The Reddit

I’m being told from every quarter about the new Reddit forum dedicated to “Antiwork”. It has almost a million subscribers, most of whom joined in the last twelve months.

I’m not really a Reddit guy, but even a cursory wade through the swamp reveals many, many angry voices. Here’s one from today:

I’m just a lowly 19 yo getting a new job after quitting my old one. I applied for a hardware store cashier position who ADVERTISED 18 an hour STARTING.

I got offered the job on the spot. I noticed the manger clicking some buttons and said, “Alright, we can start you at 12.15 an hour according to the computer system. But I could try and get you 15.12.”

I walked out. You just wasted my time. An hour of my life, gone. You advertised 18 an hour, but can start me at 12? I’ve been working FULL TIME jobs since I was 15. That’s 4 years of customer service experience. But I’m only worth 12.15? FUCK YOU.

and, also from today:

I quit my $11 hr job today (walked out) because they were way overloading me. As I walked out my boss told me my last paycheck will be minimum wage. I know it wasnt just a threat because they have done it to other people and my friend currently. My friend did it the right way and put in her two weeks. They told her if shes even 5 minutes late to any of the days in her last two weeks her last paycheck will be reduced to minimum wage as well. How tf is this legal?

There are plenty of recycled memes and screenshots of other people’s tweets (which are ugly but useful and valid) but my favourite sort of content is first-person accounts like the ones above. And there’s tonnes of them, new ones every day, a constant stream. They provide a high-quality cross-section view of working life on Earth today. It’s good to get it all down on virtual paper. Reddit is serving as a wonderful ramscoop for antiwork vitriol and case studies of real-life bullshit.

It’s a treasure trove of people venting about oppressive or unfair jobs, raging against the work machine more broadly, or actually finding justice through what is essentially Escapology. The point is: work is worse (less dignified, more precarious, more unfair) than popular culture and received wisdom handed down from the Boomer generation would have us believe and we can take action.

The forum is getting a lot of press. Here’s Forbes, the literal voice of Capitalism:

A common, unifying theme is that workers feel that they are being taken advantage of, forced to work long hours for low wages and treated rudely by their unsympathetic managers.

and:

Many of their complaints, factoring in a healthy dose of hyperbole, are valid. The younger generation may be the first group in modern history that does not do better or as well as their parents. With tens or hundreds of thousands in student-loan debt, young adults find it almost impossible to purchase a home, get married and start a family. The debt burden, along with rising home prices and inflation, doesn’t leave them with sufficient funds to afford the lifestyle that older generations took for granted.

It’s lovely stuff and while I’ve said many times before that “the tide is turning” on work based on something positive in the media, a million self-described idlers really is a lot, isn’t it?

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If you’d prefer to have “read it” than to have “reddit,” try my books, I’m Out and The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Email me if you need a discount or would like a signed copy.

A Raw Deal

[I saw] a TikToker venting about how the idealized career is — when you think about it — a raw deal. It went something like this: You devote the bulk of every day for 30-40 years in the prime of your life to various companies to make them and their shareholders money and then you get ten years near the end of your life to do what you please. Sounds like a bad arrangement.

This comes from a newsletter about the future of work. The article is about anti-work attitudes among younger working-age people, pulling choice cuts from their social media channels as evidence.

There’s some interesting stuff in there. It seems that the age of the “career” is quietly drawing to a close and that people are increasingly willing to talk candidly about the true nature of jobs as, at best, a necessary evil.

Perhaps my favorite articulation came from [a] YouTuber [called] Katherout and the title of her May 2021 video: “I no longer aspire to have a career.” Aspire is the key word here. It’s not that she rejects all labor — she rejects how central it is to our sense of self and worth.

For an ahead-of-the-curve take on all this, try the re-released version of my 2016 book or my newer 2020 book, The Good Life for Wage Slaves.

Fundamentals

This is called wage slavery and it’s how the world works. Kind of.

Tired of the everyday grind? Try The Good Life for Wage Slaves or I’m Out, both of which are available now in paperback.

The Great Resignation


This just in from Joel Golby:

I have never been in an office environment that has been conducive to work. Think of the constant emails about the shared fridges; the radio that is on for some reason; the guy making an ostentatiously loud phonecall on Bluetooth headphones. Never in my life have I seen a photocopier or central printer placed in a position where the sound and smell of it doesn’t disturb at least three people.

Obviously, my relentless list of grudges is far better and funnier but probably couldn’t be published in a newspaper.

Golby’s piece appeared on the back of what the pundits are calling The Great Resignation: an apparent mass quitting of bullshit jobs in the UK and US.

A couple of months into the Pandemic, a large number of office workers suddenly found themselves (a) working from home, and (b) taking stock of what really matters after being faced so full-frontally with d.e.a.t.h.

Some of them also, (c), found themselves with capital for the first time after saving so much paycheck money thanks to no longer being able to go anywhere or do anything.

Almost two years (!) later, those handily-itemised chickens have come home to roost. (a) and (b) equate to the gift of time to think without the shrapnel of office/commuter life blasting into soft and vulnerable faces for ten hours a day. (c) means an an escape fund never planned to accrue.

(a), (b), and (c) combine, Voltron-like, into the perfect circumstances for A MASS ESCAPE. Or at the very least, a chance for some people who, despite everything that has been done to them still have good bodies and minds, to try something different.

Many people will squander this opportunity as is their right or not notice it at all, but others will have already awoken to the realisation that, holy crap, the whole exhausting project was a scam and that the door marked “exit” was open all along. It is still open.

So what to do? Well, the Guardian, served up some borderline clickbait this morning, containing the secondhand weasel words of some buttonholed wimps. See if reading that is at all helpful, but escape artists of character can also buy my book. It was first published in 2016 but it’s more applicable than ever now, and it doesn’t mention Covid once. (I have maybe 3 discount copies left, actually.)

I’m glad that so many people now have the time and money to throw in the towel in pursuit of something more useful or pleasant. The Great Resignation, if it’s real, is potentially a meaningful time to be alive. But the real “Great Resignation” (and yes, yes, the media have just called it that to make it sound historically important) was when so many of us resigned ourselves to office jobs in the first place.

In other news, Colin the Caterpillar — the uninvited spirit animal of British office bods — is now available in a jar, presumably for the white-collar worker who, from home, no longer has to care about appearances or dignity or acting like a salaried adult in the slightest! Imagine eating sugary cake (not a sugary cake, mind you, but simply sugary cake) out of a jar. IMAGINE IT. And now imagine being destitute and eating something you scraped off somebody’s mudflap; tell me that there’s any noticeable difference in the sense of impoverishment you feel. Yum!

Sorry if I sound at all grumpy today, lovely reader. After months of protests and professional advocacy, they’re still trying to close my local library. For what it’s worth, please sign the petition. x

Letter to the Editor: Why Should I Fit Out a Home Office?

Reader G writes from New Zealand:

Re: returning to the office, here’s a contrary view. I have returned to the office after exclusively working from home for a while. (Life has been near-normal in New Zealand since mid-2020).

I did this by choice because I found I prefer a sharp barrier between the world of work and the rest of my life. Working from home, it’s easy to feel bad about stepping away for breaks, to work late, to keep an eye on online chat… I prefer to leave the office on time and leave work behind too.

Also, of course, my employers provide a reasonably ergonomic workspace for me with the associated amenities. Why should I fit out a home office and dedicate that space for the benefit of my employers? They don’t pay me any rent for it or buy me any extra kit.

I also prefer the social contact and the sight of other human beings and spontaneous interaction. I find video conferencing a poor substitute.

You’re correct, of course. If the office is right for you, that’s excellent. And your point about setting up a specialist workspace in your home is a good one. Why should you?

We’re traditionally against office life and the job system at New Escapologist but the real moral of the story lies in making a life that fits you and doing it creatively and out of free will. If you like working in an office, then that’s great!

I miss proper human interaction too. Not in the office context, mind you, which in my experience revolved around microagressions and colin the caterpillar. But face-to-face relationships with other people are irreplaceable, yes. I miss gigs and art shows and nightlife very, very much. I even speak as an introvert who has to stay at home for a couple of days with the curtains drawn if I happen to go out three nights on the run.

Human contact is too important to throw away even if it makes economic sense in the context of working from home. Video conferencing is garbage. I disliked it in the days of office life (20 minutes of a 60-minute meeting could easily be devoted to setting up a piece-of-shit technical “fix” to allow distant colleagues to have a say) and I positively despise it now. The remote quizzes and and so-called cultural events online during lockdown did not please me. “But it’s all we have at the moment,” is the usual refrain. But it’s not, is it? Books! Walks! Nature! Love! You’ve heard this all before.

Tired of the everyday grind? Try The Good Life for Wage Slaves or I’m Out, both of which are available now in paperback.

The Laziness Lie

Further to our recent post about the work of Dr. Price, their essay, The Racist, Exploitative History of ‘Laziness’ is a cracker.

“The hatred of laziness,” they write, “is deeply embedded in the history of the United States” and consequently the rest of the world:

The value of hard work and the evils of sloth are baked into our national myths and our shared value system. Thanks to the legacies of imperialism and slavery, as well as the ongoing influence that the United States exerts on the rest of the world both in media and in military force, the Laziness Lie has managed to spread its tendrils into almost every country and culture on the planet.

Strong, most excellent stuff.

They go into the etymology of the word, which conflates weakness with evil, and then into the use of “laziness” to justify slavery in America and oppression during the Industrial Revolution.

It’s the kind of thing I touched on in my “How the West Was Won (by Work)” chapter in Escape Everything! and again in The Good Life for Wage Slaves but didn’t quite have the expertise or guts to go into very deeply.

Colonial America relied on the labor of enslaved people and indentured servants. It was very important to the colonies’ wealthy and enslaving class that they find a way to motivate enslaved people to work hard, despite the fact that enslaved people had absolutely nothing to gain from it. They also needed to find ways to ideologically justify the existence of slavery because many people of the period recognized (as we do today) that it was a morally abhorrent institution.

Importantly, this history forms the basis of the Operating System on which we run today:

Decades of exposure to the Laziness Lie has had a massive effect on our public consciousness. It’s made many of us critical of other people and quick to blame the victims of economic inequality for their own deprivation. It’s made us hate our own limitations, to see our tiredness or desire for a break as signs of failure. And it has created an intense internal pressure to keep working harder and harder, with no limits and no boundaries. This ideology was created to dehumanize those whom society had failed to care for, and with each passing year, the number of people who are excluded in these ways seems to only grow.

What a wonderful essay. I am yet to read Dr. Price’s book, but I recommend it all the same.

See also: Overturning the Legacy of Slavery [with UBI] and Drapetomania.

Start Big: An Essay

Listen. I might have discovered a previously-unobserved source of human misery. If we can work out how to escape this thing, we can probably all be a lot happier.

We might even be happier at work and not want to escape it if only we could escape THIS problem instead. We could be happier at school, happier in our own heads and, yes, happier on the toilet.

I know it sounds grandiose to go claiming a new discovery and all, but describing sources of misery–revealing them for what they are–and working out how to escape them is sort of my job now. And I’m digging deep.

This is from a New Escapologist essay of 2019, one of my exclusive-to-Patreon efforts.

I wasn’t sure about the quality of the essay at first and my struggle with it was part of the reason I stopped doing Patreon.

The struggle might have been worth it though because, revisiting it now, it doesn’t seem too bad. It garnered some good feedback from readers at the time (including wise Henry and sage McKinley) and the truth of the essay still rolls around in my head today.

I’ve dropped the password on the essay and dusted it off for general consumption. If you’re interested, you can freely read it here.

Laziness Does Not Exist

Reader M has drawn our attention to a new book called Laziness Does Not Exist by social psychologist Dr. Devon Price. It looks good!

A review in Jacobin highlights the point that it’s awfully convenient for the world to point the finger at you and say “everything that has gone wrong in your life is your own fault because you are lazy” when most people really are doing their best in a world set up (The Trap) to consume them.

Well, look. It’s not your fault.

Here’s part of the blurb the back of the book (well, from the Waterstones website, but you know):

Dr. Price offers science-based reassurances that productivity does not determine a person’s worth and suggests that the solution to problems of overwork and stress lie in resisting the pressure to do more and instead learn to embrace doing enough. Featuring interviews with researchers, consultants, and experiences from real people drowning in too much work, Laziness Does Not Exist encourages us to let go of guilt and become more attuned to our own limitations and needs and resist the pressure to meet outdated societal expectations.

And so say all of us!

Reader M also shares a discussion about the book on Reddit.

Bin Man II: The Trashening

On one of my best days here I found a bunch of loose jewelry in a bin. There was a bit more inside some black trash bags.

Do you remember Martin? I mentioned him in this post and in Escape Everything!

An old friend of mine in Montreal, Martin describes himself as a professional scavenger. Objecting to waste, he set out to make a living from it as well as using the project as a basis for online anti-waste activism.

I’m happy to tell you that Martin continues his good work to this day. I’ve been catching up on his posts and they’re extremely enjoyable. There’s something so satisfying about his process of turning nothing into something, his intervening in destruction.

I recommend his most recent blog post in which he shows off some fairly shocking (though not actually atypical) finds from last autumn. It includes some pure gold. Literally.

It goes to show, among other things, how a bit of cleverness and imagination (and maybe a peg for the nose) can free you from unhappy convention.

Stay at Home Forever?

In this Twitter thread, Vice writer and section editor Simon Doherty asks his followers, “would you prefer to go back to the office or stay at home forever?”

Answers include: “I’m never going back to the office full-time. I will do 2-3 days per week […] but if an employer insists on 5 days per week in the office I’ll go elsewhere”

and:

“home forever, preferably with a swimming pool.”

Can’t argue with that, though it makes me wonder if the poster considers working from home to be as fantastical as swimming pool ownership.

There are some differing viewpoints too, including one about the economy that is so stupid as to essentially argue for the abolition of office life anyway.

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