In typical No Rocket Scientist fashion, I have been trying to expand my mental horizons and read a bit wider afield than usual. I’m a fan of self-development, science and health books, but I find history, politics and religion a bit tedious.
Bregman argues that a Universal Basic Income (UBI – free money for all to cover basic expenses like food and rent) is a possibility and a positive solution to many problems such as homelessness, poverty and even environmental damage. Well I’m all in favour of that. Elon Musk, despite stating that it’s not what he would want to happen, sees UBI as inevitable due to the automation of so many jobs. The left and the right have their own versions and motivations for UBI – which is reassuring, as I’m repelled from either in side their extremes.
So lockdown is giving us a taste of the future. Many employees have started to question (if they weren’t doing so already) the point of their current job. Many are learning the distinguishing features of a s*** job – a hard job with terrible conditions or low pay, but which is of use to society e.g. nurses, and a b******* job – a meaningless and pointless job you do but can’t justify the existence of e.g. advertising executive. I can therefore drop the “bull” from my job description, but that doesn’t negate the small print I ignored when I signed up. A few questions that thinking about these things has brought up for me are:
What meaning do we find in life without employment?
Without work, what’s your ikigai (reason for getting out of bed)?
What employment would we choose if our basic needs were covered and we could retrain?
The current crisis understandably throws some anomalies into my initial analysis of this concept.
I have heard people I admire (e.g. Russell Brand) talk about this in the past, and they lose me for the following (faulty or questionable? Happy to discuss) reasons:
If I go out and choose to drink more alcohol than my body is able to handle – there will be a consequence to that action. One I’m all too familiar with.
If I eat continuously, especially high carbohydrate or highly processed foods, and don’t move enough, there will be consequences to that action as well. As I get older, those consequences become apparent a lot more quickly than they used to – and take a longer time to put right again!
So if I spend more money than I earn, and borrow to spend more than I have saved, the obvious consequence to that behaviour is debt. My values, beliefs and actions i.e. habits, have landed me in that debt. My inability to spend only what I’ve earned (hopefully a little less than I’ve earned), my inability to wait, my insatiable desire to consume.
If I’m hungover, overweight or in debt, I don’t expect sympathy. As much as I would love someone to come and solve these problems for me, I don’t expect it or see it as a right. I don’t want to be in those situations in the first place, so I do my best not to end up in those places – and double my efforts if I do temporarily end up there.
What I’m saying is – does being “saved” from the consequences of our actions really help us in the long run? Shouldn’t we be assisted, helped to change our habits, rather than having our slates wiped clean and getting ourselves into the same mess all over again?
My initial knee-jerk reaction is a feeling of injustice. “Hold on a minute, I’ve been denying myself beer/donuts/expensive holidays for years…trying to be responsible…only for them to get a saline drip/liposuction/bail out?”
But two thoughts help me see this from a different perspective and rid me of those negative (insensitive? immature?) sentiments.
- What if it was my brother or friend who was being saved? I’d feel relieved for them, and joyful that their burden had been lifted. I’m sure they would learn whatever they could from the past and not end up in the same situation again without a fight.
- What if it was my arch enemy who had been saved? Let him drink – and mask the true consequences for a while. Let him post his six pack photos, but he knows, we all know, he didn’t earn them. Let him go to Bora Bora, and forget how boring boring the other 50 weeks of the year are (don’t worry, the booze will help ease the pain).
Win-Win. So governments will do what they will do, and I suppose the important thing is not letting them get in the way of us living a life of purpose and meaning.
For my own sanity, I need to work. It’s nice to feel needed. For my own self-respect, I’m not looking for handouts – but I don’t blame anyone for trying the occasional short cut (gotta love a lifehack)!
Our identity and self-worth can’t be solely based on our occupation however, and I am more than my job. So if my work does become automated, just like when marathons get cancelled, there are other parts of me to weather the storm. It does motivate me to start looking at alternatives to my current work though – and use this lockdown as a chance to retrain in something less vulnerable to automation. Apparently I’m a closet Luddite!
Post 9 out of 10…so close…just – one – more!!! Thanks so much for reading, liking, sharing, commenting and SUBSCRIBING! I really appreciate your time and attention, but I think I need to start trolling a few bloggers to get some comments! Either that or I need to start writing some more controversial posts that get me trolled?! I’ll work on it!