Sunday, June 28, 2015

What would you do with an extra day off every week?

     The Protestant work ethic is a term first popularized by Max Weber. This concept permeates our entire culture building into a crescendo, which is dogmatic and unquestionable. If anyone ever says "I would like to work one less day a week", or "I wish a better balance between work and life was possible", he or she is immediately slandered as being lazy. This lazy label is applied with rigorous force to workers whom are closer to the poverty line. As a culture we tell ourselves, the working poor, (no matter how many hours a week they punch the clock) are lazy and incapable of working hard enough to move up to social ladder. This is a misnomer designed to instill faith into the myth of our Murican dream.

     Low wage workers, often work too much. These workers have little time to provide the necessary care to revitalize the human body, and prepare for the next day of work, let alone leisure. A manifestation of this reality is found in the way we consume fast food, microwavable meals, and highly processed but convenient foodstuffs. In the end these foodstuffs are the antithesis to necessary self care. Hell, so many of us have so little time we don't even have the time to brew our own coffee.

    We have all seen the data that shows U.S. laborers work far more than our industrialized counterparts. There are many reasons, we work so many hours. One of the bigger reasons is the decline in real wages over the last forty years. With this decline in wages, and immoral acts by major employers (such as only hiring part time workers to avoid offering benefits) the working class is doing whatever is needed to make ends meet. This includes working second and third jobs, working double shifts and commuting.

     As a culture we have decided, wanting to work less, means we are lazy. We have also decided that work is a soul saving virtue. Is work in the form of wage labor virtuous? I say no! Wage labor is not virtuous. It is not a virtuous act, especially when it comes at the cost of our health, family and social lives.

     The stress created when we cannot get a day off, or because missing a day of work will create economic and domestic instability has a multiplying effect and it eventually touches every part of our lives. Too many of us lose relationships, crawl into a bottle or worse. Too much of this is due to the fact we are stressed out from too many hours of wage labor. Imagine what eight extra hours a week and economic stability could do for you.

     Let's disengage from the had to mouth economics too many of us live every day. What would you do if you had an extra eight hours per week? I can tell you what I would do. I would feel so much less stressed out. I would take the time to make delicious meals, with ingredients I had the time to acquire at local farmers market. I would cultivate gardens and drought resistant spaces. I would take the time to realize the interrelated joy within my humanity as a tiny piece of this beautiful world. I would not rush to sit in traffic. I would not be prone to high blood pressure and banal arguments with strangers. These are some of the things I would do if I had an extra day off every week.

      The problem is the way our lives are organized within this consumer oriented culture. Have we forgotten what it is to live without the endless and needless consumption of plastic disposable things? Do we really value leisure time so little, and consumer goods so much? Could we not choose to have time for the things we claim to have passion and love for? Could we not make this choice over menial wage labor? A fundamental problem found within the ways our society is organized, is that if a majority of us decided to spend more time enjoying the simpler pleasures of life instead of consuming plastic garbage, our national economy would tank and without systemic adjustments we would suffer greatly.

     Seventy percent of our economy is based on consumer markets. If that seventy percent were considerably reduced, recession and possibly depression would follow. Would we be able to find a new direction away from the strife we all feel too often? What would we do with our lives instead of punching the time clock? The answer, it is time to re-organize our society, economy and way of life so we have the time for our lives outside of work, and outside of this consumer culture so we are no longer dependent upon it.

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