In America there is a strong undercurrent of protestant work ethic. Americans value hard work. I would even argue there is an obsession with it. People are told that if they don’t work hard that they are worthless. From the image of the “slacker” and “loser” to the stereotype of the “welfare queen,” Americans view people who don’t work hard as undeserving “leaches” and “moochers.” The stigma is thick for those who refuse or reject the idea of hard work, or for reasons out of their own control, are not able to obtain work.
There is also an American myth that hard work equals success and will earn anyone a ticket to the “American Dream.” I call it a myth because most of us know in our hearts that hard work does always not pay off. People work their asses off and what do they have to show for it? The vast majority of our labor value, which we produce through our hard work, gets taken away from us and exploited by our bosses (who, let’s face it, do not work nearly as hard as we do, yet gain nearly all the benefits of our hard work).
The owners, as I call them, pay us a pittance and then reap most of the profits we produce. They own the means of production, which they often purchased with money they accumulated from inheritance, tax shelters/breaks/havens, owning property, or exploiting other people. Essentially they get the money through unethical means.
Since they own the means of production and most property, they own us. And if we don’t work hard for them, they will find someone else who will (we are replaceable and expendable). They have tricked us into believing that hard work is good only so they can keep us working hard for them in the hopes that we make headway someday. But that someday never comes. The lower your wages and benefits the more they can extract from you, and the richer they become.
In fact, Americans are working harder than ever. Productivity today is through the roof. This is occurring as wages are mostly stagnant and remain flat while the cost of living rises exponentially. I would argue that hard work does not pay off and that we actually are being harmed by working so damn hard. Working long hours at a job does not bring about happiness as human beings. Spending our lives at work does not increase our sense of wellbeing. It actually increases our stress and leaves us little time to take care of ourselves or each other. What it actually does is make someone else rich at our expense.
I advocate that we have a right to be lazy! We have the human need to rest our minds, bodies, and spirits. We have the right to play, laugh, sleep, eat, read, write, create, share, dream etc. and be in nature and with each other. Of all human needs, something we spend most of our lives killing ourselves over, money, does not bring us more satisfaction in the end.
In addition, I, for one, am sick of seeing those memes going around on the internet that say something to the effect of, “hold tight, the weekend is almost here.” It has become apparent that people hate work and we really need to ask ourselves if this is how we want to spend our lives given that we have other choices. Furthermore, there are plenty of low social, health, and economic indicators that prove Americans’ happiness and overall wellbeing are suffering due to our backward economic, social, and political structures.
Look no further than this recent study of Denmark for a good example of what is making others happy, and for what we desperately need here in America:
Recently, the government in Switzerland decided to hold a vote on whether to give each citizen $2,800 a month as a guaranteed income per month. Just imagine if Americans had that! We could be a lot freer to be human beings, and not human doings.
A socialist transformation could bring us this sort of life. It’s totally doable, too, if we shift our priorities and defund things like war and prisons; tax the rich and corporations fairly; and socialize healthcare and other industries to make them more cost-effective by removing the profit motive. Collectively, we have the resources to support everyone to live the best lives they can possibly live, despite the lies being perpetuated that we are broke as a country.
We deserve a liberated life truly of our own where hard work is not forced on us just to survive. One where we would own our own means of production, form co-ops, and self-manage our workplaces collectively with fellow workers, if we choose to work. Where life doesn’t come as hard but is actually more purposeful and enjoyable and we can all reach our fullest potential together. We could stop working so hard and start working smart so that we can use our precious time more wisely. Now that’s a future worth working hard for!