I Don’t Dream of Labour
Why we need an improved system that allows people to have work-life balance
Riti is a young writer from India. As a lover of knowledge, she enjoys dissecting philosophical and political ideas as well as criticising media. As an activist involved in social justice advocacy, Riti constantly evaluates her positions so they are morally consistent. Her writing involves seminal analysis and critical judgement.
I Don’t Dream of Labour
I don’t have a ‘dream job’ because I don’t dream of labor as much as I dream of the life lucrative labor can give me. This is a noticeable trend among many members of Gen Z. Tired of working long hours and disillusioned from the idea of meritocracy in an unequal world, many people just want a steady salary, work-life balance and stability.
This isn’t a jab at the idea of passion and hard work. Those do and will always have a place in professional success. But hustle culture makes us place our health, hobbies and relationships at the altar of corporate greed. It is exhausting and unsustainable to constantly work hard, leading to chronic fatigue and mental health problems.
Tackling the myth of meritocracy means recognizing the fact that those who are at the top, professionally speaking, aren’t necessarily those who worked the hardest. Access to resources makes a huge difference because people born into privilege are able to leverage the information they receive from their networks to rise up in the ranks. It is much harder for a marginalized individual to achieve that success.
Because work reform appears to be a monumentally impossible area for most to make a difference in individually - many people settle for other ways to improve their quality of life. The rise of self-care and the insistence on alone time is a direct consequence of this. Of course, there are those who chide these trends as another form of capitalist consumerism.
Underlying more positive and rational approaches to finding balance, there is cynicism. This type of nihilistic thought is borne out of a belief that working hard is fruitless and passion is ultimately meaningless. The rise of media and books such as “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” is indicative of a general hedonism towards work and life. Perhaps this is why Gen Z is somehow both vehemently anti-capitalist, yet incredibly consumeristic at the same time. Without the energy to fight, many resign themselves to their fate in these modern systems while also being distinctly aware of the oppressions that flow in their undercurrent.
However, because we live in a consumerist society, every notion of cynicism that berates the system is also somehow commodified. Here I refer to influencers as well as middle-class folks who denigrate working hard and being laborious in the professional world as too toxic. The issue here again is one of privilege. Feeling exhausted and burnt out in this system is understandable, but it’s irresponsible to pretend that applications of this philosophy are the same for everyone.
For influencers and those with generational wealth, working less and living minimalist lifestyles is an active choice. For many, that is the reality they are born into. It’s hard for someone who is stuck in a less privileged position to empathize with people who have stable jobs yet complain. Due to this, discussions about work reform become a convoluted exclusionary mess online, presented as too idealistic or utopian.
There has to be a middle ground where compassion and self-awareness can co-exist and thrive. Part of that is for people to upskill and land jobs that can give them more balance and make compromises along the way while also voting with their dollar by supporting businesses that actually care about their workers.
I believe each generation builds on and improves upon the last. The Social Revolution, as the current era of work is often called, aims to usher in change that is focused on quality of life and working to live. Perhaps some professionals will achieve it within this lifetime, while some will impart the knowledge necessary for their own children to receive the same. There isn’t a clear-cut answer to the dilemma- but there has to be a middle ground between nihilism and toxic productivity.
Am I alone in hoping? Hopefully not.
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