Comments enabled. Find Part 2 here.
Let’s talk about alarm clocks. I understand the need for them. But to have to wake up five mornings a week to the shrill scream of an alarm is downright tortuous. I mean, if we need to set alarms every morning in order to wake up in time to get to work, then aren’t we doing something wrong? Doesn’t this seem obvious? What am I missing here?
Sure, as an interconnected social body we need some synchronization, some schedule. Businesses, and people, are intertwined and so we create an order to allow them to work together. But, c’mon, do we really need to be at work at 9:00 every morning? And the fact is, at least around here, 9:00 is late. People in this nutbag, arugula city are at work, ready to stare at a screen, by 8 or 8:30.
And proud of it.
Sleep is important and not to be underestimated. Lack of sleep makes us ill, cranky, and crazy. We’re sick more often, forced to feed on psychomeds, and barking at our kids and spouses for no good reason. It makes us drive poorly and cruelly. And yet we feel it’s normal to rise early, when we’ve yet to finish sleeping, every fucking day!
Bodies matter. What body does the alarm clock forge? A body of enjoyment or a body of labor? Is my body something I live through, sumptuously, rapturously? Or is it a means to an end, namely, executing tasks for someone else? Obviously, it’s a bit of both. But which do we privilege? Which does the alarm clock privilege?
This may seem like a little thing but it is a symptom of a much greater problem — and is a symptom that breeds all sorts of mayhem. What are we privileging here? The needs of the corporation — which are really the needs of the rich stakeholders — over the health of individuals? Doesn’t that just seem, well, wrong? Especially when it results in the general decay of the social fabric — greater sickness, crankiness, craziness, and shittier driving?
I will never cease to be amazed at the rigor with which work dominates our time. Because once we’re up at, say, 6:30 in order to ready ourselves and our kids for the day, and then to drive umpteen miles through crawling traffic, in order to be at work by 9:00, the ownership of our day has just begun. Once at work, we don’t get to have a nice, slow breakfast; we don’t get a massage or a blow job or a nap. Nope. We get to work, staring at some screen, answering emails, going to meetings, writing PowerPoint presentations that no one will read, if we’re lucky.
And this will not relent, not for one minute, until 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 at night. People I know, for the most part, eat lunch at their desk. Did you hear me? They eatlunch at their desks! They leave the office for ten minutes, walk downstairs or down the street, wait in line to buy some crappy sandwich or too-old sushi or over salted Chinese food. And then they head back to the office, back to their desks and their screens, and there they eat. While working, staring at a screen.
It doesn’t take a great mind, a super sleuth, to diagnose these ills. It’s right in front of us. It’s in the eyes of those around us, in the gas leaking from our asses, in the huffs and puffs in bathroom stalls, in the fear and dread that lurks behind our eyes and deep in our bowels.
This is not healthy. Sleep and food are what keep us healthy. They are not obstacles to be overcome, activities that get in the way of work. Eating salty, grotesque food while working at one’s computer — while inevitably tired thanks to that alarm clock — is a sure way to propogate sickness, disease, death, and bloating. Because that feeling in your stomach? That’s just the beginning. We all sit there for the rest of the day, for the rest of our lives, our stomachs churning with discontent, and no place to pass that gas or shit in privacy. And, before long, we’re leaking all sorts of things.
And this we do, day in and day out, until night comes and our bodies begin to give out. The best part of our days, of our lives, are voraciously devoured by work.
And having a gym on site, or yoga classes in the conference room once a week, does not suffice. All that does is allow the aching body to sit at its computer a little longer. A gym does not, in and of itself, foster a body of enjoyment, a body capable of taking in this life with passion and vim and vigor. The campuses of Nike and Google — with their gyms and cafeterias — fill me with such deep fear and horror. They mark the absolute ownership of our time, molding our bodies into ideal agents of labor.
If Google wants to build me a house, let me work 24 hours a week, subsidize a variety of delicious nourishment options, I’m all for it. But these campuses — I shudder as I type that word — are not dedicated to my well being, to the well being of individuals. They’re dedicated to the well being of the work force. Google gives out lunch and a gym, sure, but that’s so you never leave work because that’s inefficient.
Then the weekend comes. Ah, the weekend, we think. Thank god for the weekend. We are set free for two days. Of course, in those two days, we have to tend to all the things we couldn’t while at work all week — shopping and laundry and bills and in-laws. And, remember, we have to wake up Monday morning at 6:30 so we better get to bed early Sunday night. The work week bleeds backwards. There is no respite.
Consider, for a moment, the culture of the weekend. It’s the small talk we make to co-workers and strangers: “Thank goodness it’s Friday” and “I can’t wait for the weekend.” Why do we say this? Why is this such an accepted part of our culture? It speaks to our collective misery, to the fact that we all agree that this whole work thing, the way it dominates our lives, sucks. And yet we do it, day in and day out. And joke about it!
Now add the advent of microcomputing and the relentless buzzing, dinging, and ringing. It’s an electric leash, a tether of pixels.
All this ownership of our time turns us inside out. Rather than living through our bodies and experiences, we’re always tending to something outside of us. We’re the frogs in Frogger, being moved between oncoming cars to try and get whatever the boss needs to the other side — and the boss has the joystick. Of course, his boss has his joystick and so it goes, on and on, a great big circle jerk only this one’s limp and sans climax. None of us are holding our own joysticks, as it were.