Tag: capitalism

More Than Our Jobs

“Even if work is pleasant, it will still usually confine us to a prescribed and delimited role within the economic system, silencing those parts of ourselves that do not serve our allotted position in the capitalist process of production. The term role itself, ‘borrowed from the domain of the theatre, suggests that the existence foisted upon people by society is identical neither with people as they are in themselves nor with all that they could be’ (Adorno, 2001: 187)”

David Frayne, The Refusal of Work, p.65

Comparing Oneself as a Writer

In his book 12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson introduces his fourth rule (‘Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today’):

It was easier for people to be good at something when more of us lived in small, rural communities. Someone could be homecoming queen. Someone else could be spelling-bee champion, Math whiz or basketball star. There were only one or two mechanics and a couple of teachers. In each of their domains, these local heroes had the opportunity to enjoy the serotonin-fuelled confidence of the victor […] If you’re one in a million now, but originated in modern New York, there’s twenty of you – and most of us now live in cities. What’s more, we have become digitally connected to the entire seven billion. Our hierarchies of accomplishment are now dizzyingly vertical.

No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.

I think, generally speaking, a writer’s confidence is easily shaken. A dry day where the writing drips out of me even after hours of work can sow doubt in my mind that I may never again write fluently but I don’t often doubt myself as a writer when I see other writers getting published. I feel there’s plenty of room for everyone (or at least plenty of opportunity) and besides, despite how well they’re marketed, some books on the market are awful.

I think it’s easy to despair over one’s art when we live in a predominantly Capitalist society that seems to only value art in the context of the market. If I don’t have a book selling on the shelves is my writing worth less than someone else’s? My head says “maybe” but my heart says “no”.

The Life-Changing Magic of Pruning Trees

Last December Peggy, my auntie’s cavoodle, was biting the overgrown branches off one of our trees in the backyard. Branches being the choking hazards they are, I chased her around the yard to get the sticks out of her mouth. And then she went back to the tree and bit some more. So I put her inside, got the garden trimmers from under the kitchen sink and snipped away the branches. And then, with the tree looking more and more tidy, something took me by surprise – relief.

Thanks to COVID I, like so many others, lost my job and by necessity had to step back into the benefits system and the job hunt I so dread. By that point in the backyard with Peggy it had been another unfruitful week and I was so wound up chasing jobs and hearing nothing back, once I finally did something that gave me an immediate result the tension I didn’t realise I was holding dropped away.

In the burst of free associations that followed I remembered Marie Kondo and her “Konmari Method” for tidying and decluttering one’s house. I never jumped on the “spark joy” bandwagon. Maybe it’s because I dislike it when something that’s originally free like folding one’s shirts is turned into a commodity as part of a personal brand. Still, in a capitalist society we all need to make money somehow.

But pruning trees remains free of charge and far more giving.