Thursday 23 August 2012

Breaking Free

Work is a four letter word.

That's how many people perceive their occupation.
A means to an end.
The nine to five grind.
Everybody's workin' for the weekend.
How did it happen that our role in an organized society became a bitter exchange for two days of rest?

Media plots and stories often characterize the working world as an inevitable prison of disenchantment and relentless repetition.
As children, we are shown archetypes of various jobs available
'when we grow up'.
The expectation is that we will choose to fill a single position.
Whether it be a firefighter or a doctor, the spin is that we may choose whatever we wish to be.
And that may be true for some.

Anecdotally, most people end up working whatever job they can get into order to make a living.
Post-secondary education is traditionally intended to prepare the student
for the job.
More often, the student uncovers the veil of romance and discovers that their chosen profession is not the right fit.
As the need to become financially independant falls on young shoulders,
there is precious little time or resource to change course.
The next thing that comes along must often suffice.

And so it begins.
A lifetime lived having lost the opportunity at a young age to find a true calling.
Work becomes tedious and hateful.
Some people do well; but that is not the usual story.

So why don't we switch jobs around a little?
How about a job exchange?
Under the current arrangment, it's a tricky proposal.
First of all, there is a dangerous difference between wages.
People earning generous salaries become entrenched in a particular lifestyle.
They may hate their job,
but the money keeps them going back to work day after day.
Accumulated debt contributes to an occupational trap;
moving up is preferred, but taking a pay cut can lead to failure at home.
The greater proportion is those people who would like to improve their job
and the pay.
Of course it's clear that better remuneration is the real goal.
Too late does the money driven employee realize that they are walking into a trap.

Education and training is the obvious barrier preventing candidates from achieving job satisfaction.
It takes a considerable amount of investment in both time and money in order to re-train.
Most workers have neither.

Location plays a large role too.
Most of the jobs are in the cities; a volatile spiral into finite urban density.
Interestingly, the suburban sprawl is developing jobs and many commuters head out of the city to work while others still drive out of the suburbs.
That paradox is a symptom of an inefficient culture of work and unsustainable civil engineering.

I don't intend to propose that the solutions are simple.
In fact, I won't suggest any tonight.
(Though you would recognize the theme if I did.)
It's just painful to see so many unhappy people who could thrive if placed into an environment that nurtured their passion.
As far as the economy goes, happy workers are productive workers, and coupled with efficiency could help solve the beleaguered economic balance.

To be fair to the system, the responsibility lays in the hands of the individual.
Social democracy (such as it is) does well to balance the needs of everyone.
Unfortunately, it has a side effect that strips the common man of empowerment.
Not having to fight for basic rights erodes the resolve to fight for a better life.
Each disguntled employee must first acknowledge that change is possible,
and find courage and the will to forge a different path for themselves.

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