What we do for money
Don’t get me wrong.
Sometimes we’ve no choice…
If money wasn’t an issue, either because we hadn’t backed ourselves into a debt-ridden corner or it wasn’t our raison dêtre, then what?
We’d all be artists?
I don’t know.
But I’d like to think that workplace temerity, ennui and depression wouldn’t order our mind-numbing days.
Recently, I talked to my wife about our moribund education system. The one that says you’ve got to knuckle under, learn a bunch of useless, out-of-touch-with-reality facts and pass a bushel of exams.
You’re packed off to University to extend your education or you end up in the meat-grinder of workplace exploitation for the next 40 years. Ditto, eventually, the Uni crowd who are simply buying themselves a nanosecond of time, but swallowing more Kool-Aid of conformity.
Instead, why don’t we ask ourselves what a non-human world needs of us? Not more workers, surely.
But I’m going off the point.
The thing is: why do we suck up so much crap all in the name of being someone else’s wage slave?
What, you don’t for the Man!
You work for yourself!
Let me guess: you work for the best or is that the worst Boss in the world? The one that works all hours but has no idea, really, if they or the business will be afloat next year.
The key question always to ask yourself: are you selling something that others want to buy?
I doubt it.
The things needed to survive don’t include consulting, training, events or even coaching. Learning how to forage, light a fire, build a shelter, defend yourself and your family against the rising tide of the climate apocalypse, now they sound much more in keeping with the age of the Anthropocene.
Oops, before I get myself in seriously hot water, I should add that I’ve similarly been whipped into shape and still am, given I’ve not yet been able to escape the vice of the employer/employee relationship, working my sorry arse off.
Instead, I want to lead a nice quiet life.
(Go read the book Come of Age by Stephen Jenkinson, and you’ll understand why I’m slightly obsessed with letting go of workplace salvation.)
Perhaps I’m going completely off-piste, but just imagine a world where we spoke our truth at work. None of that saccharine-infused nonsense where you said exactly what the Bosses wanted to hear but explained why you were slowing dying given:
a) the sameness of the work,
b) the toxic culture,
c) the misogyny and,
d) the office politics.
I blame the moral order which is a mixture of our parents, school (see above), our reluctance to rock the boat for fear of being homeless and/or living in penury and peer pressure. Yep, keeping up with the Joneses still seems a thing. Just look at the stupid cars we drive, the clothes we buy or what we aspire to do with the days/hours/seconds when we’re not being beasted by work.
Sadly, we never get out from under it and neither are we encouraged to do so.
“What, you want to be another starving artist?”
At this stage, I’m reminded of my poetry and writing hero, Charles Bukowski. If you’ve not read Post Office, Ham on Rye or his outpouring of poetry then you’re missing out, big time.
Here’s one for starters.
the difference between a bad poet and a good one is luck
I suppose so.
I was living in an attic in Philadelphia
It became very hot in the summer and so I stayed in the
bars. I didn’t have any money and so with what was almost left
I put a small ad in the paper and said I was a writer
looking for work . . .
which was a god damned lie; I was a writer
looking for a little time and a little food and some
a couple days later when I finally came home
the landlady said, there was somebody looking for
you. and I said,
there must be some mistake. she said,
no, it was a writer and he said he wanted you to help him write
a history book.
oh, fine, I said, and I knew with that I had another week’s
rent — I mean, on the cuff —
so I sat around drinking wine on credit and watching the hot pigeons
suffer and fuck on my hot roof.
I turned the radio on real loud
drank the wine and wondered how I could make a history book
interesting but true.
but the bastard never came back,
and I had to finally sign on with a railroad track gang
and they gave us cans of food but no
and we broke the cans against the seats and sides of
railroad cars a hundred years old with dust
the food wasn’t cooked and the water tasted like
and I leaped off into a clump of brush somewhere in
all green with nice-looking houses in the
I found a park
slept all night
and then they found me and put me in a cell
and they asked me about murders and
they wanted to get a lot of stuff off the books
to prove their efficiency
but I wasn’t that tired
and they drove me to the next big town
fifty-seven miles away
the big one kicked me in the ass
and they drove off.
but I lucked it:
two weeks later I was sitting in the office of the city hall
half-asleep in the sun like the big fly on my elbow
and now and then she took me down to a meeting of the council
and I listened very gravely as if I knew what was happening
as if I knew how the funds of a halfass town were being
later I went to bed and woke up with teethmarks all over
me, and I said, Christ, watch it, baby! you might give me
cancer! and I’m rewriting the history of the Crimean War!
and they all came to her house —
all the cowboys, all the cowboys:
fat, dull and covered with dust.
and we all shook hands.
I had on a pair of old bluejeans, and they said
oh, you’re a writer, eh?
and I said: well, some think so.
and some still think so . . .
others, of course, haven’t quite wised up yet.
two weeks later they
ran me out
“the difference between a bad poet and a good one is luck” from Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955–1973 by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974 by Charles Bukowski.
What am I trying to say in my hamfisted, slightly tawdry way?
Never stop questioning what the hell you’re doing. I doubt, like me, if you’ll ever make sense of it all but when your luck runs out and you lose your job, can’t find one or end up in another dark hole, perhaps, just perhaps there might be a life lesson or light above your head to show you that your life means a lot more than cranking out another eight + hours for someone or something you no longer believe in.