Monday, September 21, 2009

Work Ethic? What Work Ethic?

There's a great article in this month's Esquire that seems appropriate to some of the things I feel myself going through. Stephen Marche basically claims that modern American work culture has evolved such that we work more so we can... work more. That innovation leads to more free time, free time we can use to... have less free time.

Anyways, Marche says it much better than I can.

Oh, and it's been raining down here nearly non-stop since Friday night. Very dreary. It's not helping.


Keifus said...

Someday I'll figure out how it is that we're all working our asses off so much, but still not doing a goddamn thing that's useful. We've grown more productive, they say (with the sleazy caveat that gains earned from that productivity not quite getting pro-rated), but more productive at what? It's an exhausting fiction, even if it somehow affords us nice things.

switters said...

One of the reasons, maybe, Madmen is so captivating and popular with the critics. Most of the characters are failed/failing writers/artists. Heavy on the self-fulfilling prophecy metaphor. Insuring/ensuring their own existence, and justifying it without having to.

It really is a despicable industry.

What we need, as much as I hate to say it, is a scenario somewhere between another 9/11 and The Day After Tomorrow. Ouch! Is that unpatriotic?

Keifus said...

Never seen Mad Men. I think your assessment is interesting though, if these guys are all artistic souls, because art is one of those things that's supposed to be inherently fulfilling. So is science, for that matter, or building stuff, or, I hate to say it, farming. People can easily be oppressed by things that are rewarding to the human experience, and lots of people don't even get to do that. Very few people can ever work on their own terms, which is one reason society's so intrinsically fucked. Also one reason I'm interested in your project.

One problem with work, here anyway, is that they don't let you do it in moderation. (Workaholism is, like, a disease, man.) I don't mean "they" as in the Elders of Zion or the Bilderberg Group (hmm, or do I?), but rather as kind of a self-serving explanation for failure and success that's been propagated along the way and has reinforced things as they are. That sort of assessment is strengthened by the obvious fact that effort and judgement should, and sometimes even do, get rewarded, but there's a level, that history evidently prefers, where it moves beyond the healthy. (It's as counterintuitive and true as when you try to describe how people can develop an addiction to food.)

Anyway. Not joking to say that I remain buried for the next couple days in my company's equivalent of make-work hell. I shouldn't have taken the time to comment.

switters said...

It's your own fault.

What I'm learning/what I've learned over the course of the last month or so, with regard to Obama's Healthcare Reform, town hall meetings, congress, etc., is that:
1.) People are fundamentally stupid
2.) Therefore, they're fundamentally scared
3.) Therefore, they fundamentally hate "the other"

Yoda said it best I think: Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate... leads to suffering.

I.e., I want off the grid. Iowa becomes more and more appealing by the hour. It's the fear that stands in its way.

Thanks for taking the time. One more favor: Read this, and get back to me, at your convenience, of course.

artandsoul said...

Okay, you start with "fear" but don't let it turn into hate. Perhaps Iowa will help you with that.

If your fear gets plowed into the land, and you get connected with the people and history that is you, then you can work that fear into something much more useful and something actually beautiful.

And edible.

"The other" will always be there... way to many people seem to WANT to stay stuck in fear and stupidity.

I think you should definitely read "The Cloud Atlas" -- I suck at recommending things in a way that actually encourages people to read the book ... sort of like the opposite of Keifus!

switters said...

Hi, art.

I'm in a deep, dark funk. It's hard for me to see anything positive right now. And I continue to dwell on the past and my regrets and guilt.

I have to find some way to stop doing that and focus on the future. I have to stay positive, or I'll never make it back to the prairie.

It's just that I'm a negative person by nature. Don't know exactly where I picked that up from. Probably dad's side. They were Irish.

But if I don't make it back to the prairie, in some fashion, I'm lost.

Catnapping said...
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Keifus said...

One way society's intrinsically fucked, from a social justice/human nature sorta thing. Thought of cataloguing resource depletion as another way. Do we call that one extrinsic? Probably not.

We'll have no choice to use less at some point, but how fast it happens is going to matter a lot, to everyone. I was going to add to the comment that we in America have doubled down on the land use and energy use in the last century as well as on the economy, and that whistling sound you hear is the whole project sailing fanward, but I didn't because I didn't want to sound like a crackpot. ALso, we're accustomed to a certain lifestyle, but we're not as overpopulated as some places.

I was kind of proud of this post when I wrote it, but seems kind of fluffy in hindsight (as everything does).

You made me want to read Cloud Atlas, A&S. I ordered it.

I am now late for my ironic commute.

artandsoul said...

Switters - I get dark. I mean, not just that I get that way, I mean I understand dark. In our family it has a lot to do with alcohol often, but it is also a big part of the nature of many of my family members.

Believe me, I'm not trying to perk you up. But I do think that fear and darkness have their place. I also don't think they HAVE to turn into hate. I totally agree with you that if people start out stupid, stay that way, and then get afraid they often end up hating.

But I think that's different from dark.

Funks suck. And in my experience I was never able to get out. It just seemed hopeless. I had to get some medical help. Then when that lifted it a bit, I happened upon a really great group of people who helped me learn how to do things differently. It was hard.

Probably not as hard as actually plowing a field. But I think its the same principle. Turn the ground over. Get your hands dirty.

I remember when it finally broke for me ... and I could see that I, too, was one of the billions of creature that would spin around the sun, and regardless of what I did or didn't do the night would pass and it would be day. Even for me.

That was a rather amazing moment.

Whatever it takes for you to get there is worth doing. It is not easy, and it is not perky.

I remember though, that you spoke about wanting to farm with horses, and have a cyclical farm... about the elegance of it.

I think that's what I was trying to describe about the earth going around. There is an elegance to the whole thing. And I'm part of it. That is what let me know I was coming around and through.

artandsoul said...

Aw Keifus, that's great! You'll really like it!! Promise!

LentenStuffe said...
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switters said...

Your Malthus post is why I thought you might find the National Geographic article a little interesting. That and Michael Pollan. That was a great post.

You know, Quiblit was a really good effort. What happened? Did it lose momentum? Frustration? Maybe we should think about reviving it.

Yes. I suppose as a species we are cheekily self-destructive. It honestly seems at times, often during my workday, that we really don't deserve to survive, and not in that "Stop global warming! Stop global warming!" idiotic way. More like a "Stop being retarded!" Stop being retarded!" fashion.

I've not said that very well. Sorry, y'all.

Schmutzie said...

So if I'm reading you correctly, you think that sleeping with clenched teeth and waking up with a knot in my stomach might be taking a heavier toll than I realize? Perhaps the heavy smoking, heavy drinking, and heavy worrying might be leading me to a grabber? Been thinking the same thing. Trick is finding a place to get off this train.

switters said...

Jess said it best: If you hate your job, you can never make enough money; if you love your job, the money somehow works itself out.

(I'm not convinced I believe that, but it is... comforting, in a way.)

artandsoul said...

Jess is right.

Schmutzie - get off the train.
switters - get on the farm.

Schmutzie said...

I love my job. It's all I ever wanted to do.

Now if the money will take care of itself, I'll stop worrying.

Hey maybe Jess is right. I've made it this far, don't ask me how.

artandsoul said...

Ah, well, there you are. I bet Jess doesn't mean you'll get as rich as an Insurance Company CEO, but hey, you've made it this far.

And besides, I can't imagine you not in Chicago, right? I mean traveling is nice but home is home. :)

Who would keep us updated?

Keifus said...

Er, on my first comment about work: you're sort of roped into it by means of personal economics and social acceptance too. Here's an interesting take I just came across now.

I found Quiblit to be pretty positive myself. But I heard that behind the scenes, rundeep and bacon were secretly undermining the organization, in what amounted to an aggressive, violent power struggle with Schad. Have you ever wondered why no one ever sees those people anymore? Scary shit.

(Or more likely, the problem was that it was hard to keep a-listers regularly contributing.)

switters said...


I would, ironically, be living near the poverty level, by choice. I'd pay cash for the homestead and property, try to keep the utilities low.

Cutting way back on smoking and beer drinking at some point would become an imperative.

Convert one of the outbuildings into a greenhouse, have cold flats, eat vegetables year round.

Maybe get a job in town sweeping up at the seed lot. Or put up a flier announcing I'm available for odd jobs, &c. If I could generate 10k a year, or thereabouts, I'd be literally in hog heaven

Schmutzie said...

Sweet greenhouse they have there, and just look at those carrots. Is it me or do they look better than the ones I have in a bag in my fridge?

The outbuilding conversion sounds like a winner to me, although I'd skip the flowers and plant something to smoke instead. You could probably do the roadside veggie stand thing too.

Hog heaven. Heh heh...see? you're getting used to them already.

Keifus said...

Boutique food might not be a bad strategy these days, although I don't know if local foodie-ism has quite hit Iowa (where it all is pretty local anyway, at least if you like corn). You remind me that my wife and I keep meaning to see about buying into a farm share.

You know, as a kid, there were people I (my family) knew who made it by income-poor and land-rich. (Even thirty years ago, that choice seems it was more ...possible.) Pretty sure that my great-grandparents would fit this model too, when land was cheap. Those examples didn't tend to the creative or imaginative or educated or technophilic sorts of people, although I suppose I've encountered those sorts more since. For example, my mom vaguely knows these people, within a degree or two of separation; my wife's lawyer boss is making a good living off an orchard; there are beautiful farms spread all around UConn and even in central Mass (where you can find some great cheese) that aren't condos yet.

Anyway, the early impressions didn't make it look like such an easy life to me, and I'm sure that is why the factories looked like salvation to those generations. There's got to be some better, more modern compromise to be had out there, and maybe there is. Western Europe seems to value its farms still (again?). Having a wealthy community around seems to help a lot.

I think at a minimum, it'll help you to have a support network on the outside.

I think you can make homebrew a cost winner if you buy bulk (whole) malt. Not sure you can compete with the price of mass-produced corn beers though.

artandsoul said...

You really have to have internet access. Sorry. But that's true.