A few weeks ago, while writing an article that I assumed no one would ever read and that I was not particularly enjoying writing, I thought to myself, “fuck this shit.” This article was adding no particular benefit to the world, it wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind about anything or make them think. It would be read by a few hundred people tops and then it would be forgotten in the sea of forgotten horseshit that is the internet.
It was kind of a dark day for me. But the thought has stuck with me every time I’ve had to do anything that I’ve thought is stupid or a waste of my time. Drudgery holds no purpose for anyone if there’s no meaningful end to the work. And when I say drudgery, I don’t mean “boring shit.” I once spent an entire day washing beets with a scrub brush and putting them on display. It was mindless work, and it was relatively dull, but there was a purpose: the beets needed to be washed and then people would buy them and eat them. Boom. Done.
On the other hand, I’ve spent days at a time writing bullshit articles, like for the now-defunct site HomesForSaleInPortland.com, HomesForSaleInSantaBarbara.com, and, my masterpiece, HomesForSaleInLubbock.com, in which I just repeated the word “Lubbock” three hundred times and called it “Dada” when my boss asked me what the fuck I was doing. But those sites weren’t actually there to sell any homes. They were squatter sites that we were populating with content in order to sell them to actual realtors in Lubbock, Texas, later on at jacked up prices. I was providing no benefit to the world. I was simply making myself (and my bosses) money.
Take, for example, your average tampon commercial. Now, I don’t use tampons, but I’d imagine at some point, they’ve reached a level of adequate absorbency for all but the most Elevator-at-the-Overlook-Hotel of flows. But there’s a constant tendency in commercials for tampons or Maxipads to show off the “new” technology.
Think about that for a second: if those people aren’t lying about the fact that they’ve innovated the absorbency of their tampons, then some scientist, some engineer, actually designed that extra-absorbent tampon. A scientist. Someone who could be working on the next spacecraft. Instead they’re making tampons that can absorb swimming pools or maxipads that can support bowling balls.
Work that is useless is work that is not worth doing. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t enough work to go around. There’s a pothole near my house that nearly took off a tire. People are constantly littering in our town, and someone needs to pick that up. While we’re hiring litter picker-uppers, we could also be hiring an advertiser who, rather than finding ways to visually demonstrate tampon absorbency, could run a public awareness campaign about the harmfulness of littering, especially in a Shore town.
This hustle for money and benefits and homes and cars that everyone in their late 20s (and, you know, in every other age group) seems to be trapped in is what’s contributing to the problem. We’re so panicky about the state of our finances that we jump at the first job to offer us money rather than taking some time to figure out how we can use our skills to their greatest personal and communal benefit.
I’ve heard the arguments against anti-jobism. “If we didn’t make everyone work, people would goof off and exploit the system. It’s human nature.”
Okay, first off, “It’s human nature,” is not a real argument for anything in the 21st century. Do you think humans were built to sit on sofas and recliners? That their “nature” involves staring at a television or a computer screen all day long? That their nature involves driving goddamn flying machines and automobiles? No, it doesn’t. Human nature originally involved living in trees, flinging poo, and never leaving Africa. None of those three things are part of human nature anymore, except maybe the second one on the occasional Saturday evening.
And second, so what if some people don’t choose to work? Who are we to say that the only way we value another human is if they’re working adequately hard enough? Why is our human dignity predicated on labor?
We’re entering an era where work isn’t going to be necessary — or even available — to everyone anymore. This isn’t a bad thing. Let go of drudgery and meaningless toil. Embrace work that actually matters.
Disclaimer: To my female readers, I’m sorry if you feel that tampon innovations have felt worthwhile over the past few years, and that I, a non-user, am being too glib about them. I probably could’ve used the example of men’s razor innovations just as easily (“Hey guys! What if we added ANOTHER blade?”) but then I wouldn’t have been able to make my awesome Overlook Hotel joke. My integrity only goes as far as the easiest crass joke I can make, and for that, I offer you my sincerest apologies.
Featured photo by Erika Gilraen Loss