I was in Melbourne just in time for the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s “careers expo”. This was my contribution (we lasted about 15 minutes before we were asked to leave, but managed to hand out all our flyers).
Welcome to RMIT’s careers expo, where the collection of friendly PR reps before you are here to convince you that your future, your dreams and your talents fit perfectly into their companies’ desire to make a profit.
In our world where everything has a price, work is the ultimate transaction. It’s our very lives we are being asked to sell – 40 hours a week (plus travel and unpaid overtime) for the rest of our life, just so we can have food, shelter and entertainment. The great irony is that in these days of massive corporations, we often are giving our money back to the same people who have already turned a profit from our labour.
In return for these wages, your job will now be the almighty power to which you shall declare allegiance. You will turn up every day on time, be required to ask permission well in advance for a day off, and produce a doctor’s certificate to prove when you are sick. And no, the fact that work has consumed your life is not considered a valid illness.
Work is a noble and fulfilling thing. We need it both to produce the essentials and comforts we require for life, and to have a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that our life is more than just killing time. But this idea of work has been deformed into the ritual of making money at any cost, while much of the work we do contributes nothing to our basic needs.
It is this drive to work and produce wealth way beyond what we actually need that is the tipping point where our work actually becomes destructive. Our addiction to economic growth means that we keep making more money and producing and buying more stuff, regardless of what our planet can handle. Giving us climate change and peak oil with our pay packet each week.
And most of us are not feeling fulfilled. We know what does fulfil us – our dreams, passions, relationships, community and family. But these are the things we don’t have time for, precisely because work has taken over our lives.
We need to work less to reclaim what it means to live a fulfilling life and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. We need to work less to challenge the spiralling overconsumption that is destroying our planet. We need to discover what it means to stop “making a living” and start actually living.