Created to Work
July 28, 2005

While driving in downtown Seattle last week, I saw a curious message illegally spray-painted on the side of a popular building. In bold red letters it read, "Work is slavery." Imagine that. All this time I was mislead in my thinking that the slaves were freed a long time ago. The tag on the graffiti indicated the message had been left by our resident anarchists--the same people responsible for massive amounts of damage to downtown Seattle during WTO protests, and most likely individuals who by some turn of events (including but not limited to the possession of a trust fund, large quantities of marijuana in the bloodstream, or privilege beyond belief) do not have to work.

Granted, on most days I pay little if any attention to those who espouse a philosophy rooted in a disdain of all forms of authority (nationalists included). The "work is slavery" campaign, however, caught my attention because it is American misconception #5,672 (right next to "It's not good to judge" and "Money is evil").

For starters, in order to even remotely embrace the notion that earning money by working would cause some type of burden, requires a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly human beings should be doing on the earth. Moreover, it suggests that Americans are terribly spoiled. If having to work in order to earn money is our biggest problem, we are leagues ahead of half the world.

That said, the distinction too infrequently made is that "working" and "having job" are not synonymous concepts. "Work" is a function of making ourselves productive. It has no end date or retirement options. It doesn't always pay what it deserves, but it is a lifelong endeavor. Having a "job," on the other hand, is temporal and doesn't always necessitate productivity; it just requires that we show up. For some people, having a "job" is an aspect of their work. In many cases, however, you'll find people in "jobs" that have little or nothing to do with their purpose, passion or happiness.

Thanks to a realistic upbringing, there is a good segment of the American population that has mastered the reality that if you don't work; you don't eat. They sit behind desks, they dry clean clothes, and they even deliver pizzas, even if only for a season. There are also those who've broken free from the shackles of this "work/eat" reality and resorted to begging, panhandling, and holding up sob story signs that rarely include the phrase "will work" but always manage to toss in the requisite "God Bless You." The irony of it all.

"Work," in short, is the act of human beings taking care of the earth. "Work" may look a number of different ways, but rest assured, contrary to what the "Simpsons" may tell us, no human was created to just sit around and waste space. Otherwise, the earth would be full of animals--not people. Intelligent design? You bet.

Armed with perhaps the greatest set-up in all of history, human beings have been granted an earth designed with all necessary resources (despite what ecologists may suggest) to produce a harvest to anyone willing to work it. Immigrants in America have realized the beauty of this soil and can manage to yield more return in a decade than many Americans do in a lifetime. The term "unemployment" was fashioned for the lazy, not the person who's "down on their luck." In America, lack of a means of finances is often a choice. It sounds taboo, but it's true. Hard times may come, but human ingenuity is free and given to all. The winner will always be the person who finds a solution to a problem.

Paper clips.
The light bulb.
Nail salons.
Nonprofit Organizations.
Audio books.
Educational Television.
Just few of the many successful "solutions" to the world's many problems. With enough irritation, anyone can be driven to solve a problem. We were all created to be productive with the talents, gifts, and abilities inside us. Perhaps the biggest deception isn't that "work is slavery," but rather that it's impossible to be compensated for what we love to do best. We were never created just to "have a job." So what problem are you working towards solving today?

Posted by Ambra at July 28, 2005 2:06 AM in Life
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I find myself smiling that you have somehow figured out, at such a young age, so many essential components for coping with life on earth that continue to elude a lot of people who are in their 60s.

Most have to work to live, but when you live to work you're truly free

Great title...we are indeed supposed to be productive and creative. Here in Austin, panhandling is technically illegal, but the law is never enforced. There are panhandlers *everywhere*, even around the "nice" shopping areas. The police do nothing, we even see them chatting with the offenders like it's no big deal. Maybe they're right; maybe the law is hard to enforce and more trouble than it's worth. But if that's true, why are there no panhandlers right outside of Travis County(Austin)?
Recently, one judge in town declared Austin's ban on sidewalk solicitation to be unconstitutional. The city says it will appeal this ruling, but I say why bother when they don't enforce the law anyway.

"...a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly human beings should be doing on the earth."

A misunderstanding? That implies that some understanding exists, that we have established a broad consensus on the purpose and meaning of existence, but in fact, we are very far from that. Throughout history, political and religious leaders establish what is good, patriotic and morally right for their people to do, which varies depending on the circumstances, but is primarily used to the benefit of those leaders. It should come as no surprise that self-interested and ambitious people try to create moral imperatives to their own benefit. Sometimes those imperatives are also in the public interest, sometimes not.

It should also be unsurprising that a pioneer society would attach religious and moral significance to productivity, despite the fact that Jesus himself was generally an opponent of material wealth, seeing it as impediment to true spirituality and suggesting that our purpose in life was in spiritual service to others. But clearly there is a distinction between accumulating wealth and working enough to provide for a minimal lifestyle for oneself while devoting the remainder of one's efforts to more charitable pursuits, which is the essential critique behind the 'money is evil' meme. Interestingly, the majority of what you call misconceptions that make up the dominant liberal ideology are nearly indistinguishable from Quaker beliefs. Money is evil is similar to the Testimony of Simplicity and being non-judgemental is similar to the Testimony of Equality, and of course pacificism and the Peace Testimony that holds that war is always wrong. Even though many liberals are not explicitly Christian, they hold strongly to these moral beliefs.

The slogan 'Work is slavery' is a provocative one, but its fairly obvious that the authors' are not opposed to productive enterprise because they are obviously highly industrious, dedicated to effecting social change and combatting the ills of what they consider to be the harmful effects of excessive material wealth. The meaning behind 'Work is slavery' is not that all productive work should cease, but that our society only values work that produces maximum profit, and for many people, that type of work is in enormous companies pushing papers around or thanklessly performing mind-numbing, repetitive tasks. A paycheck arrives, and some good surely comes of your efforts, but you are so disconnected from that good that you feel as if you are nothing more than a tiny interchangable cog in a gigantic soulless machine. 'Work is slavery' is a critique of modern existence, which is thought to dehumanize people and destroy individual contribution and value.

I've just been working, but I haven't really been passionate about anything until recently. So I've applied for an internship which is one of the few ways to get in the media. Pray that it works out.

By the way, I hate beggars--they take trains to the nicer areas of the city and bother people. I think we should kick them out to a third-world country--let them enjoy their lazy life there. There is no excuse to become a beggar in this country--we're the richest country on earth.

I think it was Robert Heinlein who said, "You will never be unemployed if you are willing to wash dishes."

I have a friend who recently chose to move into a homeless shelter rather than get a paying job while looking for her 'Dream Job'.
Puzzles me to no end.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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