I recently read Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, who is now officially my new favourite writer and one of the many great things about this shamefully short novel was how he had incorporated one of the most notorious evil slogans in human history into his story. The slogan was Work shall set you free and I don’t need to tell you why it’s as notorious as it is.
Now, I applauded Hendrix for his elegant intertextuality but just a few days later was again reminded of that evil slogan when I saw an election poster of the party in power currently in Bulgaria. The slogan on the poster was “Work, work, work.”
I’m sure they meant it to mean that they will continue tirelessly working to serve our interests, which is hilarious but what was even more hilarious is how they actually made it sound like they want us to keep tirelessly working to serve their interests. The subversive power of election slogans. This should be a topic of scientific research.
Anyway, work. I’ve been spending more time on social media than I should and I see people complaining that they are being forced to find work and how wrong and unfair the whole system of society is if people are being forced to work.
Now, I’ve always been curious, I was born curious, so these complaints immediately got me thinking. I’m very quick with thinking – I see something interesting, I start thinking about it instantly.
So I wondered – is anyone really forcing anyone else to work? I don’t know about you but I’ve never been held at gunpoint, or knifepoint, and told to work, work, work. You could argue that election slogan I mentioned was a form of attack but it didn’t force me to go work, work, work, so that’s all right. But I still work.
The thing is that I’ve always liked having certain things like a room of my own, food, beer, and also electricity because I like to be warm during the winter and I like good lighting so I don’t strin my eyes while I read or write. Also, of course, for hanging out on Twitter reading people’s complaints about having to work.
Also clothes. I’m being told clothes are a relic of an obsolete era – I think the Victorian era was mentioned – but as I said I really do like to be warm and I also like how I look in turtlenecks and skinny jeans, not to mention ankle boots, which I won’t mention.
Obviously, things like clothes, a shelter, and electricity cost money because that’s the kind of rotten world we live in and I’m fresh out of parents or a billionaire husband to buy these for me, so I work. I also work because I like it but that’s beside the point.
I’ve heard that hundreds of millions of other people do the same – they work – and I’d venture a guess many of them are somewhat happy with the fact but that’s beside the point too. These are people who, like me, like to have a roof over their head, something to eat and drink, power to charge their smartphones and chat on Facebook, this sort of thing.
Now, just to get it out of the way, I am aware that poverty exists. Poverty is hell. It’s one of the great plagues that are still with us as a species even in this day and age and there are many reasons for that. But if you’re complaining about being forced to find work on Twitter or Bored Panda you’re not poor, I’m sorry. You have a problem of perspective. Make that two problems.
One, you believe that work is by definition heavy toil, a form of torture inflicted on the many by the few for their own enrichment and no benefit to the many, an activity that could bring no joy or fulfillment. Which is not true.
Two, you’re complaining about being forced to find work, then you believe that everyone must live in a certain way. Which is also not true. Have you ever met someone who’s been forced to live in a two-bedroom house, have a car, a dog, three meals a day plus snacks, internet connection and a Netflix subscription?
I don’t. I’ve never met anyone who’s had middle-class lifestyle forced on them. But I’ve met plenty of people who strongly believe they deserve to live better than they do but don’t want to lift a finger to, yes, work their way into the better life. And you know what these people do? Yep, they complain about life and society being unfair.
The good news is I have a solution to this second problem. Don’t work. Just don’t do it. Spit in the face of the system, leave the city, build a hut in the woods, grow your own food – or gather it – basically go back to nature and also in time, about 100,000 years ago.
Just imagine what this would do for your carbon footprint. Wonders, that’s what this will do for your carbon footprint. And then there are the health benefits: no processed foods; no sugar except the one you take in with the fruit you gather and grow; no excessive salt intake, no alcohol – very good – and no problematic artificial additives.
Also no plastics and not GMOs. Honestly, this is a win-win-win-win situation. And don’t get me started on the mental health benefits of getting out of the news, ads and propaganda stream. You’ll live to 200.
Now, I admit this solution is not perfect. I mean, gathering fruit and nuts and building huts could be construed as work because it is a productive activity but at least it’s not sitting in an office for eight or more hours a day working for someone else, is it? Problem solved. Elegantly and environmentally with care for your mental wellbeing, which, incidentally, benefits from productive activities commonly known as work.
You know, I’ve worked as a waitress, I’ve translated EU documentation and I’ve worked for people who paid me and my co-workers pennies on the pounds they made from our utterly non-enjoyable work. I’d gladly take waitressing over the other two any day. Or cleaning houses. I’ve had my fair share of drudgery. I’ve done work that brings zero satisfaction and makes you wonder what’s the point of all this.
But you know what else? We don’t live in feudal times anymore. None of us is a serf to a feudal lord anymore. If you hate what you have to do for a living, you can just leave and go somewhere else or stick it out until you have enough to start your own thing. We have options, we always have a choice. That hut in the woods is one option. Apparently, so is complaining and many prefer it because it’s the easiest of the available options. But just think about that hut.
The world is full of woods and opportunities—more opportunities than woods, to be fair—and we can all choose what to do with them.
Speaking of woods, both my books are available in (relatively) environmentally friendly electronic format: if you’re in the mood for some dragons and vampires, or mysterious vanishing planes, try The Lamiastriga (which you can’t read for free on this blog) or Sky High (which you can read for free on this blog or on Kobo).