A friend of mine just complained to the universe, presumably on the way to her job, that working 9 to 5 is sucking the soul out of her. I certainly agree with that sentiment, as does Dolly Parton. If you don’t get that reference, I will return to it in a minute. (Great, now I have that song in my head, thank you very much.) I suggested to this friend that if she quits working for “the man,” we can start a traveling comedy martial arts troupe that dance fights clowns for money. She admitted her family did have the potential for such a project and we are now taking applications. (Clowns needed.)
So anyway, much of modern humans “off hours” are spent on entertainment because we need to be distracted from how much work sucks. It’s really an infinite loop of work to get money to pay for things to live so we can enjoy the things we want to do but don’t have time for because we have to work to get money to pay for things to live. Screw that. Some of this entertainment actually focuses on the absurdity of this loop. Like the 1980 movie 9 to 5 in which office workers Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda kidnap their horrible sexist pig boss, Dabney Coleman in order to make their work lives less miserable. Basically if the movies 50 Shade of Gray and Office Space traveled back in time and had a fabulous baby, it would be this film. At one point in the film Coleman is tied from the ceiling in an elaborate rope harness thing.
But let me return to the concept of working 9 to 5 rather than the movie. We’ve arrived at this contemporary and bizarre division of labor through a long cultural evolution wherein people started paying other people to do the work they needed done because they didn’t want to do it themselves. It’s weird to think that at some point in human history, some brilliant (and lazy) individual realized that it would be easier to pay some chump to harvest fava beans and grapes in exchange for shiny hunks of metal. This has morphed into groups of people paying other groups of people with numbers on a screen (yeah, not even actual physical objects anymore—just numbers recorded electronically) to actually punch those numbers on a screen. Most of those number punchers, like my friend, hate the work but need to keep doing it so they can get the numbers on their screen to go up. Also, this is why embezzlement is a thing. Modern culture is weird.
What division of labor (as the economists call it) has become is faceless corporations with no single individual in charge of anything mindlessly employing a whole bunch of other mindless masses to do what on the surface looks like an important job but which in reality is probably four out of every eight hours per day watching llama videos (you knew I was circling back around to the llamas, right?) and the other four hours clacking on a 4”x16” piece of plastic and wires connected to a light box with a projection screen. Most of these mindless automatons have no souls, since a soul would motivate one to immediately recognize the utter futility of existence and withdraw from modern life.
In summation, this post presents a very privileged Western middle-class perspective on why work sucks, dance fighting clowns may or may not be an actual career path, and putting rat poison in your boss’s coffee only works in the movies.