It’s not just that either. The labor market in general lacks meaningful jobs. And along with low wages, very little room to climb, long working days, poor working conditions, employers consistently devaluing their employees, and an aristocracy that benefits off of exploiting a working class that devotes most if its time to menial, laborious, tedious, dull, dead end cyclical jobs, while simultaneously treading water in the process, the “American Dream” simply becomes a nightmare.
Everyone should have the opportunity to live a meaningful life full of purpose and passion. But millions of people are tied to inconsequential jobs that bring little to no significance to their lives outside of a paycheck to paycheck circumstance that hardly pays the bills and crippling exorbitant rent and housing prices, payments related to one’s healthcare, even the price of same modern day basic needs like internet, phone bills, car payments. Hell, even the price of having a family.
And we’re simply just expected to shut up, roll over and be “productive members of society”, or to simply “get roommates”, to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”. But it’s all very flawed. The economy, our socioeconomic status is defined by how the stockmarket is doing, our GDP, even our unemployment numbers, sometimes retirement, or whether or not the rich are getting any richer. When those things don’t define millions of Americans, don’t define their livelihoods, their quality of life. While we’re also expected to be consumers, become attached to our possessions and the latest piece of technology that freshly circulates year round, that sometimes ends up putting us in debt thanks to credit card companies who tell us “you can have everything you’ve always wanted and more!”. Our consumerism is meant to keep us complacent while it also perpetuates those very inconsequential jobs in the first place. And sure, we’re not technically forced to buy these things, immaterial or not, but is that really the truth? Our society and culture tells us that if we don’t have these things we won’t fit in. It’s all part of an inherently flawed system, a paradigm that’s meant to keep the poor… well, poor.
So how do we provide purposeful lives for everyone we can? How do we allow for opportunities that give us the freedom to chase after our dreams? To live a life of passion? Of meaning? The answer isn’t simple, and while it can sometimes be partly rooted in individual’s philosophical and existential worldviews and perspectives, the solution is also more fundamentally grounded in the tangible, in our social, societal, socioeconomic, technological, legislative and cultural frameworks, and isn’t anything we can expect to see for many decades. That is if we even encounter the necessary conditions for change in the first place.
That’s why I look at things like automation as a positive. Some people will persist and fearmonger over automation threatening jobs. But these are usually jobs most of us dread to work in the first place. What happens when artificial intelligence, automation begins to function in place of a part of the working class? Well, it would seem that of course some jobs would open up that offer work relative to said automation, related to repair, manufacturing and software. But it might also allow for people who would normally take these jobs to pursue other avenues. To perhaps pursue what they derive pleasure, meaning from, or what might bring more passion to their lives. It’s about, in part, encouraging people to work for themselves, there is a growing market for this, and it will continue to grow, and as it does, demand for it will concurrently and relatively expand. Hell, isn’t this how we take power away from the corporations and monopolies? The irony here being, that these corporation who are funding a movement towards automation will inevitably turn us to buying and selling to ourselves more often. This also may of course be a part of a greater solution in the future that really looks at the conditions of the average worker in this country and attempts to implement some impactful change, perhaps through an expanding awareness and movement around these issues that can’t be ignored anymore and eventual collective civic and legislative actions taken by groups of people propagating this change, while we might even find future legislators at the very least understanding that their disingenuous careers and re-election chances rely on a concerted effort towards addressing these existential problems. Which I think is much more likely if we can work towards removing a considerable amount of money from politics, along with election and campaign finance reform.
But we can’t do this without some support. Many think something like UBI would discourage “lazy” Americans from working, but it’s likely very well the opposite. Take me for example. I lost my job during Covid, and used unemployment aid, and time off to hone a trade. It gave me the time and resources to invest my energy into something I was much more partial to. I’ve also had the time to work on putting together a small studio to provide a potential work-from-home situation, and now have the opportunity to pursue a profession as I engage in something I’m eager to learn about, something I enjoy doing that brings me more fulfillment in life. While it’s also significant to note that Universal Basic Income, isn’t meant to entirely supplement one’s income, but to help reinforce it. American’s can’t sustain a quality living off of 300 dollars a week for long.
It’s hard to say what the future holds. I’m almost certain that many years from now, people will look back at this period of time, the same way we might look back at past eras and say “how in the fuck did they live like that?”. Because if we don’t address the shortcomings of our current system, these problems won’t just persist, they’ll inexorably lead to disorder.