Ten years ago I traveled around America and spent a week visiting a very wealthy military man. The father of the family was at home in the evenings, and I was mainly occupied by his wife Jill, a wonderful middle-aged lady, mother of four grown daughters. In addition to entertaining me, she also had her own business: golf, fitness, social events, church, meeting with one of her daughters, charity. It is unlikely that this was the end of her life, but this is all that I managed to notice during the week spent together.
Once we went to see the Statue of Liberty. In New York, as in Moscow, the streets were filled with people hurrying somewhere. I looked at them and asked Jill, “Have you ever wanted to do something? Make a career, realize yourself professionally? “
With a note of bewilderment in her voice, Jill replied, “I’m happy I was never forced to work.” What struck me most then was how surprised I was.
The capitalist system is built on the idea of persistent individual labor
The door to an unknown world of perception of reality seemed to open before me: neither at the psychology faculty, where I studied at that time, nor in the Soviet Union, nor in the restructuring Russia, this was not taught. And really, how did I know that I should work? How is the idea of ”people should work” supported in our society?
Adults often ask a young child: “What will you become when you grow up?” At school, children are told that they must study well in order to work well later. The question “Who is he (she)?” actually means “What is he (she) working for?”
In the USSR, people who did not work were called parasites, they were subjected to public censure, tried, expelled from the country – like, for example, Joseph Brodsky.
From the proverbs we know that “you cannot easily catch a fish from a pond”, “labor created man”, “who does not work, he does not eat.” The fact that hard work is the key to success follows from fairy tales and fables: “Jumping Dragonfly”, “Cinderella”, “Three Little Pigs”, “Frost”. And even in the film about “women’s happiness” “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears,” it is said that if you sleep four hours a day for 20 years in a row, you will definitely meet your prince, even if you are a little over forty.
The capitalist system that has made many countries flourish is also built on the idea of persistent individual labor. “If you are so smart, then why are you so poor” – everyone who developed their abilities and worked hard achieved happiness, calculated in money.
Many psychologists and philosophers argue that a person will be healthy and happy if he realizes his abilities, and the inability to work at full strength can cause illness and misfortune.
To work means to simultaneously make money and not have time to spend it.
Further more. Work is not an obligation, but a right and even a privilege: feminists defend the right of women to work with men on equal terms, proving that only in this case a woman will live as a human being, gain independence and self-actualize.
The ability to independently earn and support oneself is one of the criteria for a child’s necessary transition to adult status. The state supports workers: while working, you can get paid leave, pension and health insurance.
But are there other, alternative knowledge that support the opposite idea – “people should not work”? As Oscar Wilde said, “work is the last refuge of those who do nothing else.”
To work means to simultaneously make money and not have the time to spend it. In addition, money requires special attention: it becomes cheaper, it needs to be preserved and increased – the more a person earns, the more he is forced to work, and it is no longer clear whether the money works for him or he for them.
And who said that the notorious self-realization is connected only with work? If a person dances, takes pictures, admires nature, plays with a child, or helps an old woman cross the street, does he not realize his abilities or benefit society?
In large corporations, it is customary to install panels on which information about the achievements of the enterprise is displayed. For example: “Our plant has produced the millionth car.” So that employees understand what they are doing: often they only know how their area of work functions, but they do not see the full picture of what is happening.
We live in a consumer society, advertising campaigns create new needs, forcing us to desire things that we did not know about a minute ago. To get what we want, we work: “Happy is not the one who has everything, but the one who does not need anything.”
Emelya, Ivan the Fool and the hero who had been lying on the stove for 33 years did without persistent lifelong labor. The age-old folk wisdom is concentrated in fairy tales – many famous heroes found everything thanks to simple luck and the work of numerous assistants: a pike, a wolf, the Humpbacked Horse.
The master from the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov deserved peace, not going to work every day, but creating at home next to his beloved woman. Perhaps a person who works hard and makes a career just feels insecure, anxious and needs external status in order to feel protected?
Ecclesiastes says: “vanity of vanities”, and you can verify this by watching the film “Prokindiada, or Running in Place” (V. Tregubovich). The West came up with the idea of progress, they explain to people that they need to strive forward (to a bright future) and work hard, while in the Eastern world time goes in a circle, there is nowhere to rush, there is nothing new and better either in the future or in the past. For an oriental person, an achievement is not considered to be the fastest, but to stop. Buddhists make a special effort to learn to do nothing.
What is the result? Humanity has a lot of accumulated knowledge. If you look from one side, you have to work; if you look from the other, you don’t. There is no single, right solution for everyone, but everyone has a choice of what knowledge to use in order to live in the best way for themselves.