Linked – The French Understand That Work Sucks

I think Nathan pretty much nails this:

“I never understood why people think this. If work was “foundational to the sense of self,” you wouldn’t have to pay people to do it! If people found work intrinsically rewarding and necessary for their dignity, there would never be any worries about people being “lazy” or “idle” since they’d work by choice. I think that the mistake comes from the use of “work” to be synonymous with both “jobs” and “activity.” Jobs (activity done in order to get money, often without much say in working conditions or compensation) are not foundational to the sense of self. Activity (doing things) probably is, since not doing anything is quite boring.”

This is something that has bothered me for years. The good old Protestant work ethic that we adhere to in the US has been used to indoctrinate generations of Americans to believe that their entire existence is equal to their job. Similar to Nathan, though, what I think was meant originally was that doing something was foundational to our sense of self, but that work doesn’t have to equal doing a job.

Consider how much damage we have done by only valuing our jobs. We’ve made second-class citizens of millions of mothers who don’t work while ignoring the privileges that make it possible in the first place, mainly a spouse who does almost nothing but their job. We devalue the other “work” we could be doing instead of our jobs. Things like:

  • Being a parent
  • Being involved in our local communities
  • Creating
  • Learning or educating others
  • Being a good friend

Everything that brings us the most happiness and spreads that happiness across society gets set aside because we are supposed to identify ourselves based on our jobs.

So yeah, maybe the French won’t necessarily still get to retire with a pension at 62. (though Nathan does a good job of explaining why that isn’t impossible, this was a choice made to protect the wealthy from being taxed, after all.) I still think many of us could learn something from the French, and Europe in general, about where our jobs fit into the fuller picture of our lives. If you aren’t making time to “live,” what’s the point of all that time spent at our jobs?

Who are you, really? There’s much more to you than your job. Not making time to explore any of that is surely a waste. We shouldn’t have to wait for retirement to figure that out, but we should have the opportunity to retire and do that at some point too. I don’t believe many of my generation or younger ones see that as possible. A society that has allowed that to happen is a terrible waste.

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