Today I read an article by Ian Kath called “We sold our life for trinkets.” In the article Ian describes the idea that many people are enslaved by a vicious cycle of consumerism that ultimately leads to an empty existence. One feels the need to consume, to have more and more “stuff”, and in turn this need for “stuff” drives one to perform basically meaningless tasks sometimes called “work” to obtain more and more “trinkets”. Even if the “work” performed involves browsing the internet for 40 hours a week.
Our life force is consumed in the workforce on worthless activity in exchange for money for the latest gadget or fancier house. We have been indentured to the ruling elite. The 1%.
This for That
The world economy is made up of a “this for that” system. We do this, we pay this, we trade this – for that. All transactions are based on specific set of numbers (currency) in exchange for a physical item we desire. Those numbers are later traded to someone else for other physical items they desire. And all this begs the question: If technology is getting more and more efficient, the demand for efficient people is becoming less and less – then how do people earn currency to exchange for the widgets they so badly desire?
David Graeber from the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an entire on the subject called “The modern phenomenon of nonsense jobs“. David says:
It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen…this is the sort of very problem that market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking business is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.
And if you have a job where you are really busy maybe you think this sounds crazy, but I can assure you that there are professionals all around the country browsing the internet. In fact, it’s common knowledge among internet bloggers to publish your articles on week days just after 9am. Droves of professionals are sitting in front of their computers at work, just made their first cup of coffee, and are now surfing the internet… So has capitalism failed us? Are the ideas of “a person must be productive” archaic? Are we ironically enslaved by middle-class-ism? Maybe so.
A New Way Forward
So is there a new way we aren’t aware of? Why aren’t there more jobs available where people just think shit up. Where people just focus on making the world awesome. Jobs where people just go out and make things pretty. Clean shit all day. Come up with creative ways to ease traffic, etc.
Then again, who would pay for such a venture. Tax payers? Hell no! I don’t trust the Government to do a good job on this. Or is our entire system of currency, paying for things, “this for that”, archaic? Will we look back on our current value system – the “this for that” system and think it was pretty stupid.
Are we in the beginning stages of a new system of living – one where 100% of the population doesn’t have to be productive? Maybe we are witnessing the early stages of a value change. A change to a new system more accurately aligned with our technological capabilities rather than our current system which is largely driven by ancient instincts that require aimlessly productive human resource units.
It’s an interesting path to think about, but I’m not quite sure how it would work. Who decides who has to stock the shelves at a grocery store versus who gets to be a thinker? Society? The invisible hand of the market? Maybe the future currency will be the true value you prove you can provide to society. Still not sure how that would work, but it is an interesting thing to think about.