying about another thing, like retiring later (unless those people live in a country that marries work-phobic thinking with economic silliness to lower retirement ages), reminding of Fromm’s statement, “the meaninglessness and alienation of work result in a longing for complete laziness.”

But maybe, within a prison-like economic system, our understanding of work is all wrong (with the physics definition being useless). For example, as I wrote in How to Work on Oneself, we could consider work doing something useful for oneself or others (useful, then, meaning for psychical or physical benefit).

Could that be our definition of work?

If someone did nothing useful for themselves nor others, perhaps that person has a really good reason to loathe what they’re doing?

And the person doing something useful for themselves or others, perhaps that person doesn’t even need pay, not per se?

Without looking further into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, nor socialization and alienation, this is where I want to leave us all hanging. I’m not sure our normal thinking about work is useful, and neither do I believe should we be afraid of working all our lives. Not if what we do is useful. And especially not if we can axe, at least improve, the fiat-, interest-, speculation-impaired “invisible hand” of a global economy that benefits a few and ends up stacking everyone else against each other.

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of July 27, 2015.

Jens Oliver Meiert is a philosopher and developer (Google, W3C, O’Reilly). He experiments with art and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Amazon. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

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Last update: June 10, 2017.

“What you need is not a bigger hammer but a bigger heart.”