EVAN: Ladies, gentlemen, those who fall into neither category [I’ve been taking a course on gender], tonight Gordon and I will be talking about what most everyone in the world has to do to get by, and that is work.
As a topic it spun out organically from our conversation on naps and time, and it’s hard to discuss the hours in the day when such a large chunk of it is spent at one’s job.
GORDON: More specifically, it was through a general observation that too often, our work simply isn’t fulfilling.
This is certainly something we can all relate to; Evan and I in particular, having scrubbed down dorm toilets for minimum wage.
EVAN: Oh yes, the very high New York state minimum wage of $7.25.
GORDON: And yes, we were paid by the hour, meaning the better we were at our job, the less we made.
EVAN: I’m going to be honest, though, and say that I really enjoyed working with my hands.
I liked cleaning out urinals infinitely more than I liked sitting in front of a desk in the Writing Centre, waiting for kids [who I know for a fact needed help with their papers] to not show up.
GORDON: That’s something interesting right off the bat. I think it’s safe to say that regardless of your culture or background, you simply enjoy “building” something. It’s a universal human trait.
I’ve definitely encountered many happier carpenters and landscapers than insurance salesmen and telemarketers.
EVAN: The number of actual insurance salesmen and telemarketers you know aside, it’s just more natural to be out and about, actually “doing stuff.” Let’s not forget to mention that as far as guys are concerned, sitting down at office jobs is said to have contributed to a huge plummet in our overall collective sperm count.
GORDON: In all honesty, I’m not sure the audience wants us to discuss the latest trends in sperm counts.
But there’s another aspect- an all important one- I think goes into that as well. Typically, people doing manual labor (in THIS country- I cannot emphasize that enough) have more control when it comes to their work.
EVAN: I’ve also found, and I’m unsure of how true this is, that people who engage in manual labour also make more. I’m looking in particular at jobs like construction, tree planting, etc.
You work on an oil rig and you’re making like $30/hour. To be fair, you are also working 16-hour days without weekends.
GORDON: This is very true. Though again, very true in this part of the world. It definitely it doesn’t hurt to have security.
But jumping back to the question, why is it that we’re not typically happy with our jobs?
Why is it that the few hours we have to ourselves are hours in which we have to choose between development, socialization, entertainment, and rest?
EVAN: I feel like we’re both somewhat hesitant to go into too much detail in answering the follow-up questions due to our own job security, etc., which are: “Do we enjoy what we’re doing?” and “Do we feel like we’re making a difference?”
GORDON: I think the answer is yes and no.
I do enjoy what I do, but at the same time, I understand that I am by no means the master of my own fate when it comes to my work. Let me pose question to the audience:
Anyone out there ever work for a lousy boss?
I’m gonna guess that the answer is pretty much a unanimous yes. If not, you’ve at least worked for a lazy boss, or boss who exploited the system, or a boss who simply wasn’t cut out for leadership. We can all agree on this, right?
EVAN: I can recall at least one summer job where my boss and I did not meet eye to eye on certain ways of doing things, yes.
GORDON: I guess my point is this:
Employment that would mean growth for us as individuals is work where we can experiment, evolve, make our own choices, suffer our own consequences, and find our own pace (where we’re not just slaving away for maximum profit). Only we can’t, because we’re never the ones in charge.
EVAN: I feel like you’re running on the assumption that our respective bosses [and I speak for all of us] feel immensely fulfilled. In my case, my boss at work really is the top of the top; she doesn’t really report to anyone else besides the co-owner of the company.
GORDON: I don’t mean that at all. On the contrary, I can only imagine that being separated from the pack like that makes you feel isolated (at best) or pitted against ’em (at worst). The only exception I can imagine is the rare situation in which a leader is elected by the people doing the work.
EVAN: I realize I’ve only been working at my job for about a month and a half, but everyone appears to be getting along pretty well with the bosses. They’re not even really separate, and their offices aren’t really that much nicer than the people next to them.
But I’m going to move on, a little, and ask what your ideal job would be. The most fulfilling possible role for you, Gordon, as a means of making an honest living.
GORDON: Well, I’d like to imagine I’m a half-decent writer, and every aspiring writer has the dream of being their generation’s Hemingway. But lion-punching aside…
It’s really tough for me to say. I’ve seen myself as an activist- having an ideal job kinda, sorta implies an ideal world, one where I could potentially take a swing at everything. Again, I think it all comes down to being able to make your own decisions, and run a business democratically, basing decisions from the ground up, not the top down, and working for maximum worker fulfillment, rather than the profit of someone who doesn’t even know I exist.
EVAN: Okay, let’s back this up, then. In the current work we live in, now, what would you like to be doing? Is activist your answer, because I could definitely see that.
GORDON: If that’s something you could actually make a living off of. Local politician might be the best compromise there.
EVAN: Personally, I would love to be Editor-in-Chief at Marvel. I’ve seen what Axel Alonso is doing, and the only downside of the job I can see is not being able to write myself. As a slight step down, I wouldn’t mind being an editor, since they have a good amount of creative control and get to really work things out with the respective writers of their titles.
But really, there’s a lot I’d like to do, and you kind of know about this. I’d like to make video games, or run my own magazine, or even teach schoolchildren English. There’s a lot out there I think I could do that I would definitely find immensely fulfilling; where I could wake up and really look forward to going to work.
GORDON: I’m noticing that in both jobs you’ve mentioned, you’re the one calling the shots. I don’t feel this is a coincidence.
EVAN: I agree with you. Being a writer at Marvel would be fantastic, but somewhere along the line there’s the fear that editorial will push you in a direction you don’t want to go [the recent debacles over at DC are evidence of when this goes wrong].
I would still love it immensely, and I’ve gotten a peek into their creative conferences and how they’re all growing as writers and building their world, but there’s still the mandates of the company.
GORDON: This is true. But again, I think at the end of the day, what we all want is some degree of control- especially when it comes to how we work and what we produce.
Imagine, if you will, our present condition. We have a factory with 100 workers. These guys work 8 hours a day for a dollar, making as much crappy furniture as quickly as they can. The furniture sells at 11 bucks apiece, and the owner pockets the difference. That’s gonna just be plain miserable.
Now look at it when it’s run democratically. The workers decide how fast or slow they’re going to go, so they can still make enough to live but not kill themselves doing it. They choose themselves who they think would be the best administrator- he’s not chosen from some office on-high. And they profits are split evenly, so everyone’s equally invested in the factory’s success.
Everyone’s richer, happier, but most importantly, free
EVAN: You mentioned an ideal world earlier, and that’s definitely it. The picture you painted raises all sorts of questions, of course, like what incentive workers have to move up in the company when an equal paygrade exists for all, and the fact that certain jobs will inevitably be more difficult [or dangerous] than others.
I won’t deny that it’s a beautiful picture, just that it assumes a lot about people.
GORDON: I agree there’s still a lot to work through, but ultimately, I do think this is both desirable and achievable. The New Belgium Brewing Company being a working example.
EVAN: Do they all really get paid the same amount?
GORDON: That, I do not know. I do know that the entire company is worker-run, though.
EVAN: That’s really the bit that stuck out to me the most from your description and, though I would certainly like to continue this further, our 45 minutes has elapsed.
GORDON: As much as I do like advocating Communism, I think we really ought to give our readers a chance to suggest another topic.
EVAN: Heh. You know I’m going to take forever, so you might as well go ahead.
GORDON: Actually, I liked leaving it entirely up the commenters- that seemed to work well last time.
EVAN: Alternatively, we could pick up one of the topics from last week.
We still have “What makes an effective classroom/learning environment?” and another more general question about fanfics that focuses on artists, their art, and their fanbases.
GORDON: Well, I’d be up for either, so I say we leave it up to the commenters; if they want us to hit up something from last week, just give the say so.
EVAN: Welp, you heard the man. Let us know what you want us to tackle next week by leaving a comment; if not, we’ll just pick one of the two topics from last week.
Have a great week, everyone, and just remember that it’s all downhill from Wednesday [in a good way].
GORDON: Be sure to comment or we will be SUPER passive aggressive about it.