Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook that you know the economy sucks when people tell you you’re lucky to have a job. She went on to say how messed-up it is that, instead of employment being the default and unemployment meaning you’re down on your luck, people are considered lucky to have jobs at all.
The same day, Sarah Kendzior tweeted about a man who could only afford to eat one meal a day while working an unpaid internship–which was in human rights.
And then I read that my alma mater just gave eight million dollars to its former president.
This is the world we live in.
There are so many solutions–and so much money and power standing in the way of those solutions.
And it’s damn hard to work toward solutions, toward a better world, while still living in this one.
I am reminded of David Cain’s piece, Your lifestyle has already been designed. Cain writes about returning to a traditional 9-to-5 job after spending time traveling, and realizing that he became both casually careless with his money and too tired to exercise or do creative things.
He notes that:
Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.
I know this dynamic too well.
I should note that working a 40-hour workweek makes both Cain and myself luckier than the many, many people who work far more hours, including those who string together multiple low-paid part-time jobs just to get by.
But even still, I often come home exhausted, especially during the busy times when I’m on my feet lifting things all day. It’s harder to have energy for activism–including activism aimed at building a just and healthy economic system–especially when that activism involves putting on shoes and leaving the house.
It’s also harder to live up to my community-centric values when the last thing I want to do after work is go out to a local event or meeting. And it’s harder to support small local businesses–when I’m tired and don’t want to go out, it’s so much easier to buy everything from Amazon instead.
It’s a vicious cycle that’s really, really hard to break.
On the personal level, it’s just a struggle.