You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

I don’t understand people when they talk about their jobs. This isn’t a dig at people with every day jobs. It’s an observation. I like to ask people what they do because I don’t really have a lot of experience with working.

I get retail and service jobs. I get professional jobs like lawyers and professors and doctors and architects. The thing that boggles my mind is how people in corporate jobs describe their success. They talk about efficiencies and corporate gains, incentives and productivity. Basically, they sell their lives…actual time they will never be able to recover no matter how successful…so the company they work for can increase profits, pay executives bonuses, give shareholders dividends, and get more powerful vis a vis employees.

So when I see people going home on the train and playing Candy Crush, I feel the emptiness. I don’t mean that figuratively. I can actually feel it. People zone out on their phones until they can zone out in front of their TVs and computers, fall asleep, get up and do it again.

When Great Britain kicked off its industrial revolution, it depended on caffeine to wake workers up, nicotine to keep them up and alcohol to shut them up. It required an empire to procure the coffee, the tea, the tobacco and the rum. And then it required a navy to protect trade routes and an army to keep the local populations in check. All so that factories could run at optimal speed and put out machine made fabrics for workers to wear the next day to work.

Not much has changed.

Trump plans on using tariff dollars to subsidize farmers whose crops aren’t paying dividends because China won’t accept a trade deal with the US and Walmart has a super advantage in suppressing commodity prices. So basically American consumers are paying extra to support foreign industrialization and domestic welfare without any sign of relief for farmers, domestic industry, or consumers. It’s wealth redistribution for Trump’s political gain and it doesn’t offer any long term solution. This woman on the train next to me will pay more for her next iPhone so some farmer in Wisconsin can avoid bankruptcy so he’ll be loyal to Trump and buy a MAGA hat made in China.

How does any of this sound soulful or fulfilling?

Cui bono? How do we quantify all the human hours poured into this system?

When I was young lawyer and D was a young computer programmer, I saw the company perks that got thrown to relatively high paying jobs. Mostly it was in the form of snacks. A bag of Sun Chips, a soda fountain and maybe a fifteen minute massage a week to eek out extra hours of productivity. D worked so hard on a project he had two blood clots from sitting for too long. But the pay was good.

I don’t know what the alternative is. It isn’t communism. Communism went from giving people what they need and taking from people what they could give to forcing everybody to be the same and actively deterring independent thought or innovation.

Socialism? If Europe has shown us anything it’s that people are willing to pay higher taxes, so long as the benefits go to people who look like them. And even then, socialism in Europe wouldn’t have been possible without externalities like illegal labor, the vestiges of colonialism, and the huge relief that Europe got by exporting its huddled masses to the U.S. and Latin America over the course of five hundred years.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how to liberate people from their modern day shackles. People will fight for their right to watch The Bachelor and buy total crap at Walmart on Black Friday.

I just watch from the sidelines with compassion but without affinity. I don’t have any addictions myself. There’s something about my brain that can’t form them. Not liquor or nicotine or shopping or sex or TV or my phone. I’m just this outsider who got rejected for never being normal enough. So I just observe and write. If I’m adding something positive into the Universe, I don’t know what it is. All I know is that it’s not quantifiable in the way that modern society values things. Everything feels so alien to me.

2 thoughts on “You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

  1. True that. Excellent and VERY scary point. We are not free, we are the victims of our substances- be it drugs, phones or money. We are kinda zombies. Have you read Brain Wash? In part it’s about the drug oh social media and playing games on the cellphone. I love that part about coffee, nicotine, and alcohol.
    Infinite Jest touches on this subject – keeping the population drugged with video cassettes.

    I am about to write a Creative non-fiction piece about the murder of Tessa Majors- supposedly because she wouldn’t let go of her phone. I went to Barnard and I freaked when she died. I felt I’d lost a sister.


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