Which is more important? Your job or your family?
Thus, I was told emphatically during a recent conversation with a mature municipal employee about the secret of life. As a young man, he related to me in sincere tones, a moment arose wherein he was confronted with a family problem that required his attention. This attention detracted from his attention at work. He had to take a few days off, much to the consternation of his boss at work.
Upon return to work, he received a lecture about “the meaning of life” from the kind, avuncular boss. It went something like this:
What’s more important, your job, or your family? Your job! Why? Because without your job, you have no family. If your boss is unhappy and your family is unhappy, which do you choose? Your boss, because your work is more important than your family.
What was not articulated in this wise counsel of the boss to the young employee was the reason why the job is more important than the family. The consequences of not obeying the boss would be the loss of your job, which apparently, any sane person could understand is worse than losing your family. Can we say, furthermore, that it’s much easier to replace your family, than it is to get another job?
As I was listening intently to this story related to me in the sincere manner as it was, my mind was thrown into a mental gyre spiraling downward between wanting to sympathize, and wanting to be honest about my apoplectic response. I shut up and listened– as a deer caught in headlights.
What kind of world have we created such that the secret of “mature, responsible life” is to be a slave to “the boss”? In a practical sense, he was dead-on right. He was correct. Surely, any practical, sane person could understand that the logic was impeccable. What stumped me was the complete absence of any hint of an alternative world where the answer would be emphatically reversed. What’s more important, your job or your family? Your family!
The challenge before us is to create a landscape of the possible within the American collective conscious. As it is, many of us are deprived of the freedom to imagine a world other than one wherein, 1) the rich own the workplace, and 2) the rich hire managers to tell us what to do and when to do it, and 3) if a family crisis arises, tough luck for you, get back to work, the sole purpose of your existence is to productively increase the coffers of the rich owners.
Start with state control of primary education, and the ever-increasing costs of college; add to that private control of mass media; and what do you get? An absence of a single thought of any world outside of, or alternative to, authoritarian corporate masters. Success is defined as effectively competing in such a manner as to rise to the status of master. The world is reduced to a cultural bipolar disease signified by the primacy of rightful masters and dutiful servants.
The term non-plussed does not even come close to the shock I experienced hearing the "story of life" from a sincere person. What is even more shocking is that I would have said the same thing not so long ago.
I now live in two worlds. One is the fake world of fake education and fake news and fake freedom, and fake democracy. The practical world is a world of slavery and blind obedience presented as the secret of life and modern maturity and responsible behavior. The other world is so foreign to the “real” world that I don’t want to call it real. The fake is the real.
Few of us Americans have any experiences working in any group that is not authoritarian. Few workplaces, or schools for that matter, have egalitarian, democratic management. Few people ever see on TV another world, or ever experience democratic power-sharing in their daily lives. Without experiencing democracy, and without hearing about democracy, the definition remains an empty dictionary entry.
I live in the real world of the fake, whilst faking a world of the real in my dreams.