Work Ethic…Song of the Lotus Eaters


Messages found in a bottle washed up on Circe’s enchanted isle on Monday morning:

Yes, I have Friday on my mind…

Monday Morning feels so bad
Everyone seems to nag me
Coming Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wednesdays just don’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I got Friday on my mind

“Friday on My Mind” Gary Moore

From an eyewitness report, my italics…

Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,

And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
There is no joy but calm!
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?

The Lotos-Eaters
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

…and some comments from a seer for our contemporary world, with my comments added…

The idea that a society can exist without work is disturbing because it implies that work is the product of society and not the other way around, as we ordinarily imagine … The last thing in the world I wish to do is to romanticize primitive existence. Life in such a society would be unbearable for modern men and women, not alone for lack of creature comforts and intellectual stimulation, but for the absence of that very thing we call work… …a world without work is a world without material wealth. It is not, anthropologists tell us, a world without material well-being — even without a sense of affluence — but it is assuredly a world virtually bare of stocks of consumption goods or capital equipment. Life is lived in a kind of trusting surrender to nature. [Sounds pretty good, this morning.]

…the act of work, as the manner in which human energy is concerted under civilization, is inextricable from exploitation. That is a word before which we tend to wince. But in early civilization it is not difficult to see it nakedly apparent and coercively enforced. The figures of the rent-racked peasant and the abused slave are inextricable from the centralized mode of production. …Exploitation is the dark netherworld of civilization. [Work as exploitation, at the root of it all. Consider Winston Churchill’s remark, “Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production.” ]

Yet is the common observation that men and women want work, even when they do not have to have it’ that few individuals are happy on welfare; in short, that work is looked on as a desirable condition of life, even though it is no longer essential for life. Capitalism is the first civilization in which the upper class “works” in ways that would have been regarded with disdain by the upper classes of previous social orders. Why do businessmen put in their long, frenetic hours?…Capitalism has combined prestige and power into a new social value, available to many and tempting to all: the value of success. [For good or ill, here we are. For good AND ill…]Prior to capitalism, there was triumph, glory, high rank, wealth—but there was no success. Success is the reward of power and prestige that comes from work.

The submission to the dictates of the system[of work]is not as overt or dramatic as that required on a field of combat or before a court of law, but it is there just the same—all the more overmastering because it seems no more than the warp and woof of daily life.

Robert Heilbroner:
“The World of Work” from Behind the Veil of Economics

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2 Responses to Work Ethic…Song of the Lotus Eaters

  1. troutsky says:

    “I don’t mind a job,works no big deal,it’s how they treat you,man,the way they make you feel”
    from a Boz Scaggs song, points up the problem of working “for” rather than with.One interesting concept over at Zmag, inthe context of the Parecon is the “job complex” where each workers time is divided amongst many ,varied tasks.As opposed to the “Fordist” assemblyline process.

    Many of my clients are young ,upwardly mobile types enjoying a corporate paid holiday.They mingle with other fast trackers and bask in the status and culture of success, people waiting on you,expensive cigars and booze etc.Their life is all about “the deal” and they will do ANYTHING to clinch it,including cut their own lives short.

  2. Lichanos says:

    Whatever floats their boat…as long as they don’t sink mine.

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