Thursday, February 1, 2007


Home at 1 am after work, I feel great. Working at different times than ‘the general’ population is exhilarating to me, as if the sleep of others sustains me when I get too fatigued. I have to admit I like my job; yet I would avoid saying: ‘I am a carpenter, a neurosurgeon, a plumber, a shopkeeper, a waitress.’ Not that I would be ashamed of any of the jobs just mentioned, but a job is what I do and not what I am. In On Seeing and Noticing Alain de Botton included a short essay ‘On work and happiness’, noting that ‘The most remarkable feature of the workplace has nothing to do with computers, automation or globalization. It lies in the widely held belief that our work should make us happy.’ He speaks about work ethic, postulating that most people would work even they didn’t have to. Now that would get me a roaring laugh in my small desert town… maybe even a few free drinks for telling the weirdest joke ever. My buddies there definitely hold the view that work is penance or punishment or an unavoidable necessity to be resorted to only in case of dire necessity and advocate the right to laziness. Some jobs are rewarding, financially and in personal growth. Some ‘jobs’ lead to glory and fame. But the giga majority is not. Not well paid, not fulfilling. Yet de Botton is right when he says that in meeting a new person, often one of the first questions is ‘what do you do?’ That information tells us something about perceived social status, areas of interest. Maybe, we are just shy asking new acquaintances real personal questions: where did you grow up, who were your parents, etc. The concept of meritocracy is another conundrum. Obviously it helps to have a certain talent or knack to do a certain job; if you hold a certain position you must ‘merit’ it and thus it says something about you as person. And also obvious is then that those not having 'nice' jobs didn't merit them. In a company, institution where promotions are based on ‘merit’, sometimes things work out right and everyone ends up doing exactly what she is good at. However, this could engender a lot of hidden hurt, fear of under achievement and stress since the perceived relationship with authority will also play its part. We should remember that one’s status is never guaranteed. I wonder how, when and where the Peter Principle comes in. Ivan Illich pointed out that work, people, even health is commodified. So although some of us may enjoy our jobs, the majority of the working class can be laid off at whim, since it is all about profit and paiing the least possible for all resources, also the human resource. Inequality still plays its part in the workplace with consequences for one’s self esteem and quality of life. Optimism about nice and fulfilling jobs and living in the Wal-Mart, fast food zone, has left many people unhappy. If that is your case: estimate what you need, what you would prefer to have money wise, says Dr Scarpone, and then do what you really want to do. Since you want to do it, you’ll enjoy yourself, be good at it and probably financially successful at the same time. Free advise.

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