Wed 6 Dec 2006 7:59 PM
My peer group – for the most part – is a well-washed mass of royalty. Or, rather, anticipated royalty. Chris Ott at Shallow Rewards puts it best:
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better childhood is proving a mistake, if a well-intentioned one. We are a generation embarrassed to have day jobs, embarrassed to work for a living. Embarrassed not to be kings and queens.
Ott acknowledges the myth that this wasn’t basically true of our parents’ generation as well. His implicit solution is to work a tolerable job and save your passion for your free time. Here’s where I disagree. While I appreciate the sentiment and the notion that most kids my age should just get over themselves, I take issue with the one-size-fits-all solution. Some people are legitimately depressed by their 9 to 5 jobs, and it seems like a format for living that better serves fictional economic bodies rather than individuals. I read about a study once that said the average U.S. employee works more hours than anywhere else in
the world, but the amount of work accomplished with each additional hour was the lowest. In other words, our attitude towards work keeps us at the office longer with the least amount of payoff. When you have an arbitrary standard of 40 hours a week, you get people extending 30 hours of work unnecessarily. And I would wager that the increased employee dissatisfaction plays a role in productivity as well. I can understand why the work week was structured the way it is, but it’s one specific solution to an organizational problem that is perhaps outdated. The drive to maximize one’s earning torque doesn’t work for a lot of people. And for that segment of the population there are socialist pipe dreams. In my view, we should be looking back upon this time a hundred years from now and putting this labor schedule on a level analogous to how we view serfdom now. It’s simply an inefficient system for any civic goals you may have. The only realm in which it makes sense is one driven by bureaucracy rather than populism. And so I think Ott’s solution is flawed. I think that the king syndrome is the product of our fucked up view towards work and leisure, and the problems of polarizing one’s life into those two categories in the first place. We shouldn’t think that we’re special, but we should acknowledge that we are unique. And rather than having a market economy – which is not a level playing field by any stretch of the imagination – create a variety of life paths that so that you can choose how best your talents serve consumers, we should have a system that takes care of economic necessities while allowing for the diversity of human experience. Fruity, I know. But I’m sick of most people getting nothing just so everyone can entertain the illusion that they could have everything.