I think I hate modern life


In the continuing saga of my existential crisis, some random, disjointed thoughts for your amusement.

I know, I know. Living in the future and all. I love my gadgets, high tech, instantaneous communication with people around the world, BLOGGING (*heh*). But is it overload? Sometimes it feels like it. I know, I have the option to unplug at home, but work remains, horrible commutes, jobs that stress us out. I don’t particularly like what jobs have become (as some of you know). It used to be you could be the village blacksmith,

blacksmith

and no one expected you to also mend fishing nets,

fishermen

and cater the king’s party, upholster carriages, train the hunting falcons, restring the huntsman’s bow… You see where I’m going. People got to focus (pretty much) on one thing as a career. You didn’t have to be all things to all people all the time. The butcher was not also the baker; the baker was not also the candlestick maker.

I have no doubt there were some who did more than one thing. Most households made candles (Ben Franklin’s family were candlemakers, and soapmakers). Things took more time, being done by hand. Now with computers and automation everything happens at the speed of light it seems, so we’re all expected to master numerous disparate jobs. Are we jacks-of-all-trades, and masters of none? I’m tired of being pulled in so many different directions. It’s an existence designed around details: Precise times of day, days of the week, lengths of time, data entry, research, matching numbers, tracking people, supplies, equipment, set up, tear down, respond, direct.  We live for weekends, two days out of every seven, and try to cram everything we like into those 48 short hours, willing to write off the previous 120. That’s 6,240 hours every year we force ourselves to just survive.

But did it have to be this way? How did it turn out like this? And more importantly, can we change it? It makes me angry beyond words that even in a developed country like the US, the vast majority of our lives is spent toiling at occupations we despise. I know there are people who enjoy their jobs and look forward to getting up and going to them everyday, but judging by how many people identify with movies and cartoons that lampoon the modern office, I’d say that’s a small percentage.

I ran across this article on some of the emerging careers for 2013.  To sum up, they are:

  1. Precision Agriculture Technician
  2. Mechatronics Engineer
  3. Energy Broker
  4. Logistics Analyst
  5. Biostatistician
  6. Cytogenetic Technologist
  7. Ergonomist
  8. Environmental Economist

Does any of that sound like something you’d actually want to make a career of? Maybe a couple of them. Pretty much anything with the word “analyst” in it sounds as dry as dust, and about as exciting as waiting for an elevator that’s broken. Add the word “logistics” and you have a recipe for self-harm. “Biostatistician” sounds particularly evil. They’re the ones who will decide which medical procedures you can have, based on what it costs the insurer. Any time they throw the word “efficiency” into a job description, we know it means “less is more.

I think I don’t have the right temperament for modern office life. I think a lot of us don’t. Years ago I was as gung-ho about moving up in my career and playing the games as anyone in “The Secret to My Success.” Remember that? Coveting the high-paying job in the high-rise with corner office with view? Makes my skin crawl now thinking about it. We’ve already achieved a dystopic society, in my view.

Funny how priorities shift over time. All I can think about anymore is finding time to write.

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18 thoughts on “I think I hate modern life

  1. I imagine that at any point in history workers hated their jobs but nowadays its easier to change – in the old days when you made candles, that was it (and imagine if you can the work related illnesses it brought).
    But I can only agree that work is beyond boring and destructive to the human spirit.
    I decided 2 years ago to be a writer and last month I published my first (absolutely awesome) book. To hell with cubicles and wall calendars, to hell with nosy bosses and brown-nosed employees. In fact – fuck the industrialised world, I’m outa here.

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    1. Congratulations on breaking free of Cubeville! Sadly (for me) you are in the minority, one of the chosen few. I hope it goes well and you never have to find yourself back in the 8-5 grind.

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  2. Excellent remarks D.D. And very very accurate as far as I am concerned. We have lost something to the modern era. I believe it is something called. “Craftsmanship”

    It used to be a word which described the level of intricate work that was put into an item, good, service. It used to mean that the person who produced this was an artisan of their craft. Not only did people specialize in their fields, they wanted to produce the best possible product not because it meant only wealth and security but because there was pride attached to it. To be the best was to own a certain amount of prestige. The modern age has beaten that out of our youth. We’ve told them things such as, “To be the best is to make everyone else feel inferior to you. That’s not right, you mustn’t do that.”

    That is so much Bull Crap. You can be the best at something and be a Monumental Example to others of Courtesy, Generosity and Humility. Educating someone against arrogance is the key. That starts with parents that will take the time to do that. My two are the competitive sort. I see it in their daily playing. I take great time to explain to them one simple factor that is so important:

    “there is no glory in winning over an opponent who could never have competed with you in the first place”

    Winning a foot race against a toddler shows nothing of your skill and even less of your humanity.

    Gracious in Victory – Complimentary in Defeat. Always.

    We’ve encouraged the opposite in our society today. If someone is better than you, they are to be scorned. If you are beaten it is always because you were at a disadvantage – not because the other person was more skillful than you.

    One more important thing I teach mine: No matter what you do, no matter how well you feel you do something, even if you consider yourself a master. The world, and the universe, is so vast that there is always someone out there (discovered or not) who is better than you at something.

    And you also made me think of something that I see ever day in my job. We have taught people that certain jobs are beneath us. Mine for example.

    I have a college degree. I write, paint, sculpt, play music. I consider myself to be a deep thinking person. Yet, I am greeted constantly by other people who believe I am barely capable of writing my own name. Because I am a plumber.

    When I open my mouth and speak to them and they see I am capable of multisyllabic speach. They either avert their eyes down in shame, OR stare with their mouths agape.

    I even had one woman tell me, and I quote: “You don’t sound like a Plumber.”

    But my point is, young people know the preconceptions and will shy away from becoming a plumber. It is so sad to see. My field is unable to obtain people who could do VERY skilled work and be excellent at what they do, because they have been taught one thing:
    “Because I don’t work in a corner penthouse office. I am sub-human working class trash”

    I tried corporate society. I fit in there, and I hate ever minute of it. Because at my core I am not a ruthless person. It takes a certain amount of ruthlessness to be efficient at corporate life. I am an excellent actor and can play whatever part is asked of me. But like you, My Soul won’t let me be at peace there. I am much happier on a daily basis where I am now then where I was there.

    My son says, “I’m going to be a plumber-man like daddy.” (he’s 5) It makes me smile and also nervous when he says that. I want that to be true. Because I believe he is very much like me at his core and I think he will be happy.

    But someone is going to tell him the things I outlined above. Someone is going to make him feel like he’s sub-human for doing it. I’m doing my best to make sure he already knows he’s not.

    Sorry for the long post. touched on a sensitive subject for me. Maybe I should get one of these blog things one day.

    thanks, DD!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. As an administrative assistant, it’s assumed I’m an empty-headed bimbo who can’t spell ‘college’ let alone get into one. I had this conversation with my car mechanic one day. People look down on him for ‘only’ working on cars for a living, although at one time it was a respected profession. (I was talking with him about my son who wanted to have his own car shop someday). I wondered when ‘administrative assistant’ became a dirty word. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that everyone rises as high as they can in the accepted order, and our professions are seen as lowly. I have a great deal of contempt for those who rise ‘highest’ because I know what it took them to get there. You don’t make it into upper management in most big companies by having ethics or morals or basic compassion. Like you said, it takes a certain ruthlessness to keep climbing that ladder. The world is, I think, full of people like us who can never realize their potential because no one is going to pay us to write, or play music, or paint, or do anything that doesn’t involve “the bottom line.” And even we have to eat.

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  3. Excellently put! I always had an analogy of “The Corporate Ladder” in my head. Always saw a point where I would have to pry someone else’s fingers off of a rung so I could move up.

    Tired to imagine myself doing it, and I just can’t. Not even if my own life was at risk. Maybe if it were the kids or my wife. But nothing else seems worth it. I have never been driven by money. Having it or not having it has never made a difference to me. I understand in todays world I must “pay-to-breathe” but beyond that it does not present itself as a main objective for me. I must survive so that my family can do so. Protect them, teach them, look after them. That is all that is really important.

    Some see that as weakness. People like us, don’t.

    I just don’t want to live in the “Game of Thrones” universe day in day out.

    Ally, betray, ally, betray, contrive, scheme, ally, betray, accumulate power, revenge, ally betray….ad nausem.

    What a boring and desperate life.

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    1. Perfect analogy with Game of Thrones. Of all the fantasy worlds I have read about, that one is far and away the most depressing. There isn’t one soul in that place that isn’t a murderous fiend. Maybe that’s how Martin sees the world, we’re just all potential murderers. Even little Arya (who is like 9-yrs-old when the books begin, I think) quickly learns to kill, remorselessly. At least we haven’t quite devolved to that level.

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  4. That’s one of the reasons I have not read it. My wife has, and has pretty much told me all about it. I’ve watched the 1st season of the HBO series and I plan on watching the others. (after they come out on DvD). If the answer to 90% of unions and disagreements is treachery, I don’t need to read that. There is enough of that in the real world. I read books to get out of here for a little while.

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  5. I’ve spent most of my career in corporate life and I’m pretty sure the reason I was never groomed as VP material was because I’m quite weak in the ass-kissing section of the performance review. As a matter of fact, I got into more trouble pointing out the deficiencies in the organization — no matter how respectfully or “proactively” I did. My only defense was that I could “produce” and meet goals, but it is a soulless way to make a living (and can ultimately turn you into the very thing you hate). On the plus side, however, I have made some life-long friends who came from the same island of career misfits as I did, and they taught me a lot about myself and my relationship to work. I like/agree with this post and the subsequent comments very much — I have similar conversations with my fabulous neighbor (BTW — he is former Marine, career truck mechanic).

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  6. Hi Rosie,
    Yes, apart from being a total ‘yes’ man or woman, there seems to be no right way to point up deficiencies. I’ve come to believe that’s only allowed for certain persons who have already been admitted to the ranks of the high and mighty. I’ve seen very weak people succeed simply by being suck-ups, while senior people who can actually produce and get the work done are laid off. It’s a wonder businesses survive at all. I so want to start my own business, and may actually start working at it on the side. I think I would like your neighbor very much.

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  7. You’ve seen the cult film, “Office Space” yet? Truly as much a masterpiece as much a Chaplin’s “Modern Times” — albeit with more vulgarity and the likes of Jennifer Aniston.

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  8. So excited to come across this and see someone who shares my thoughts! Life is too precious to waste so much of it in an unfulfilling environment. I find it bizarre that this is where we have ended up as a species. Who was it that thought this was a good idea? After a few months of thinking about it and despising every moment of every work day as a multi-departmental-manager-who-is-also-the-default-IT-person, I decided I could do better. I am leaving the corporate world to become an on-line seller working from home. My last day is January 18th.

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    1. Wow, that’s a big step! Best of luck to you, I really really hope you succeed and get your life back. Life is definitely out of balance for the majority of us (Koyaanisqatsi). I don’t know, I don’t know how we let it come to this.

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      1. It is a big step and I am scared to death but it’s gotta be better than where I am now. I am looking forward to having occasional opportunities to clean my bathroom, being home when my son gets home from school and working in pajamas. I’ve laid a lot of groundwork and I am reasonably sure I can pull it off. Fingers crossed.

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      2. It sounds like you’ve gone about it the right way. And good for you for giving it a try at least. Even if, years from now you decide on something else, at least you took the chance, instead of spending your life wondering what might have happened if…

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