Previously Published in The Socialist online www.thesocialist.us
In America there is a strong undercurrent of protestant work ethic.
Americans value hard work. I would even argue there is an obsession with
it. People are told that if they don’t work hard that they are
worthless. From the image of the “slacker” and “loser” to the stereotype
of the “welfare queen,” Americans view people who don’t work hard as
undeserving “leaches” and “moochers.” The stigma is thick for those who
refuse or reject the idea of hard work, or for reasons out of their own
control, are not able to obtain work.
There is also an American myth that hard work equals success and will
earn anyone a ticket to the “American Dream.” I call it a myth because
most of us know in our hearts that hard work does always not pay off.
People work their asses off and what do they have to show for it? The
vast majority of our labor value, which we produce through our hard
work, gets taken away from us and exploited by our bosses (who, let’s
face it, do not work nearly as hard as we do, yet gain nearly all the
benefits of our hard work).
The owners, as I call them, pay us a pittance and then reap most of
the profits we produce. They own the means of production, which they
often purchased with money they accumulated from inheritance, tax
shelters/breaks/havens, owning property, or exploiting other people.
Essentially they get the money through unethical means.
Since they own the means of production and most property, they own
us. And if we don’t work hard for them, they will find someone else who
will (we are replaceable and expendable). They have tricked us into
believing that hard work is good only so they can keep us working hard
for them in the hopes that we make headway someday. But that someday
never comes. The lower your wages and benefits the more they can extract
from you, and the richer they become.
In fact, Americans are working harder than ever. Productivity today
is through the roof. This is occurring as wages are mostly stagnant and
remain flat while the cost of living rises exponentially. I would argue
that hard work does not pay off and that we actually are being harmed by
working so damn hard. Working long hours at a job does not bring about
happiness as human beings. Spending our lives at work does not increase
our sense of wellbeing. It actually increases our stress and leaves us
little time to take care of ourselves or each other. What it actually
does is make someone else rich at our expense.
I advocate that we have a right to be lazy! We have the human need to
rest our minds, bodies, and spirits. We have the right to play, laugh,
sleep, eat, read, write, create, share, dream etc. and be in nature and
with each other. Of all human needs, something we spend most of our
lives killing ourselves over, money, does not bring us more satisfaction
in the end.
In addition, I, for one, am sick of seeing those memes going around
on the internet that say something to the effect of, “hold tight, the
weekend is almost here.” It has become apparent that people hate work
and we really need to ask ourselves if this is how we want to spend our
lives given that we have other choices. Furthermore, there are plenty of
low social, health, and economic indicators that prove Americans’
happiness and overall wellbeing are suffering due to our backward
economic, social, and political structures.
Look no further than this recent study of Denmark for a good example
of what is making others happy, and for what we desperately need here in
Recently, the government in Switzerland decided to hold a vote on
whether to give each citizen $2,800 a month as a guaranteed income per
month. Just imagine if Americans had that! We could be a lot freer to be
human beings, and not human doings.
A socialist transformation could bring us this sort of life. It’s
totally doable, too, if we shift our priorities and defund things like
war and prisons; tax the rich and corporations fairly; and socialize
healthcare and other industries to make them more cost-effective by
removing the profit motive. Collectively, we have the resources to
support everyone to live the best lives they can possibly live, despite
the lies being perpetuated that we are broke as a country.
We deserve a liberated life truly of our own where hard work is not
forced on us just to survive. One where we would own our own means of
production, form co-ops, and self-manage our workplaces collectively
with fellow workers, if we choose to work. Where life doesn’t come as
hard but is actually more purposeful and enjoyable and we can all reach
our fullest potential together. We could stop working so hard and start
working smart so that we can use our precious time more wisely. Now
that’s a future worth working hard for!