The Unfortunate Appeal of Inertia
Updated: Jul 25
Every single generation has got their own specific characteristics, but it is at the very least arguable that the current one is the one who has witnessed the most extreme technological advantage. This has various consequences when it comes to the way we handle various aspects of our lives, and work is no exception. We, as well as previous generations (especially the most recent ones), have had an intense struggle trying to change the different variables of work and the way it affects our lives. We have done everything in our power to ensure that the modern work environment is not only suited to our needs of subsistence but allows us to have our own spare time in order to be able to live amongst our own. And wherever this is not the case, there is public outrage, and rightly so. As human beings, a healthy balance between work, leisure and rest is always necessary.
Now that most of us have conquered the right to have a balanced life, it is also still common to see people valuing leisure above work, especially when work does not fulfil them at any personal level. Obviously, this has always been the case, but the immediate problem that may concern us in the near future is that due to various factors regarding our culture, be it from consumerism to extreme individualism, the inherent value of work has been further reduced only to the fact that it helps with subsistence and not much else.
This had become increasingly truthful especially in the most developed nations, with a decrease in manufacturing jobs and further devaluation of areas such as agriculture. The creation of specific products was always a driving force within a society, and the importance placed on the most mundane of jobs, even if only on a symbolical level, used to attribute value to work, even during the worst times. Furthermore, the market has changed in these countries over the past few decades, with the job market now focusing not on production, but on mostly sales and other areas where the product of one’s labour, symbolically or not, is strictly related to the amount of profit that they can generate: nothing about usefulness to society, nothing about genuine quality (except if that is a reason to further increase prices and thus is equated to profit) and the overall human experience, as it is related to the workplace, is degraded further.
One would, however, say that technological advancement is also driving this issue forward, as less human work is needed to produce anything on a massive level. This is usually seen as a good thing: these sorts of jobs tend to be related to incredibly hard work; and we, as people who value the quality of work and they way it impacts our personal lives, tend to see the eradication of these jobs as a positive step forward, and this can also fuel the need to create more machines who will render human work in areas of production useless in a future that might be nearer that we might rationally expect. Also, as society further moves in a direction where meaningless work is embraced, leisure related activities will take more and more out of our daily lives, due to the simple fact that they are much more pleasing than seeking hard work, let alone working hard in the first place.
In the communist manifesto, the main goal is described as a society where man did not need to work to subsist, but would use his own time as he pleased and the absence of coercion when it came to work would make him want to do voluntary work that would surpass the previous in terms of quality due to the fact that an individual would have much more free time to develop other skills and be productive. Funnily enough, part of this concept is something that now seems to be within reach due to the technological advancement under a market economy. If a world where resources are generated by machines and as little work as possible is required for one’s subsistence sounds good at first, I would ask the reader to reconsider for the following reasons:
When this sort of work is finally abolished, there will be no such thing as a true product of one’s labour, in the sense that society can sustain itself without human work. If the machinery responsible for the production was to be owned by either a private company or a government, makes no difference: whoever owned these would have complete power over people’s lives and would be able to influence society and human behaviour as they pleased, as they would have the power and authority to do so.
In a world where people are increasingly falling under the influence of social media and instant gratification, it is not that much of a far stretch to assume they would be willing to follow meaningless lives, influenced and fed that instant gratification by the same people who could keep them well fed and safe from harm. One of the harshest but most important characteristics of the human condition, that of struggle, could be reduced and kept in check in such a way that people would believe to be living in a perfect free world, whilst in fact living under a dictatorship that controlled all of their vices and kept them in a state of perpetual gratification.
At this moment, this scenario is mere speculation and something of the sort might not even happen; but one thing is for sure, at a certain point we might have to come to terms with the fact that we will have to choose between living a perfect yet meaningless existence, or to carry out the struggle in hopes we finally are able to attribute meaning to our existence, as all human beings before us have. And hopefully, we will be able to make the right choice.