Division of Labour is in a way natural and no one can argue the efficiency. We produce more and the average person has access to more for cheaper.
I’m typing on this laptop which thousands of individuals made, each doing his own part.
I’m sitting in my flat, which hundreds of specialised people built. Using electricity, generated and distributed by thousands more.
My house was financed through a bank, with even more individual cogs in a big wheel.
The clothes I’m wearing is also a result of the division of labour.
All the above occurred, not because I wanted it, but because others derived a plan as to make a profit. That is, they orchestrated production of goods in excess to enable bartering and stock up on currency.
I can never escape this preoccupation. First, the economic goal was meeting needs, but the process, once it got going did not only meet needs, it created needs.
At what price? Obviously the market puts a monetary price on every singe item that is excess to the producer. The buyer (the wanter) sells some of his own exxcess (time and skill) in order to purchase the excess of the seller.
At what human price?
An ever increasing division of labour turns individuals more and more into machines. It is inescapable and I won’t argue with the relevance and force of the market.
I will however, argue and resist the dehumanising affects the system has on me.
As a spiritual person it is good, in some ways to travel light and not be too anchored, too rooted.
Yet, as a human it is also important to be rooted, to connect. With people and process. That is why even the wealthiest of individuals still have hobbies. The immitation of being involved in a complete process nurtures a hidden part of our humanity. Growing your own vegetables or gardening is perhaps the best example.
Here in my flat, suspended in the sky I make a some symbolic attempts at resistence:
I planted and nurture a few plants. At present I can see new fruits forming on the trees. It is a cyclical process of life and death. The plants and their fruits grow so slowly, but it is beautiful and miraculous in nature.
This morning I baked bread again. Sure, I did not grow the wheat or sugar cane. I did not produce the yeast or salt. But every step closer to the process serves its purpose of grounding my soul. The sight of the dough expanding, the smell of the bread baking and the satisfaction of cutting a freshly baked bread does something for the human inside of me.
All of us cannot be subsistence farmers. Well, we can, but it won’t happen. So I’m not advocating an Amish extremity. I’m advocating a balance. A rhythm that merge a bit of slow into a fast paced division and bartering of labour.
When I was young I told my dad I don’t want to learn how to wire an electric plug. I told him I will make enough money as lawyer to pay someone to do it. It was such a seminal conversation. My dad had the patience and grace to allow me to discover these things by myself. I didn’t get a speech. Only during my first year in Mozambique, at 19, did I start to experience the pleasure of doing things with my own hands. Today when I see Builders Warehouse buzzing with clueless yet excited individuals on a Saturday morning, I know that I am not alone.
Unfortunately Facebook, video games and the television is cheap numbing device that keeps humans from realising all of this. Ironically, TV, Facebook, playstation, magazines, clothing, beer and restaurants exist due to individuals devising excess production to eat our money! They don’t care about us wasting hours and keeping our minds numb. They care that someone pays for the TV, the decoder, the movie, the shoes, the bling, the music, the beer. They produce in excess through the division of labour so that others will spend their own excess (in the form of currency) on these products. Some products are obviously better or less harmful than others. Hats off to the bastards that get you to buy cigarettes and shooters. The price we pay for consuming useless things is a bombardment of advertising that floods and pollutes our minds to the extent of us not realising it.
We need to learn to say no to some things before we are allowed to say yes to others. What do you say no to? What do I say no to?
As I get older, I want to move away from the spectacular, the comfortable and the quick.
I want to discover rhythms of slower and deeper moments.
Shaving with my old fashioned cut-throat razor is one of these things, like bread baking or gardening that slows me down. By activating my hands and seeing a tangible complete outcome or result of a particular labour I am connecting myself with a way that I think is healthier and more human, more humane.
We are all in pursuit of happiness. So this is not a point of morality or spirituality; although it might affect both.
For some the pursuit of happiness entails new shoes, music videos, beer, smart cars, fashion, gossip, fast foods, walking in the mall or watching TV shows.
For some it entails creation, reading, growing, traveling, writing or cooking meat on a fire you made yourself.
Mostly it entails a weird mix of all of the above.
I won’t say one is right and one is wrong. If putting mags on your car and smoking cigarettes makes you genuinely happy; go for it.
My point is that I think the system sells happiness as a shallow by product of entrepreneurial profit drive. Our happiness are automatic assumptions derived from the market that creates, advertise and sell products that are easy to like… The super rich rely on our uselessness and ingeniousness to consume what they create for us.
My way to escape some of that is to do very basic things that are holistic rather than dissected.
My pursuit of happiness hopes to do basic things well and to derive satisfaction from integrated processes. Why? It makes me feel grounded and in touch. And being grounded in my body and outside, grounds my heart and mind, which in turn allows me to think more clearly.
And being smart and wise (one day) is a non negotiable in my pursuit of happiness.