For almost all human history, there was no such thing as a job. There was plenty of work, to be sure: Work was whatever needed to be done for survival, and it involved nature. We can guess that in prehistoric times, work wasn’t really separated from the rest of life. (Are you shelling those nuts for part of your meal, or is it work?) More recently, human cultures developed hierarchies; everyone but people in the upper echelons still had to work hard, and for basic necessities—sometimes from dawn to dusk. But the concept of the job—where kinds of work were narrowed down, where shifts were defined, where bosses bossed workers—didn’t arise until the Industrial Age.
Why is it, then, that these days we think we need jobs?
The obvious answer is to earn money so we can eat and pay for all the other things we need. And certainly a few things we don’t need. (At times it’s a fine line.)
But jobs go beyond money in what they potentially provide. Financial security and credit. Some degree of respect and status, symbolized by things like a glassy office looking down on the city. Covered—and coveted—parking. The latest technology. An established career path. A readymade community (virtual or real). External discipline. Perhaps even the modern equivalent of “servants.”
But most jobs are destructive. As you know, this blog is all about why new stuff—its production and disposal—can be a threat to humanity. So of course jobs that produce new stuff or move it around aren’t gonna be shown as benign. Some jobs are actually moving us backwards, environmentally and socially. They create “needs” we haven’t had before—having music play when we walk into a room, for example. I put driverless cars (or even just cars!) in this category, too. And a lot of other new stuff.
I always come back to this: Yes, people evolved to work. Why else would good health require exercise and effort? But we don’t need to give the label “work” to everything that’s physically demanding, or repetitive, or dirty (that is, from the clean, natural dirt underfoot). And sometimes this kind of work can’t be found in a job.
I think we’re happier when our work equals play, not just pay.
A lot has been written about making a living without a job. (See links below.) It’s a very individual journey. Freelancing—self-employment—isn’t the subject of this post, anyway. I just wanted to say: You don’t necessarily need a job. The job is a recent phenomenon, not part of the original human makeup.
I have a few friends who are continuing to work instead of retiring. They seem to have good reasons. One of my dearest friends wouldn’t see me or her other buddies for three years; she was busy working overtime, funding her retirement. Well, she enjoyed it for a few weeks, then got cancer and died. Others I know hate their jobs and suffer from stress or even creeping physical problems, but they keep going. I admire them for their strength. But oh, all I can think about is, life is so short! I don’t understand. I’ve always made it my goal to live with less income and more fun. I believe this is one of the secrets to happiness—Joseph Campbell called it “following your bliss”—but I find very few kindred spirits on that path.
Even all this verbal rambling doesn’t address the main point I set out to make. What inspired me to talk about jobs was yet another news story promising that a certain new venture (this time it was oil drilling in Alaska) would be offering lots of jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. I’ve noticed that whenever a particularly nasty enterprise is proposed, whether it involves drilling, fracking, mining, deforestation, cultural erasure, water theft, extinctions, or some other devastation of what’s left of our natural riches, there is mention of jobs. When we’re promised jobs, it’s almost always to cover up some act of planetary ruination. And it’s just a promise, not a legal commitment. The new jobs could be temporary, or unpalatable, or dangerous, or few. When I hear that jobs will be created, I’m alerted to a possible disaster being proposed. The word “jobs” is a red flag. I smell something generating profits for a scheming mastermind or developer, not for my health or wellbeing, or yours.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have jobs. They can offer progress toward positive goals. They can offer individuals a means to a life well-lived. But let’s not be stuck with them as the only option. Above all, let’s not be fooled by the perspective of vague “job offers” that are broadcast only to hide projects that will come back to bite us, offers that may not even materialize.
Remember a certain place that emblazoned its so-called work ethic above its gate: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work—Jobs—Will Free You.)” Don’t fall for the shady line about jobs, jobs, jobs. What is it concealing?
Book: Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin
Book (also available as an eBook): Living on Almost Nothing by Amber Storck
Book: How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty: A Practical Introduction to Small-Scale Sufficient Country Living, by Janet Chadwick
On Medium: How to Thrive While Unemployed
On Nerdwallet: 15 Ways to Make Money Without a Job
From wikiHow: Make a Living Without a Job
From GOBankingRates: 45 Ways To Live the Big Life on a Small Budget
You’ll also find a large range of videos on YouTube if you search how to live on almost nothing.
Rebel Hack: Your Best Friend, Vera
This hack could save you some money. Not enough to let you quit your job, I’m afraid. But you might be able to quit buying certain beauty products, salves, ointments, gels, hair treatments, vitamins, and/or healthy drinks. The aloe vera plant appears as an important ingredient in a slew of products, and it has so many benefits that I had to stop listing them and go to bed. Maybe you’ve heard about how aloe vera (the gooey insides of its leaf) is good for cuts and burns. But there’s so much more. It can also do all this:
- Condition hair
- Help in weight loss
- Alleviate rashes
- Slow wrinkles
- Lower blood sugar
- Become an antioxidant drink
- Act as an exfoliant
- Manage herpes
- Reduce asthma attacks
- Reduce hair breakage
- Block the growth of some cancers (aloe emodin, an extract)
To learn about many more things it can do and get do-it-yourself instructions for making your own aloe vera “products,” search the web for aloe vera benefits or aloe vera DIY and pick the topic that suits your current health needs.
You’ll need an aloe vera plant or two, of course.
In my climate—hot, with mild winters—aloes grow like crazy. But they’ll grow indoors, too: Someone gave me an aloe vera about a decade ago, and it multiplied madly, each plant trying its best to choke its neighbors. I’ve used it for different skin problems, its most famous application. It seemed to work, and of course a leaf interior is probably going to be antiseptic, in any case. But there are about 400 species of aloe, and it turns out mine was not true aloe vera. A few species are even poisonous—so I guess I won’t be making wonderful foot and skin products for friends for a while.
Right away, though, I went to a nursery and bought a plant labeled aloe vera, complete with a medical cross on it for extra reassurance.
I’m guessing my plant will soon have “pups” (baby plants growing out from under the parent) and spread just as fast as the one I thought was “true” (vera, in Latin). In the meantime, perhaps I can beg, borrow or steal some little pups from a couple of my neighbors, who have the real thing growing out by the street. Now that I know what it looks like:
Let me know what you make and how you heal.
2 thoughts on “Post 71: Need a Job?”
Kay – I have a ton of “the real thing”, please come take some. I like putting a few leaves in the fridge then smearing it on sunburn, or other burns when it’s cold.
While it’s not quite the healing you asked about, when I feel stressed about what’s coming, I redirect my thinking toward creating. Transforming stuff that I can’t avoid, or stuff that’s been given to me gives me pleasure.
Lately the alchemy mostly involves making post cards from food boxes, hair rinse from yogurt whey, wrapping paper from tie-died wipes, paints from dried markers, flag books from old calendars, discarded words into poems or a scene.
(And I have the yellow-flowered aloe in shown in your last photo if you still need some pups!)