Abolish All Work Immediately


Hang around the office crowd long enough and someone is sure to tell you that “jobs are obsolete”. They’ll tell you it’s the “work” that matters in that tone of voice meant to elicit wonder from a three year old grappling with his first paradox in the hope of one day giving a TED talk about ‘Grappling with Paradoxes’. It’s work with a capital ‘W’ that will eventually yield a self-driving minivan that runs on gluten. It’s work without the actual worker that will “make the world a better place” . . . for the people who are busy destroying it one TED talk at a time. It’s ‘work’ carried out by everybody except the worker, because workers, after all, cost more than the visionaries and geniuses who tend to live with their parents in upscale communities and can afford to think up ways to deal with the the world’s unwanted gluten supplies, while strapped into the car seat of their mom’s minivan.

Jobs, those ‘think-outside-the-box’ dipshits will tell you, are “soooo last century” when you consider the unwieldy and oppressive administrative aspects that are crippling enterprise and stifling creativity. ‘Work’ is precise and unencumbered by the bureaucracy necessary to maintain pensions, heath insurance, paid leave and compensation for missing limbs and brain cells. ‘Work’ frees you up to take on the burden of paperwork your former employer once took care of, leaving you plenty of time to pull out your hair and scream obscenities at a computer screen.  ‘Work’ is authentic and life-affirming, while jobs are why Preparation-H was invented

Naturally, they fail to mention that not all ‘work’ pays, whereas jobs generally guarantee an income. The problem with jobs is that they sound a lot less glamorous than the more aspirational model of ‘work’, which supposedly makes you frei, and not just in the nazi sense of the word.  Thus you’ll be hard pressed to meet anyone who isn’t a filmmaker, IT consultant, or “poet”. Tell people what you actually do for money and they’ll react as if you said “I kill surplus baby animals at a petting zoo with my own bare hands” or “I shoot ping pong balls out of my hoohoo in exchange for tequila shots” – as if that’s somehow worse than “leading a global team of market analysts for a European bank”. People who have jobs can fight for improved working conditions. People who ‘work’ at non-jobs as freelancers, interns or just aspirants in the field are unlikely to challenge the status quo. Thus ‘work’ is heralded as value producing, worthwhile and fulfilling, whereas jobs are for shmucks who can’t compete in the “real world”.

‘Work’ guarantees productivity since it involves spending several hours a day outlining your goals, describing how you plan to achieve them and making complex mathematical equations on spreadsheets to compare your previous goal-achieving output with your present task of writing unintelligibly upbeat minute-by-minute assessments of your “performance”. Sadly, belting out Latvian show tunes while balancing the entire contents of your desk on your head doesn’t count for ‘performance’. Nor does yodeling or swallowing flaming swords despite requiring an infinitely more useful skill set than writing highly fictionalized accounts of your usefulness to an organization that hates you by default.

‘Work’ is developing an app that can tell you the day of the week without having to consult a calendar, or a device you can wear around your wrist so you don’t have to consult a watch. With enough money thrown at it, work might even yield a solar powered data amassing drone for those times you want to gather the world’s emails and text messages in case a Bedouin somewhere harbors a less than charitable thought about your country’s democratic values, then you can vaporize his second cousin several hundred miles away at his own wedding.

‘Work’ is making a shitload of money and giving a percentage of it to a boutique girl empowerment school in a famine-ravaged African country that has a functioning runway to land your private jet twice a year for a photo op. Never mind that the famine in question is directly related to the water privatization scheme your financial instrument helped create under a Ponzi “start up” scheme or a Global Initiative spearheaded by a flaming cock and his leggy, polyglot arm candy.

Never mind that millions of people world wide, having fled from their war torn nations need jobs to survive in their new homelands, and their host countries need willing and capable hands to strengthen and expand the infrastructure necessary to support all life, and not just the soulless, oxygen-wasting, single-cell invertebrate bottom dwellers who somehow oozed their way up to the top of the food chain. Watch how fast self-employed, enterprising brown-hued individuals become “terrorists” when they compete with the government in illegal trades involving drugs and weapons. And watch just how quickly investor enthusiasm dwindles when you mention your idea for a 3-D printed guillotine despite the kind of demand worldwide that would guarantee a billion dollar return on their investment in the first week.

Jobs, with their lack of “fluidity” are for old timey, non-robotic dock workers and other “losers” who eat donuts and hide their inefficiency behind labor unions. Work, on the other hand, is for people who eat ‘cronuts’ and conceal their venality and ineptitude behind inspirational quotes. It allows a “kreator” like Kylie Jenner to mass market lip liner for tweens whose parents live on food stamps, using the money her own mother scored from a sibling’s sex tape. Before you slam the ‘self-made’ teen for merely lending her name to a forty dollar crayon while laying on her back, remember it takes ‘work’ to inspire an entire generation of girls to wish they had good surgeons and rich parents willing to pimp them.

“Work” is a white guy showing up at an indoor playground on a little scooter and ‘brain scanning’ his team for their input on a worthless idea. But mostly, it’s harnessing a temporary force of itinerant laborers with a wide range of collar colors, and releasing them as soon as they are no longer needed. It sometimes involves pep talks about the “beauty and necessity of change”, but should ‘Zen’ fail to move redundant “associates” and “team members”, having tear gas canisters lobbed at them as they are forcefully ejected from the premises will help them on their journey towards “transitioning into a new sphere of excellence” – in other words, dumpster diving alongside abandoned, feral cats until the next time a “visionary” needs help wiping his ass.

Even the French, who founded their Republic on the quaint notion of having a life outside of pushing paper in slow motion five hours a day, five days a week, are dismantling the institutions that demanded compliance to this ideal by allowing companies to reduce their workforce each time profits and earnings fall below a point that threatens a CEO’s chance to acquire another mistress. “But pushing paper in slow motion five hours a day, five days a week and with a five month summer vacation thrown in, is hardly productive”, one might argue. “Think of what they could do with a 15 hour work day a few months of the year, seven days a week with five minute bathroom breaks at five day intervals . . . and sans vacance!” In the US, it’s called “Work Life Balance”. Elsewhere, it’s called ‘Feudalism’.

Rather than enjoying a glass of lunch wine on the company dime, as is their right enshrined in the constitution just above “the right to expound authoritatively about cinema”,  French workers could be pushing buttons at the speed of light to develop a GM, petrol-based product that looks and smells like cheese. Or working out the logistics of bottling wine in Bangladesh before being forcibly ejected from their desks and escorted out of the building when Chinese demand for artificial stem cell grape flavored beverages reaches its peak. Instead they want to enjoy decent food with a roof over their heads, and not be clubbed over the head by a Nazi gendarme while exercising a basic democratic right to protest having cake shoved up their asses and being told to ‘eat it’.

Having jobs that didn’t demand too much work is why the French excelled at philosophy, sex and gastronomy, and why their more “industrious” counterparts in the US excel at violence, porn and obesity. For the sake of the economy, we must all demand jobs that require not too much work – jobs that free us up to rethink a system that would sooner crack open our skulls with a police truncheon than allow us to just do our jobs without all the bullshit ‘work’.  Better yet, why force anyone into a job if he/she is better suited to not  working in a Poundland outlet in the outskirts of Manchester, unloading merchandise in a warehouse while tethered to life support oxygen tent in exchange for ‘benefits’.  (Yes, England, I’m talking to you!)  Or as Buckminster Fuller famously said before he was mercifully spared the sermons about “following your passion” by the Business Guru sect of late Capitalism:

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.