It Was Too Nice To Work Today

It Was Too Nice To Work Today

SFASlice of Life
Justin Nearing

After a long, dark, hard winter we were blessed with unseasonably warm weather.

It was simply too nice to do any work.

There’s an insane level of privilege that goes into that statement:

The amount of security you have to have to be able to just not today is wild.

Doubly weird is that its a privilege of unemployment.

My ability to enjoy the first warm, sunny weather in months depends on how many people are dependent on me sitting in front of the computer.

Since it’s just me out here, for the moment, I was able to just sit there and breathe for a damn minute.

I’m writing this the next day- which is also warm and sunny- and yet I’m not outside enjoying and unseasonably warm Canadian Spring.

I’m in front of my computer again.

It was too nice to work yesterday, but that was a reflection of my personal headspace.

I embraced that headspace, and it’s propelled me to the next mindset.

The Cult of Productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about productivity.

And yesterday I thought a lot about productivity.

The main line of reasoning was imagining how insane it would be to write “It’s too nice to do any work today.” in my work chat and then just going offline for the day.

What’s fascinating about the thought experiment that it’s an insane thing to do.

We simply don’t live in a world where you can just peace out for a day because you feel like it.

Even in company cultures that have “flex” days or whatever- I hoarded those days for emergencies- unavoidable errands, sick-but-actually-mental-breakdown days, etc.

So it’s no wonder the weird pressure I feel just imagining announcing, “meh, don’t feel like it, so I won’t.”

It’s this feeling that feeds into a larger topic I’ve been ruminating on- the Cult of Productivity.

I fetishize productivity, always have.

For me, the default is to associate the amount I produce with my self worth.

Part of it, I think, has to do with the cultural expectations of what a “worthy man” is.

Real men make shit!

Power tools and blue jeans and heavy machinery, hoo-rah!

That blue-collar agricultural utopia is the ideal for masculinity.

Less ideal is the knowledge worker, creating value in a digitized late-stage capitalist society.

Which is a fancy way to say you’re still a worthy man if you can make the number go up.

It doesn’t really matter what the number is- personal wealth, investment returns, key-performance-indicators, whatever.

The number is a proxy for productivity, productivity is the masculine ideal:

Real man make number go up.

The Tyranny of Privilege

Add the fact that I am a white man, enjoying the wild privilege our entire globalized society has been developed to serve:

The pressure to be productive is even more pronounced.

At some point, all self-aware white men have to come to terms with their place in the system of oppression explicitly created to benefit them.

A system of oppression combining the capitalist requirement to work for minimum living standards, with the crushing feeling of being unable to change that system.

The way I internalized those complex expressions of privilege was a deep sense of dread that I would waste the opportunity.

If the entire world is set up to allow me to anything.

Then the greatest sin is to do nothing.

You can see how someone in this position would bow at the altar of Productivity.

Productivity measured by numbers in a digital economy.

A digital economy where that number dictates your standard of living.

The Privilege to Reject Modernity

So the hard question, as it ever was, is what the hell I’m supposed to do about it.

I could reject the whole damn thing, go live in the woods and cosplay the idealized agri-utopian pioneer.

And true enough, I watch my fair share of Off-Grid YouTube content.

But that path doesn’t hold under scrutiny. First of all you need a ton of capital to buy the land, let alone develop it.

And even then you don’t get decent internet connection.

And more to the point, it doesn’t actually reject the system- you’re just engaging with it in a different way.

So what then?

The number must go up.

I have to get my bag because I live in a society.

And it’s a real tough to define how much number is enough.

Which is all to say the ability to reject productivity- to rebel against an unjust system- are all expressions of privilege provided by that system.

Charitable Rebellion

But that line of thinking reduces to an infinite loop.

Let’s focus on how to critically rebel against an oppressive system, regardless of my place in it.

Our society is based around the transactional extraction of value.

Everything has a price, you are incentivized to only do things that ultimately benefit you.

The opposite of that?

Do things that benefit others, with no expectation of reward.

Apparently that’s just called charity.

But I donate monthly to cancer research and my local children’s hospital.

That doesn’t seem like rebellion.

It feels like I have to offer my time for the benefit of others.

Personally volunteer to help others.

There’s a ton of things I can do.

Driving for Meals on Wheels, volunteering at soup kitchens, etc.

Point is, each act of volunteering rebels against a late-stage capitalist system of oppression.

Part of me is aware that this whole thing can read as “white man discovers charity is good, actually.”

But such a take reeks of cynicism, we’re all starting from different starting points and each have to critically engage with our role in society.

And besides, it’s not too bad a set of conclusions for a line of reasoning triggered by it being too damn nice to work today.