Why do you work?

Why do you do what you do? I mean really. Honestly. From inside you. Whether you be an accountant, or a painter, or a mechanic, or a florist. Why do you actually do that thing?

To pay the bills? If that’s the only reason, get another job. Because you enjoy it? Perhaps. But do look at that… why do you enjoy it? Some ego satisfying thing? Some way of covering something over? No? Oh…so it’s because you believe in it? That’s good. But why? Do you really understand the nature of the problems you see? Do you really know that buying Fair Trade Ethiopian tea is changing the world for the better? Or is there a bigger scheme afoot? And perhaps it won’t make any difference how much nearer the Ethiopian tea workers move towards the Western consumption model, the world will have moved on in a multitude of ways, most not so good.

Why do you do it? How near one hundred and eighty degrees away from what you intuit you should be doing is it? The nearer the number is to one hundred and eighty, the greater the reason you have to be unhappy. Change it now. It’s ‘later than you think’ as they say. And if it’s as bad as working to live, why are you living?

Are you doing anything to justify your existence?


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  1. #1 by Shaun Chamberlin on January 21, 2013 - 12:19 am

    Hm, this seems to be a common theme these days! Vanessa Spedding takes up the question: http://itsvivid.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/more-than-my-jobs-worth/

  2. #2 by David Kitching on January 21, 2013 - 8:56 am

    Speddings piece (although it took a while to get to the meaty bit) is spot on. “What we want to do is relax back, to line up with the default background field. But we can’t, because we are collectively hooked on the energy fixes that keep us up there”. I suppose the fact that there’s much being said on this theme is promising. Perhaps it’s hints at coming changes in attitudes. I doubt it though.Like so much writing that’s true and thoughtful, it’ll remain in the domain of the chattering classes – amongst those who’ve already got the house and the car and the cash-in-bank, as well as a certain predisposition to questioning. But not amongst the majority mainstream. Changes to their life goals, and the reasons they work, and also a tendency to question why they do work, may only come about when the world can truly no longer afford to support the the conventional consumerist model anyway, their hand is forced, and it’s finally too late. Try discussing these ideas in the local pub and see where you get.

  3. #3 by Shaun Chamberlin on January 21, 2013 - 3:01 pm

    Glad you liked it David. And yes, definitely not mainstream, but there are indeed a growing number of people discussing these things. As with Rebecca, I’d recommend a look at Mark Boyle’s Moneyless Manifesto, which I think you might well enjoy and find thought-provoking. In keeping with his beliefs, it’s available free of charge online, if you prefer that to purchasing a hard copy.

    All the best,

  4. #4 by David Kitching on January 21, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    From the ‘Moneyless Manifesto’: “A reporter once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message to the world was. He replied ‘my life is my message’, meaning that he believed how he lived his life every day was of much more importance and relevance than telling the world how he thinks they should live or what they should believe. Words are much too easy. To paraphrase Kahlil Gibran, action is love made visible.” Maybe I should shut up!

  5. #5 by David Kitching on January 21, 2013 - 10:55 pm

    From the ‘Moneyless Manifesto’ (Sorry Shaun..not having a go.. great book but every paragraph prompts a reaction!)
    Opinion on the internet: ” Yet whilst this is free at the point of delivery, libraries in the monetary economy are funded by council taxpayers. Therefore, projects such as these in this section should be regarded as transitional strategies, as opposed to something to strive for long-term.”

    This is a cop out. The internet only exists because of an unimaginably vast network of copper cables that circles the entire globe. Cables that lie across entire oceans, miles deep, and computer technology beyond the wildest dreams of those men who landed on the moon, 45 years ago. Without large, organisations that employ hundreds of thousands of people, and a global university network that coordinates research, how could such a thing have ever have been implemented. Never mind the hundreds of copper mines and their associated commercial organisations, and the mines to produce rare earths, and cobalt, and all the oil companies that make the stuff on which the computer chips sit and power companies that produce the completely phenomenal amount of electricity that powers the whole thing., and the computer chip manufacturers and the steel manufacturers and associated iron mines and the huge diesel powered ships that laid the cables, and on and on and on.

    Transitional? I don’t think so. The Internet is a manifestation of the most fundamental aspects of the current global economic system that challenges us to consider how else we might achieve such a thing. In a sense, the internet, and all that it’s achieving, from mobile commerce that’s liberating rural farmers in Kenya to the Arab spring, is truly a revolution, and unfortunately for those of us who want a gentler, more sustainable world, it’s a direct benefit of the very machine we rail against. There would be no other way or creating such a global monster/angel as the internet.

    If the internet is ‘transitional’, one has to wonder what it’s transitioning to. If that is anything that resembles the internet as it stands, it requires a similar degree of technical and material investment. And the way the world works right now, money as well. Regardless of whether or no I choose to live with the damned stuff. I cannot see how the internet, or anything resembling it, could exist without the concept of money, much as I wish it could,.

  6. #6 by Shaun Chamberlin on February 16, 2013 - 6:15 pm

    Hi David – I know that Mark is well aware of the physical infrastructure of the internet, as you likely discovered as you read on. But it’s here now, so if we are using it, presumably we are doing so as part of the attempt to mobilise some kind of transition to an alternative? I believe that’s all Mark meant 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the book.

    • #7 by David Kitching on February 16, 2013 - 9:15 pm

      Shaun, I understand your point, but it still begs the question of how anything as vast and complex that is so dependent upon societal and economic structures to maintain it, could ever be maintained by any simpler system. How could the raw materials be sourced globally without some market based mechanism for valuing them? How could the skills be generated without some universal benefit being available to those experts who acquire the skills and need rewarding for their application? How could it exist without the automatic associations it has with so many industries, including mining, plastics, oil, IT, shipping, energy and even glass? To aim for a world where all these innovative and hugely expensive industries are coordinated by anything other than a common means of exchange, namely money, is a pipe dream. At least in the medium term. Perhaps in 200 years time we’ll have progressed to a better system, or at least one that’s run in a more efficient way. I’m reminded of an episode of Star Trek when Cap’n Jim and Spock land back in the 20th century and are standing on a street corner slightly bemused because ‘back then they still used money’. Yeah, but they didn’t have computers that fabricated ready meals out of thin air back then. I may be missing something that Mark has said.. but I find it hard to see how it’s possible to argue for any global system, to build a global physical infrastructure, that doesn’t include money.

      Anyway, it’s not money that’s the problem. Money is just a means of value exchange. It’s a language. It’s the way it’s implemented and utilised that’s the problem. Capitalism has been pretty successful. But we’re still tangled up in the 20th century version 1 of capitalism. Junk the bad bits, tweak the good bits, and add a few new components that, for example, don’t externalize real costs, and perhaps a money based capitalist system is the way forward. Oops, did I just say that?

      • #8 by Shaun Chamberlin on February 18, 2013 - 10:12 am

        David, I completely agree with your comments about the industrial dependence of the internet, but I was simply saying that it’s here now (not that it’s necessarily desirable that it’s here now), so we either choose to use it or we don’t. You and I both do, and in my case this is because I see it as a useful tool in trying to encourage a cultural transition away from dependence on such industrial technology (this is what Mark terms a ‘transitional strategy’). Mark’s book clearly *doesn’t* advocate for any global system, which is his response to the problem you so rightly identify.


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