Job-lock and the Desperate Spin

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I am so grateful to Obama and Pelosi and Reid. They have, with the passage of only one law, returned us to the Garden of Eden. For over 6,000 years of world history human beings have struggled to survive, working our selves to disease and death, trading our little time on this earth just for enough food to live to work another day. It has been horrible, this curse of Adam’s and we have indeed eaten our food by the sweat of our brow. Enter Obama -- he has not only kept the oceans from rising, he has reversed the effects of the Fall of Man. It’s about time someone did that.

You see, since Obamacare will make it inadvisable for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum to go to work and actually earn a living, they will be able, according to Pelosi, et. al. to pursue their dreams and become great poets, musicians, novlists. And, since it’s easy to not have a job, especially in Obama’s economy, we could all take advantage of that offer -- be poor and never work a day in our lives. We’ll get EBT cards and housing vouchers and cell phones and spend our days wallowing in artistic abandon.

Obama hasn’t been real clear about who is going to earn the money to pay us all to stay home and write the Great American Novel, but since he’s “the one we’ve all been waiting for,” I’m sure he has that all worked out.

I’m also a little fuzzy about who pays for my dream-following activities. I always wanted to travel, to see more Broadway shows, to sail on a clipper ship – oh, the possibilities are just endless! And I haven’t had time to paint much in the last 30 years – I could take up painting! But paint is expensive – will they have an art-supply subsidy? Or a music lesson program I could apply for? All that must be buried deep in the 3,000 pages of the ACA and no one’s read that far yet.

OK – turn off the sarcasm. Seriously, has the American brain been so damaged by ambient pot smoke and bad education that we can’t see through this nonsense? Or are our leaders so arrogant, so desperate that they can’t see their own silliness?

It’s true that the liberal thought patterns are stuck in the Dark Ages where work was indeed unfair drudgery, painful, dangerous, and unfulfilling in any personal sense of the word. They haven’t noticed that in the centuries since the heyday of the feudal system man’s options have widened exponentially; work no longer has to be misery. American capitalism changed all that. If we have the freedom and the economy to back us up we can “do what we love and never work a day in our lives.” We already had that covered, Nancy. Thanks anyway.

The truth is that Adam’s “curse” not only shows up in our living conditions, but in the very nature of man. We are cut out to work. I come from a long line of workaholics and now, though “retired” I still teach and write and edit papers and do much of what I did when I was “working.” Why? Because I like doing those things. Here I sit at my computer when I could be watching soap operas and eating bon bons, but I don’t like soap operas; I like to work.

For close to thirty years I taught high school English. It was tremendously hard work – long hours, intense pressure, loads of frustration, but I totally loved it. I wasn’t “locked” into that job. Eventually I got too tired to do the 60-hour weeks, too frustrated with how phony the whole business was, but I had loved seeing that spark of understanding in students’ eyes, thoroughly enjoyed the rapid repartee only a roomful of 17-year-olds could provide, and adored planning lessons, creating curriculum, and leading rehearsals.

We live in a free country and we used to have an economy that could support people’s dreams and ambitions. So you wanted to be a doctor – if you had the smarts and the self-discipline, you could. That’s not so true anymore. You can study medicine, but I doubt if it will be possible for you earn enough to pay off your student loans. I doubt you’ll even want the job once you realize how regimented, impossible and impersonal it has become, thanks to Obamacare. But people still apply to med school – why? Because humans want to work, because the American Dream isn’t about having; it’s about doing.

A study done at the University of Chicago about 10 years ago supports that idea. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience outlines the study, and what he discovered surprised everyone. He wanted to find out what made people happy. His subjects wore little mechanical “counters” on their persons at all times. They were asked to push a button whenever they realized they were enjoying themselves, whenever they felt happy. They were also to record what they were doing at the time. The vast majority of the positive reports were recorded while people were working, being productive, not while they were on vacation, nor while they were at home during off hours or weekends, but while they were at work.

Why? Don’t we all say TGIF at the end of every week? Aren’t we relieved when five o’clock rolls around? Csikszentmihalyi concluded, because he had that question, too, that when we work we become so involved in the “flow” of the activity, in the adrenaline rush of the pressure, in the exclusive concentration, that we lose track of time. Time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t remember ever being bored at school. Hurried, annoyed, exhausted – sometimes, but never bored. The days were always over so fast, even though they were long.

We also enjoy being productive. Evidently during these last 6,000 years man has adapted to the idea of work and has internalized its necessity to the extent that we’ve developed a taste for productivity, a sense of pride and usefulness about it. We are proud of ourselves when we complete the simplest of tasks, or when we make something, fix something, arrange something. I can feel righteous and worthy whether I’ve just cleaned a toilet, or made a dress for my granddaughter, or raked the yard. Work is good. It is noble. It is still the only way we can survive.

Pelosi and her ilk must be pretty desperate to vaporize the damage that’s been done by the recent CBO report: the loss of 2 million more jobs; the rigging of the system to keep people out of the job market. In other words the ACA is in fact not affordable by any stretch of the imagination, not affordable for anyone – those who don’t work will be doomed to live out ignoble, unhappy, unfulfilling lives; those who do work will be taxed to death. But if she can paint it as flowery opportunity then the problem will just go away. Right? Well, at least until the next election and that’s all liberals ever care about.

It doesn’t matter to them that the possibility of attaining our American dreams is fading with every day that goes by. The more they strangle our economy the less likely it is that any of us “can become what [we] can become,”* and the less chance we have of fulfilling Robert Frost’s wonderful expression of our love of work:

But yield who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and my vocation

As my two eyes make one in sight.

Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future's sakes.

                                         From “Two Tramps in Mudtime”


*from the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut