By David Swanson
Cultures isolated from modernity have tended not to engage in anything resembling what we call work. When we began inventing modern time-saving devices and increasing productivity in our factories (and, yes, exploiting other peoples to do the factory work) we were always told we’d be able to work less — often by people who clearly imagined there were limits to human greed and cruelty.
We live in a culture now where any talk of not wanting to work is immediately understood as a desire to freeload on the work of others, an activity understood to be engaged in by the poor, not by the investment bankers. And clearly an end to work is not a program for a piece of legislation to be passed this year in Congress. But as a very-long-term vision for our society: is our ultimate ideal really to keep everyone spending a huge percentage of their time obeying bosses’ orders to perform often useless and very often uninspiring tasks?
Just as we have enough food for the world, just as we already pay enough for healthcare without receiving it, we have enough capacity to create a good quality of life for all of us with less work by many of us, less waste by all of us, and more freedom for more of us to do what inspires us. Realizing this does not, of course, give us the Employee Free Choice Act or single-payer healthcare or end any wars. And we need those things. But it does add a dimension to how we think about the next steps after ending wars and demilitarizing (imagine the useful work that could be done with half the effort so many put into death work).
I read some excellent books at the beach this summer. Chris Hedges’ new book is terrific, particularly if you enjoy despair and suicidal thoughts. In fairness, it is wonderfully reported and it does point toward solutions to the catastrophic apocalyptic trends it describes. But I found more enjoyable for sand-reading a rather stream-of-consciousness rant against work and those who exploit it called “Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves From Work: A Call to Envision Our Future Freedom Without Bosses. Only We Can Create the World We Want,” by Pamela Satterwhite.
This brilliant book mixes history, philosophy, autobiography, poetry, anger, community, and love. It has plenty of quirks. The obsession with Nikola Tesla is a little weird. Barack Obama has somehow made it to the side of the angels in this book, based on nothing documented herein. And, while the book breaks down and opposes all sorts of divisions, it erects a major one between most of us good people and the predatory overclass that Satterwhite calls podrunks. Nonetheless, there is more careful thought, more pain, more joy, and more courage in this book than in any dozen I could take off the shelf.
I write this as a workaholic, but also as someone completely incapable of doing work I don’t enjoy and believe in, and as someone horrified by imagining the rage that would consume me were I not privileged to do the work I do.
You don’t have to take my word for it or spend any money on it, since you can read the whole book for free or request a free copy in the mail here: