Enough with the busywork already. We’ve been “productive” enough — produced way too much, in fact. And there is too much that urgently needs to be done: a republic to salvage, a civilization to reimagine and its infrastructure to reinvent, innumerable species to save, a world to restore and millions who are impoverished, imprisoned, illiterate, sick or starving. All while we waste our time at work.
The advisory words I have reproduced above come from a New York Times column by writer and cartoonist Tim Kreider. The column, which was published in The Times on July 7, 2022, was titled, "It’s Time to Stop Living the American Scam." Presuming that you can slip by The Times' paywall, I think it's a column worth reading.
As Kreider tells us in his recent column, he wrote an essay ten years ago called, "The Busy Trap." Asked to update the thesis he had expounded in that long ago essay (that our "busyness" is a kind of "existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness") Kreider found that things have changed. Now, we no longer really believe that our "busyness" is appropriate; we actually know, Kreider says, that we are living in a "scam."
Looking at that excerpt from Kreider's column at the top of this blog posting, it is clear that our definition of "work" is a significant problem. The "work" we are so busy at, producing and consuming, is not worth the effort - and more and more people seem to realize that. In fact, Kreider suggests, that kind of "work" is counterproductive. The activities that are worth doing are not being made available to us, and are certainly not being compensated.
Presuming that Kreider might be right, is there anything we can do about this? There are indications, he says, that various "social movements" that sprang into life during the enforced idleness of the pandemic provide one possible pathway out of the "scam" and into meaningful activity. In other words, pick an issue that you think might actually improve the world (he lists a few in that paragraph I cited), and find some way to work on that.
Pretty good advice, it seems to me!
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