Working in the fields in the Middle Ages, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of your ducal lord, you fight the very dirt to overcome your land-lease. Scrabbling for survival, you think “at least I’m not a slave, I have this land of my very own.” A bounty, indeed, that the duke lets you mine.
But it’s not really yours, after all, is it? You are angry, but the seasons grind your fingers to the bone. You don’t have time to think about a higher purpose. You don’t have the energy to rise up, so you dig and you plant and you hope.
Working in a factory in the industrial age, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of the factory owner, who doesn’t crack a whip but might as well, let’s say you have a union and work only 40 hours a week. You sit on the assembly line, mindlessly welding piece A to part B, and you do the math… minus the 80 hours of vacation time a year… by the time you attempt to retire (if they haven’t sapped your pension to pay their bonuses) you will have worked over 90,000 hours.
You have leisure time, and a home that you partially own, but that’s not really yours after all, is it? You are angry, but those 90,000 hours pile up on you. What do they even mean? You don’t have the energy to change things, so you weld piece A to part B, forever.
Working at a desk job in the internet age, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of a manager, who’s under the thumb of their manager, and so on up the chain. You sit at your desk and surf the internet, wondering what it all means, and how many people at this multinational corporation are also simply filtering through the vast confines of the internet right now.
You have leisure time at work, time to think about what it all means. You have almost everything you could want, but it doesn’t seem to matter. What does it mean, after all? You still haven’t figured it out. Why do they pay you? You don’t have the energy to try to understand, you just keep sitting there, in your idle moments, clicking away.
How many times does your job have to be written out of existence, before we realize our meaning machines are broken? Maybe work was never the driver. It was the distraction, in the way, a quagmire, and when it is cleared away, you might just have the energy to change things.
But will the people who stake a claim on owning everything around you allow you to change things? Certainly not by yourself, just a struggling cog. But maybe if you start asking others: “What does it all mean? Why did they pay us? And why did they stop? What does money mean, what does it all mean? Why does life revolve around all this struggling for survival, when the resources are out there to make it better, and we’d rather all team up?”
You might actually have the energy to try to understand, buried within, so don’t just keep sitting there. Dig for it. Weld things. Click away.