Thursday, February 5, 2009

rant and rave

What are we working for? To make life easier, not harder. To make life better, healthier, more fun and safe. To free up as much leisure time as possible for serendipitous discovery or to spend however we want. And when our collective efficiency improves, we can better fund science research and other self-actualization/growth needs. There is no reason for people to work two or three jobs and have few to no vacations (unless that's what they like). That is all backwards! I'm not an economist, but something seems wrong here.

I'll admit it... I like the flute hook in ABBA's song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A man after midnight)". If I had to pick a ring tone for a cell phone, that would be it. Or it would be a Wong Kar-Wai film song like Baroque (from Chungking Express), Perfidia, or Siboney (both from 2046).

As of the 29th of last month, I am once again a fish owner. I forgot just how amazingly relaxing keeping fish is.


07 Feb 2009 postscript to entry:

While utilitarians, and more broadly, consequentialists might agree, Nietzsche would not, as he expressed an opinion that we owe many of our advances to the effects of suffering, which has urged humankind to become better than we otherwise might be (Beyond Good and Evil p225). This is a train of thought within normative ethics that I have returned to many times, and by now it is becoming quite old. Each time I try to approach it differently and elucidate something new that hadn't been considered before. Viktor Frankl stated a common observation once, that when we stop striving for something at that moment it is most easily obtained.
"...as long as you are pursuing happiness, as the phrase reads, as long as you are aiming at happiness you cannot obtain it. The more you make it a target, the more you miss the aim, and you miss the target." (Interview, South Africa, 1985).
What are we working for? We will understand why we work when we stop working.


08 Feb 2009 post-postscript:

Returning to Nietzsche's apparent objection to the goal of making life easier, it is important to reflect that suffering would not lead to achievement were we not urged by the desire to relieve it and make life easier. Suffering is a relative condition, everything has its own threshold. Within existentialism, even the mere fact of existence and personal freedom leads to angst, a form of suffering. So Nietzsche need not be concerned that life would be free from suffering or too easy some day. That day will probably never come. His point, of course, is that we should not forget its important contribution toward shaping who we are. To make life easier one must not be apathetic about the world nor feel one's own actions are inconsequential.

3 comments:

aratina said...

I am not an economist either, but I think some would give a cynical take on the person with two or three jobs making only $100 per year (or less) in some foreign country as a necessity to capitalism. Without cheap labor, we wouldn't be where we are today in terms of leisure.

Keir said...

Realistically, my utopian view may never come to pass, though I have tried to rest it upon a sound theoretical foundation.

According to John Ruskin, there are two forces at work that affect the political economy, and thereby the amount of leisure time that one may enjoy: construction and discovery, which is capable of improving everyone's life; and exchange, which is capable of improving some people's lives at the expense of degrading the quality of others. Cheap labor is of the second kind. From this I conclude that the only ethical way to enjoy more leisure is to discover and (even more so) implement non-wasteful practices. I have advocated for precisely this kind of behavioral change in a recent post, which I think will go a long way toward addressing the unethical situation of cheap labor.

To provide the source material for the above, John Ruskin wrote in "Unto This Last" that "Profit, or material gain, is attainable only by construction or by discovery; not by exchange. Whenever material gain follows exchange, for every plus there is a precisely equal minus" or put another way "what one person has, another cannot have". Ruskin summed up much of the conclusions of his book in the second to last paragraph in it.

aratina said...

I guess I don't understand how construction and discovery don't require cheap labor. Wouldn't mining be a type of discovery and palace building a type of construction? No, I'm probably taking the terms too literally.

I'm of the mind that we need a maximum wage/income limit. There is a point where the amount of money (survival) stops mattering and the accrual of money (earning) becomes the target, and that's when the disparity between the quality of living of earners and poverty of living of survivors greatly increases as it has over our lifetimes in the U.S.