How the Protestant work ethic has created risky behavior and toxic beliefs that leads to severe mental health consequences.
Some people truly enjoy their jobs. They provide just the right amount of challenges, creativity and personal growth to profit those individuals with purpose and fulfillment. For these lucky folks, having a job has enriched their lives, and perhaps there could be no greater a blessing.
Then there are those who, while they may not fully enjoy their jobs, accept them and take pride in them. They have adopted some ideology which helps provide meaning and purpose to the task, or otherwise become acclimated to their compulsory entry into the workforce through some set of beliefs. This is a sort of laborer Stockholm Syndrome, and nobody gets more upset about criticisms of labor-based economics than these poor sufferers. Not exactly a blessing.
And then there are the growing majority of the outright cursed. The ever-expanding army of service workers, cubicle dwellers and low paying, unfulfilling job nomads who spend their days in dread and misery just trying to barely stay afloat in a civilization is wealth inequality is the first rule. As the inequality rises, so do the numbers of the cursed.
Because they have been a powerless minority for so long, it has been easy for everyone not afflicted to ignore the curse and go on with their lives. However this is no longer the case. The symptoms of this curse can be seen each and every day in news headlines and in social media, where dissatisfaction and anger with the world are expressed through hatred and violence. In fact it is no longer a even just a curse at all, it is a disease, and it is spreading like wildfire through our society.
Job trauma expresses itself through many other known mental health issues. It creates and exacerbates all forms of depression. It leads to crippling anxiety. These then lead to self-medicating and substance abuse, as well as towards hopelessness and rage; both of which inevitably lead towards crime and violence.
It is no coincidence that we have seen the rise of all of these symptoms in the past few decades, since my generation entered the workforce knowing that we would be making less than our parents while working more pointless, unfulfilling jobs. And those who have come since have had to grow up in a world in which this hopelessness and dread permeated everything since their earliest memories, knowing as they’re growing up that they will mostly be even worse off than we were.
Despite the fact that automation and other technologies are on the verge of eradicating most human labor, politicians and others with influence and power still use the public forum to discuss economics and labor as though this setup is eternal, and most of us will always be enslaved to earning a wage just to live at the most basic level. What a devastating thing to carry around each and every day of your life.
I very much doubt that this is why those who came before us worked so hard. They had hoped to make a better world so that it would be easier for successive generations, but instead all we got out of their efforts was a life sentence to making the very few even more disgustingly rich. And they could really care less how many people are utterly destroyed in the process.
Lucky for them they have the middle class as a shield, and are also able to profit from the symptoms of the disease via healthcare, prison labor and other nefarious schemes that keep slavery alive and well today. The disease is just too profitable and far away from them to care. There is no good appealing to them.
But you, my sisters and brothers and others who are okay with this labor economy setup, you do need to care. The diseases symptoms will not profit you. They will spread into your lives in numerous ways. Besides the obvious violence and crime, your children are being affected by this sickness, which is why they are shooting each other up in their schools. And while we are just a bit too busy asking how, we seem way too uncomfortable asking why, or attempting to address it. We are in denial, and so we do not even seem to care that some of our children are being so crushed under the weight of their future that they feel there is no choice but to lash out at each other. If that doesn’t bother you, then you need to examine what matters to you.
If you enjoy or accept your fate as a wage earner, well good for you. But lots of us do not, and it is everybody’s problem now. Unless we find a way to make sure that no human is left behind, that no person is forced into misery and dread out of compulsory obligation and necessity, the disease is going to destroy your lives eventually, too.
The disease of job trauma is a growing liability to our individual and collective health. It will sow violence and disharmony and cost us valuable resources that could be better spent preventing the disease from spreading.
There are many ways of treating this, but those ideas are buried at the fringes of our ideology and rhetoric. You must demand to hear the voices of those who present truly new ways, and do all you can to spread their messages. The ruling elite are not going to approve, assist or make it easy. They would rather push you to the front line to take the damage than disrupt their psychopathic schemes of power and wealth. You must take the lead. Use your own dwindling resources and privilege to eradicate compulsory jobs and their resulting trauma, as well as poverty itself. Failure to do so will sentence you or your descendants to a terminal infection sooner or later.
The disease is real. Treat it.