Oscar Wilde once said, “Work is the refuge for people who have nothing better to do.”
This comment got me thinking about our current societies (Western ones), where we glorify how long we work per week or the type of work we do is seen as some sort of badge of honour and a big part of our identities. However, if you just rewind a mere few hundred years working was for the peasants, the lower class. Working was seen as a burden and something to be left for the less fortunate within society, yet now if you want to be seen as successful, rich etc you will proudly boast about your 65 hour work week and the hours you put in on the weekends.
How has this shift happened? A shift where we are happy to trade our precious time for commerce? When by all rational, we should want to do the opposite. That’s just the way the world is you may think, we it sure as fuck doesn’t need to be and why have such limiting beliefs? In 1800 the average worker put in six, twelve-hour shifts for a total of 76 hours a week, we are now down to on average 40 hours a week.
It is 2020 and economists (John Maynard Keynes) even just 80 years ago predicted by around 2030 we would be working just 15-hour work weeks and the rest of the work would be automated or done by machines, leaving us with a beautiful amount of spare time for leisure and hobbies. The worst part, we could very well have had this by now if things had gone a little differently. This leaves us a mere 10 years to shave off more than half our working weeks. Perhaps Keynes was a little too optimistic?
15-hour work weeks sounds lovely, but for the elites and people in power this has always been a controversial topic. They have always assumed more leisure for the commoners would just equate to more crime, debauchery and potentially, revolution. Yet, now in 2020 most people you ask will likely say when quizzed about this topic “oh I need to work, I would go crazy with boredom not working” or “what would I do? Just watch more TV?” something to this thinking.
This is another issue. Everyone knows people who spend an incomprehensible amount of time watching TV, 5+ hours a day, which equates to on average 9 years of your life. Nearly a decade watching television. Sure, some time watching the tube is perfectly fine, an hour here or there, but nearly a decade of your life wasted watching reality TV or movies about other peoples lives? This brings my back to Oscar Wilde’s quote.
How have we gotten ourselves into this position where we are happy to either work, or watch TV for most of our lives, looking forward to the occasional holiday for respite from the grind of life. Would it not seem wiser spending a life in pursuit of fruitful endeavours? Hobbies we enjoy doing, learning new skills, spending time in nature, or finding ways to better our society for the future of our children. The aristocrats and “successful” people of yesteryear would not have anticipated that their progeny would end up reverting back to the way of life of the common folk, work, work, work and then fill in time till they die.
“The goal for the future is full unemployment, so we can play.” – Arthur C. Clarke
I sure hope for a day where I can play full-time, where I can learn a new language, write a book, try my hand at archery or MMA, learn to paint.. whatever my heart desires. The pursuit of never-ending new skills, hobbies and leisure seems like a life worth living to me.
Any map we create as a society must have utopia as a destination.
Feel free to comment your own opinions if you wish to chime in on the topic. Like, share and follow if you like 😊
Until next time.