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308

Conclusion: Out of the Weeds

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Guendelsberger, E. (2019). Conclusion: Out of the Weeds. In Guendelsberger, E. On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane. Little, Brown and Company, pp. 308-351

308

Businesses used to accept Wanda’s inefficiencies as a necessary part of their workforce—humans sometimes need to socialize, go to the bathroom, take sick days, drive Mom to a doctor’s appointment, attend funerals, stay up until four with the baby.

But at this moment, techno-Taylorism, the decline of organized labor, automation, and the ongoing destruction of shark-cage worker protections have tipped the balance of power in the workplace way, way in favor of employers. It’s gotten so out of balance that even many workers seem to truly believe that the things that make them less efficient than sharks or robots are weaknesses—moral failings, like original sin.

So millions of people battle millennia of evolution every day, desperately trying to be something fundamentally different from what we are. And when we inevitably fail, we torture ourselves with guilt over not being born a shark, or at least able to plausibly imitate one.

Fuck that. You’re not a shark. You’re a human being. It doesn’t make you a bad person if your family and friends and dignity are more important to you than some job. That makes you normal. The true outliers are the Taylors, the Fords, the Bezoses, the Ayns—people whose work is their life and life is their work. People who thrive alone in the cold ocean. People who can’t or won’t understand that almost all other humans have very different values, needs, and priorities. People with massive control over how stressful our day-to-day existence is.

So why is America so crazy? It’s the inescapable chronic stress built into the way we work and live. It’s the insane idea that an honest day’s work means suppressing your humanity, dignity, family, and other nonwork priorities in exchange for low wages that make home life constantly stressful, too. Is it surprising that Americans have started exhibiting unhelpful physical, mental, and social adaptations to chronic stress en masse? Our bodies believe that this is the apocalypse.

And on top of that, people with power seem totally blind to how dire life has gotten for much of the country. The state of the union is always strong. GDP is up. Unemployment is low. Everything’s fine. They’re so insulated from the real world that they don’t or can’t understand that, for most people, our current system is obviously broken. That’s why Make America Great Again caught on while Clinton’s counter that America Is Already Great didn’t—people aren’t stupid. They know something isn’t right.

—p.308 by Emily Guendelsberger 3 years ago

Businesses used to accept Wanda’s inefficiencies as a necessary part of their workforce—humans sometimes need to socialize, go to the bathroom, take sick days, drive Mom to a doctor’s appointment, attend funerals, stay up until four with the baby.

But at this moment, techno-Taylorism, the decline of organized labor, automation, and the ongoing destruction of shark-cage worker protections have tipped the balance of power in the workplace way, way in favor of employers. It’s gotten so out of balance that even many workers seem to truly believe that the things that make them less efficient than sharks or robots are weaknesses—moral failings, like original sin.

So millions of people battle millennia of evolution every day, desperately trying to be something fundamentally different from what we are. And when we inevitably fail, we torture ourselves with guilt over not being born a shark, or at least able to plausibly imitate one.

Fuck that. You’re not a shark. You’re a human being. It doesn’t make you a bad person if your family and friends and dignity are more important to you than some job. That makes you normal. The true outliers are the Taylors, the Fords, the Bezoses, the Ayns—people whose work is their life and life is their work. People who thrive alone in the cold ocean. People who can’t or won’t understand that almost all other humans have very different values, needs, and priorities. People with massive control over how stressful our day-to-day existence is.

So why is America so crazy? It’s the inescapable chronic stress built into the way we work and live. It’s the insane idea that an honest day’s work means suppressing your humanity, dignity, family, and other nonwork priorities in exchange for low wages that make home life constantly stressful, too. Is it surprising that Americans have started exhibiting unhelpful physical, mental, and social adaptations to chronic stress en masse? Our bodies believe that this is the apocalypse.

And on top of that, people with power seem totally blind to how dire life has gotten for much of the country. The state of the union is always strong. GDP is up. Unemployment is low. Everything’s fine. They’re so insulated from the real world that they don’t or can’t understand that, for most people, our current system is obviously broken. That’s why Make America Great Again caught on while Clinton’s counter that America Is Already Great didn’t—people aren’t stupid. They know something isn’t right.

—p.308 by Emily Guendelsberger 3 years ago
311

All the rat has to do is climb the wall to the other side and she’ll be free. Rats B and C will figure this out and clamber over to the other side pretty quickly; so will any random sewer rat.

But Rat A’s entire life has been nothing but unpredictable, inescapable suffering, and it’s crippled her capacity to imagine anything better. So Rat A will just sit there getting electrocuted forever, even when relief is a short climb away. It’s a phenomenon called “learned helplessness.”

Rat A is so tragic because her despair makes sense. All evidence in her life so far supports her idea that everything just sucks, forever, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. When she assures you that climbing the wall is a waste of energy, she’s genuinely trying to save you the pain she knows firsthand.

—p.311 by Emily Guendelsberger 3 years ago

All the rat has to do is climb the wall to the other side and she’ll be free. Rats B and C will figure this out and clamber over to the other side pretty quickly; so will any random sewer rat.

But Rat A’s entire life has been nothing but unpredictable, inescapable suffering, and it’s crippled her capacity to imagine anything better. So Rat A will just sit there getting electrocuted forever, even when relief is a short climb away. It’s a phenomenon called “learned helplessness.”

Rat A is so tragic because her despair makes sense. All evidence in her life so far supports her idea that everything just sucks, forever, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. When she assures you that climbing the wall is a waste of energy, she’s genuinely trying to save you the pain she knows firsthand.

—p.311 by Emily Guendelsberger 3 years ago