Because just like all those workers before us; we also work for living in that we trade our time/labour/skills/knowledge for pay. But unlike those before us, thanks to giant steps in science and technology, we now have time and resources required to seek what is often termed as ‘self-realization’ or ‘self-fulfilment’ or ‘enlightenment’. Hence the proliferation of resources on self-help and self-improvements to suit any taste and fit within any lifestyle imaginable. With free time on our hands we became seekers of higher purpose.
Surely, you are not suggesting that there is something wrong with that, I hear you saying.
No, of course I am not. I believe in betterment of one-self through self-realization and education above all else. But, I am also aware of pitfalls unique to our time.
Provided with the time to pursue our ‘destinies’ and ‘callings’ we come to realize our own limitations and are often left frustrated when, what we come to believe is our ‘calling in life’, fails to materialize into tangible, monetary rewards we need or want to maintain our lifestyles.
Unless we are exceptionally talented, or lucky, or both, and so we do get paid for what we will be doing anyway, our stretch across the chasm from ‘working for living’ to ‘doing it for love, or pleasure, or self’ is often painful. Mostly because sooner or later we became acutely aware that even the hardest stretch fails to deliver our very best to the either side.
Modern day management and industrial psychology gurus have long realized that tapping into that elusive ‘voluntary engagement’, when work becomes form of self-expression, is the golden mine of human potential. That is where all the various forms of management theories and practices based on psychological research originated from.
It is a well-known fact that people are capable of and indeed have accomplished outstanding results when engaged in those activities where their personal interests and passions are roused. Yet, those activities are often not what they get paid for.
Still, if we are toiling in horrid 19th century work-houses, or are modern-day slaves to production lines in ‘third world’ countries; we would have neither time, nor energy to even consider such pursuits.
So where is the problem then?
As with most such questions, there are many possible answers, neither of them simple or complete. I can but hope to touch upon what seems the most obvious.
By outsourcing labour intensive and mundane work to so-called ‘third world’ countries we have not erased need for it, but have instead simply moved it from our world to ‘their’ world.
While ‘they’ toil on production lines making consumer goods, ‘we’, the ‘western world’s’ working men and women are employed in less labour intensive, more sophisticated and cleaner industries, in our ‘knowledge economies’. That gives us better quality of life and more time to explore our passions. Or so it seems to us.
Because the enormous amount of goods produced in ‘third world’ countries is only valuable if it is consumed. And this is where we come in, as consumers.
Unless we make our livings through self-expressions, such as artists or those answering their true callings, (in this context ‘true calling’ stands for ‘I cannot imagine doing anything else’), we toil in our offices arranged into cubicles, or in any other number of ways ‘knowledge economies’ provided us with, to buy those goods. To make absolutely sure we do that; huge marketing machinery is at work 24/7 without breaks. And we work with and for it, also without breaks, caught in the glow of never-fading neon lights.
And so those grafting in so-called ‘third’ world countries continue to manage meagre survival by producing goods that flood our markets and which we are made to need or want. The circle is thus closed. Both; ‘them’ and ‘us’ are ‘rained’ into it. ‘Them’ as produces, ‘us’ as consumers.
And while true that the length, quality of material and sophistication of our respective ‘rains’ greatly differ, the fact remains that they are still ‘rains’, keeping never-ending production/consumption/expansion alive and well as it was since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
This is not to demonize the Industrial Revolution, but to simply highlight that despite all our modern-day advancements, when observed closely, the original, basic principles that gave birth to work for hire remain, even though manifestations of it are very different from one era to another, and from one part of the world to another.
Moreover, the closer examination also reveals that those holding the ‘rains’ remain much the same as they always were irrespective of changes in appearances. They still hold the power through the ownership of resources and shift those resources wherever they can generate the highest profits from them.
So what is to be done?
There are some indications that the hired work as we know it, is set to change significantly in the future. For instance; running ‘cubical nations’ would become too expensive and would have to be replaced with more cost and resource (such as energy) efficient ways that are also more conducive to human nature. After all people do not seem to work at their best when arranged in a battery hens fashion (nor do the hens for that matter). Secondly, future workers would enjoy greater flexibility in terms of hours and times they perform their work and engagement of creative potential would be encouraged, even necessary.
While those changes are of course primarily meant for workers in ‘first’ world countries, some suggest spill-over effect across the hired work-force irrespective of location. This is based on the notion that our insatiable hunger for supply of consumer goods will greatly diminish, or at least change dramatically, due to scarcity of natural resources. And that indeed is the key.
The key with which to unlock human potential for creating future work-force where each and every worker, irrespective of where in the world they are, is valued for their individual contribution in line with their human capabilities and sufficiently to ensure decent life for them and their families. For that to eventuate, demand/supply and production/consumption/expansions formulas of the industrial era will have to become obsolete.