Monday, April 17, 2006

Are you working yourself to death?

What is happening to America and our system of work ethics? I read somewhere that Americans work more hours compared to citizens in other countries. However, our productivity is lower, our health is less healthy, and we weight more, have more divorces, more debt, take more zanix and experience less sex. Ok, the last part about the sex and zanix wasn’t in any thing I read, but it is a logical conclusion. This overworking thing has gotten worse in the last few years. For example, from my own life, my husband and I have not had a full weekend off in over a year. I am not yanking your chain here, I swear to god. George even had to work all day last Sunday just to meet his deadlines. Plus, his work day no longer ends at 6, at 7 (last year) but 8 p.m.! The same thing is happening to my sister who has just changed her schedule to wake up at 4 a.m. so she can work from home before going into the office. She was taking her work home with her at night, but this was cutting into her time with her son and she hated it. So, 4 a.m. it is. The same, again, is going on with my dad who works every weekend and also works when he gets home at night. Sitting at his computer with the TV playing in the background, he will often work well into the night before dropping dead-like into bed. And yours truly? I can’t remember the last time I had a whole day to myself, a day where I did not work from 9 a.m. to midnight. Of course, I get breaks here and there. But there is not a continuous break, no space to recoup and re-gather. I go from assigned task to assigned task. One would think that this continuous, nose to the grindstone work would produce higher pay. This is logical, right? We give more time to our companies; we should be compensated for our effort! Wrong! Nothing! We get nothing in return, at least not my before mentioned family, for our harder work, our continuous efforts. George barely got a 1% raise last year and he is doing more work, making more deadlines and balancing more jobs then ever before. The same is happening for my dad who is constantly struggling financially. My sister is also in the same boat and I am a teacher, so that should tell you something about my pay right there. So, what keeps us working so hard if we are not seeing something tangible in return? Fear. That’s right, fear. We are afraid we will lose our jobs. We are afraid that we will not be able to get a new job. We are afraid of being on the streets. You might say that this is ridiculous, but I assure you it is not. Fear is what motivates each and every one of us. I have talked to many others outside my family as well, and they too are afraid. We live in a space that is motivated by fear and is reinforced by habits created by a consumerist culture. We buy things we can’t afford to replace the human to human interaction we no longer have the time for. Our televisions, our phones, that gorgeous couch or those awesome pair of shoes—replacements for lived relations with each other. In turn, we work to afford the payments for the stuff in an economic environment that does not encourage us, or allow us to pay the stuff off. Raising interest rates, insurance rates, gas, food and the whole load is overwhelming to say the least. Our incomes do not compensate for cost of living and we find ourselves in a cycle where we chaise our tails just to keep up. My husband and I paid off all of our credit cards last year and have sworn never to use them again, unless there is an emergency. I hate credit cards and now view them as a type of evil—sometimes a necessary evil (like when my husband had to go to the ER several months ago for a broken foot that our insurance barely coved)—but an evil. Still, even with clear credit cards, we chase our tails. I wonder when people will get fed with this kind of slavery—the slavery to the work place and to consumerism. I wonder because people can’t be all that happy! God knows, we are tired—very tired, but at some time our exhaustion must lead to some reaction against a system that would work us to death and not compensate us for our efforts! On that cheery note, I ask you to examine your own life and see whether you get enough quality time with the people you love or if you, like many of us, are chasing your tail. After your examination, ask yourself how we can all change this formula and create a better space. I do not have an answer myself, but I am thinking on it.

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