Not sure why this comes to mind

In a posting on slashdot about "": (via Slate) and the confessional aspects thereof, I stumbled across "this gem": of a comment, with regards to the work/life balance.

It's funny that -- despite the advances in labour-saving technologies -- the amount of time and effort we put into maintaining ourselves in a lifestyle of any kind has increased steadily. There was a time, and it's not too terribly long ago, that -- for example -- six children could be raised with only one full time income (although I'd be willing to bet that Grandma was doing some kind of work on the side. Care to elaborate, Dad?).

Now, in order to _own a house_, it's not required that both parties work, but it's pretty close. And if you want to have kids, unless you happen to be in the lucky upper 10% of the income demographics, good luck affording it.

What happened to the future wherein we would all be free to pursue intellectual improvements? The future of leisure, as our advancements (as a species, through our technology) liberated us from menial labour?

As usual for this kind of thing, I have a few fuzzy, undirected opinions on it.

The thing about a life free from labour is that the part of me that believes strongly in capitalism as a superior method of distributing limited resources rebels at the idea of an indolent life. If one doesn't work for what one wants, by what right does one claim it? This feel natural to me, and the evidence of the world (the repeated failures of the far end of the socialist spectrum) would seem to bear me out, at least in part. The problem with this instinct is, of course, that it's predicated on limited resources. In a world of plenty, even I would be willing to admit that capitalism is unnecessarily harsh. Of course, there are still issues there -- imagine if there was enough (food|water|energy|$*good*) for everyone to have what they _need_. Then imagine what bizarre ideas people might have about their own needs, especially if the cost to them was zero.

That's just one hiccup.

The cynic in me suspects that the failure of our labour-reduction dreams stems more from wanting more than it does from anything else. Some exceptions may apply, most notably in housework; does anything -- anything _at all_ -- in your housework arsenal _really_ reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning? Still, in the rest of life, we want more and more. We've been raised to go for the best we can get, even if we don't necessarily deserve it. Witness, for example, the ridiculous salaries paid to cleaning staff in hospitals.

The aforementioned cynic has another idea, too, one that's even less popular. There are people who are by nature or inclination flat-out incapable of intellectual pursuits. For one reason or another, be it blatant stupidity, simple ignorance, or plain old apathy, they are unable or unwilling to turn their minds to anything more challenging than remembering what time and channel Canadian Idol is on. These people are ill-suited to anything beyond tossing garbage or toting heavy chunks of pipe around. So what would we do with them, in this hypothetical society of plenty? Would they simply sit and soak up the largesse that surrounds them, supported by the strength of other intellects?

The confusing thing here is that the people working longer hours than they used to are not this shallow end of the gene pool, they're the ones that have a glimmer of potential. I see it most in my industry, of course, but it's the ones with degrees who have ambition and long term plans who are slaving away. Meanwhile, the ones with MBAs and connections are (as a reply to the comment above says) "moving on to the salad course during the air-conditioned bonus announcement party. They're working less," and something about that feels wrong to me.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with any of this. I know that there's something wrong, but I can't put my finger on it, nor can I really suggest a solution, even one too harsh to ever be implemented.

Comments !