What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?

swimmerguy's picture


Brownie points to whoever can tell me where that came from. Hint: it's a very good book by a curmudgeonly author who died about 6 years ago.

Of course, the better title might be to replace "Mankind on Earth" with "my Life". First of all, I'm tired. Of course, I have school with my 5 AP classes, etc, and then I walk from there about 3 miles home, where I have about 20 minutes to eat, not having had anything since before school, and then I do a bike ride for usually about an hour.
Then I have to get ready for work at 5. I forget if I've mentioned here, I work at Garlic Jim's (Famous Gourmet) Pizza now, instead of Value Village.
(I at this very second realized: the reason I've been confusing the "Recent Journal Entries" column with other things on the side of this site is because it no longer gives the author beneath the post...)
That's okay, I guess. And then I come home, have dinner, then have homework, then like 30 minutes or so before, ideally, bed at like 10, if I'm to get anything like 8 hours, which isn't even the recommended for a teenager.

Isn't that pretty depressing? Fuck, society's worked hard to get all these cool machines and devices to make our lives so much easier. Didn't we used to look forward to the day when we worked 3 hours a day?
And I don't have pretty much any proper leisure from about 6 to 9:30 at night, except for reading a book crammed into the spaces of my day.
(I don't count walking or exercising as proper leisure time. The maintenance of my body should not be a removable item. I prefer to think of exercise as an essential activity, work, that can very easily be fun, and usually I love it, but it is an essential activity in the way leisure like reading a book or playing video games is not. It is non-negotiable.)

And, of course, this is just me being whiny. There's a lot of people that work harder and longer hours and make less money than I do (I make nothing for the ~7 hours a day of school, but I also get to save everything from my ~3 hours of work.) and who don't really have another option.
Why the hell all this work? People didn't use to work this hard. The hunter-gatherers are considered likely to have worked 20 hour workweeks, hunt-gathering and everything else.
It was simply by desiring little that they had little work to do.

But, of course, we're constantly whizzing "forward" in a way they never were. What is forward? What is forward when we work so hard as a society to achieve the future we'll never have time to enjoy?
And what is that future, anyway? Being able to project a TV image the size of a wall? Being able to answer your phone on your watch instead of your real phone? What the fuck?

With this piddle of money I've been making from working, I'm planning to spend it on food and little else, probably while I'm doing the Pacific Crest Trail or something.
But what I've learned from this experience is, I've promised myself, if I'm ever in a job I wouldn't like to do without being paid, and I have no plans for doing anything else in the future, I'll quit and be a bum.
Because I've decided, being in a job like the one I have now, full time, the pay is already small enough that instead of paying for a shitty apartment I could just consume very little and spend all that extra time scrounging the bare minimum while I find the extra meaning in my life, like Chris McCandless from Into the Wild.

Nor do I want to go the road of my parents: my dad is okay with his job, but hates the company bureaucracy he works for. So he works long, long hours, then comes home and drinks, essentially. Usually while watching TV while on his iPad.
So basically his life is hating what he does with most of his day, then coming home and using various aids to zone him out of his own life.

There's something better than this. And I'm willing to do something towards finding it, someday.
Apologies for my exhaustion-addled rambling.


jeff's picture

I noticed that...

Not sure how many people saw it, but the site had a hiccup a few days ago where no journals were displayed. So, I got adrian to fix it, but he had to rebuild the journals displaying from scratch, so that seems to have altered. I'll let him know, although "broken" often gets his attention before "less than ideal."

Productivity has let companies hire fewer people to do more things for longer, not the other way around.

Learning the sad truths of adult life is the first step. How not to fall victim to them is the bigger challenge. I learned to do something to fall back on whilest backburnering my real interests and, as the system is designed, I fell back instantly and am still struggling to flip that script. Perhaps someday?!

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

swimmerguy's picture

I've always wondered

Technology advances, and one day, we're able to build a robot to do the work that a human being once had to be paid to do.
Less waste, less work, more riches, right?

But the true richness of an economy is not how much money, the embodiment of stuff, it has, but how fast that money moves around. It matters not how much stuff you have if you have no one to sell it to, or vice versa.
So how is this a positive development? The worker who used to do that job spent his money on stuff made by other people with jobs, and now he's out of the workforce.
The business owner profits, slightly, but it's a negative-sum game because he only profits because the proportional cost to him of the worker is far higher than the proportional asset that worker and his wages were to the market. So the business owner has nearly the same amount of people to sell to with fewer costs.
But if every business owner does this, you're left with a horde of impoverished, "useless" people who likely will be left to subsist on the charity of others.

So instead of having people have jobs and buying things, we're ramping up productivity to sell cheaper goods to those people who no longer have jobs. And the only people who profit are the owners of capital, the investors.

jeff's picture

The problem there...

is that once you add the stock market and such into the mix, you can avoid the whole pesky cycle of actually building something anymore. I mean, Instagram had like 12 employees, never made a dime, and it sold to Facebook for $1B. That's putting a lot of faith in the power of sepia-toned selfies...

Otherwise, the problem is short-sightedness. Why would I make less money so that my grandchildren might as well? Too risky. You can see the same thing in politics, too, regarding climate change, infrastructure, etc.

I just returned from seeing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen perform on Broadway in Waiting for Godot. I have a feeling you would like it, since it basically an absurdist, existential, philosophical play...

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

elph's picture

This is the crux (imho):

"But the true richness of an economy is not how much money, the embodiment of stuff, it has, but how fast that money moves around."

Brilliant and succinct summation of a nation's wealth! Yours? :)

swimmerguy's picture

My description?

The Economist cares about little more than GDP, and all GDP is is not the assets of an economy but the rate of transactions. It is the headline figure.

elph's picture

Uh... Kurt Vonnegut, maybe?

But... may I receive something of greater value than Brownie points?

Have you read this work?

btw: Another up-and-coming sci-fi author (Hugh Howey) will be discussing Vonnegut's work in Seattle on February 27. Just fyi... likely too far you (also, there's an admission charge), but may be of interest to Oasies™ who are denizens of the Seattle area.


Nit picking: Should that have been "to whomever?" Sounds right to my ears... but dunno for sure!

jeff's picture


is a nice guy, and Wool is a pretty amazing book. Worth checking out.

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

elph's picture

Read it...

along with Shift and the just-released Dust!

Can recommend without hesitation.

jeff's picture


I think Sand is the new one, just released this week, and Dust was summer. Although I've only read Wool at this point.

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

elph's picture


I consider mid-August to be relatively recent! :)

I want to get Sand, but I don't think it's yet available with all sections in one book.

jeff's picture


I know it is, as I just ordered it last week. Not sure when I'll read it, but the Omnibus is released.

I did order it when his e-mail about it was sent out, so it is very new. I only ordered it early as not to forget later.

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

elph's picture

More on Howey and Vonnegut...

If you've not already perused it, you may be interested in looking at this Slate article by Howey:


ps: Surprised that URL failed to fold! :(

anarchist's picture

I've had these thoughts for a while.

I think the best thing to do would be to just drive (or walk) until I no longer know what country I'm in and then find a way to do something. Who cares if it kills me, at least I won't be a mindless working vegetable like everybody else. This really is Funeralopolis, and it's terrible. Dead people with nothing real to live for, in a meaningless life as a bolt in a steel bridge, that just gets replaced the second it falls out, with no effect on anything.

Also, in AP World History, I learned about this specific tribe located, I think, in Africa, that would send all healthy men on extremely demanding week-long hunting trips and then have like three months of leisure time afterward. That's where I want to live.