The Fall 2016 Abolish Work Book Tour – Wrap Up Post (Part 1)

Introduction

So I obviously never did that daily journal about my book tour.

On one hand this means that I had a lot less writing to do over the course of the tour but…it also means I have to write a significantly longer post now.

That’s the breaks, I suppose.

This’ll be a pretty straightforward post where I’ll just be talking about the highlights and experiences I had during my two week (or so) book tour. After being on the road for almost 3 weeks you can bet I have a story or twoand I’ll try to keep the more entertaining ones in mind as we continue.

I thought I’d be able to fit this into one post but as I got to Vermont it was clear that I’d need to split this up. So expect there to be at least one more post but there could possibly be even two more!

First, a bit of a summary: The tour was definitely a success!

I ended up selling 38 copies of my book and am going to donate a few to some of the authors, some to a tabling organization and hopefully get the rest of them (save one for myself) sold one way or another. A lot of my talks were really well filled with the weakest ones being Boston and Burlington VT which both had less than 7 people there. But they also had the least advertising for them so it makes sense and likely had less to do with the space.

My basic indicator of a “successful” talk was one that had 7-10 people and sold at least 3-4 copies or so.

I tended to meet that (probably arbitrary, admittedly) bar fairly consistently.

That said, my tour wasn’t without its hitches and tribulations. Overall it was a great time (I maybe even made some money overall, but I didn’t exactly do exact accounting…exactly) but I’ll talk about everything as we go along.

Book Release Party – October 1st, 2016, Manchester NH

The first event was at my apartment and I had almost 10 people show up! And this was really great because it was my first event and I was honestly super nervous about how it’d go. I thought it was a good idea (for some reason) to set the Facebook event from 6 PM to 10 PM which meant that people ended up showing up around 7.

Still, I started around 7 PM with a rather unstructured talk. Most of my audience were libertarians (the North American sort, naturally) so I tailored my message slightly towards that. I talked about myself and where I was coming from ideologically and how I had gotten into the anti-work philosophy. I discussed the anti-work philosophy a bit here and there as well as my site, how long I’ve been writing on it and what I’ve written on there, etc.

The problem I immediately found with doing such an unstructured style of talking was that I was constantly anxious that I was boring the audience. Part of it was that they weren’t saying anything (well duh, they’re the audience, not the speaker) or giving me any sort of reactions but I kept working through it until I eventually (as you’ll see in part two) changed tactics.

I got a few questions about the meanings of “job” vs. “work” as well as some questions about anti-work activism and what we could do to better the world. I talked a little bit about democratic schools like the Montessori and Sudbury models and how those models tend to encourage play, self-reliance and critical thinking. And while I didn’t think they would necessarily cause an anarchist revolution, I think they’ll help us get further along.

In part because everyone there were good friends with me I sold 7-8 copies of my book out of the nearly 10 people there! So I made quite a bit of money on the first day of my tour without even leaving my home state of New Hampshire! The night continued with us ordering some pizza and talking about the tech industry and related work issues there.

It was so great to have the support of my friends start off my book tour, so thank you to those who came!

Lucy Parsons Center (LPC) Show – October 4th, 2016, Boston MA

I was wary about the event at the LPC because there had been some (completely understandable) technical difficulties that likely had limited my reach to the Boston folks.

Thankfully it didn’t go as poorly as I thought.

The LPC has the benefit of being a really great space even without any events going on which means they tend to draw in people just by existing. So what ended up happening was that a few people showed up who weren’t even aware of the event, a few people showed up who were aware of the event, a friend who I was saying with showed up and the LPC collective member was there for the duration of the event.

It ended up being a very casual talk where I (once again) decided to speak in a fairly unstructured way, take some questions from the LPC collective member and a few of the audience members. I talked a bit about myself, the site and anti-work philosophy and where it came from, etc. It seemed like the folks in the audience were digging it, some of the folks who just came to visit LPC stuck around for a little bit but I mostly ended up giving a fairly low-key presentation.

The presentation itself was mostly to the two people who showed up for the event, my friend and the collective member but the other two people seemed slightly interested too. One of them said they’d probably buy my book online, while the two who showed up for my event wanted to barter but I needed to make money to cover travel costs, so I declined.

I didn’t actually get anyone to buy my book here but I got some interesting discussions and questions. Including discussions ranging from (get ready for this cause it gets weird) my book, what work means to various people, environmental issues and…cannibalism? Yeah, I don’t know either but apparently that happened.

Kitty City Collective (KCC) – October 6th, 2016, Worcester MA

By now your perhaps noticing the pattern that I would schedule my talks every other day and this was so I had a day in between to either rest or travel. Sometimes there wasn’t much time to rest in a stable location after I had traveling but going from Boston to Worcester afforded me a day (the 5th) full of friends, board games and dogs.

The 6th was mostly made up of me re-watching Rick and Morty S1 and 2 just for fun and to pass the time. There was going to be some sort of potluck thing at the KCC that night alongside my book show and I was excited / nervous for both. The pumpkin bread was really great and there were also some cookies and brownies that were marked as non-vegan so folks could stick to their diets if they needed too.

Luckily I’m not vegan, so I was able to enjoy the delicious desserts.

I started around 7:15 and managed to tie in how during Rick and Morty one of the characters if often treated as a loser at least in part because he is unemployed. So I used that as an example to show how its very much culturally acceptable to make fun of people who are unemployed and treat them as less than people who are.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that for any fan of Rick and Morty that it’s a comedy and the particular character I’m talking about (Jerry) is the archetypal loser for many reasons. But they do tend to rely on his lack of employment as being chief among those reasons in the second season, which I thought was worth taking note of.

As for the attendance, I think about the same amount of people showed up for my talk as did my book release party and that was super nice. I even had one person come y from Marlborough MA which is a little under half-hour drive. So all in all it was a super flattering experience and the discussion was great.

Per the usual I chatted up myself, the book and my site and stuck to a loose structure of conversation about anti-work philosophy that was able to weave in whatever little bits I felt like improvising with. The questions and answers was largely dominated by questions of advertising and psychology as well as the question of “Who will do the shit jobs?”

My answer to this question is multifaceted:

  1. Most shitty jobs (i.e. garbage removal, coal mine excavation, janitors, etc.) will be eliminated due to the reduced need for jobs like this. An economy that relies on decentralized and smaller institutions will have less of a need of the jobs that are highly intensive and as large scale as they tend to be now.
  2. What jobs aren’t eliminated because of the new economic structures would be either fully automated or made much easier through technology.
  3. What jobs can’t be easily done through automation or new technologies can be shared within a given community or institution to minimize the amount of drudgery.

Throughout my tour I also thought it was helpful to point out (as William Gillis points out here) that the anti-work movement isn’t an anti-stress movement. It will likely be the case that we will still have jobs that folks might not want to do or take that much joy or pride in. Domestic labor (caring for children, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc.) are still activities we are all likely going to still engage with. But ideally they’ll be much easier, more playful and closer to being automated so we can focus on the activities that mean more to ourselves.

The discussion of psychology and advertising was an interesting one. It mostly revolved around how much workers should be to blame for the types of programming they watch after a long day of work. People seemed to stipulate that some kinds of TV was actually harmful to consume, while others might help them achieve liberation better.

As may be apparent I was skeptical of this since many folks can get many ideas from many programs and it’s hard to exactly predict what’s going to happen. You can, of course use probabilities on the more extreme cases such as shows like Big Bang Theory but even there I’m sure some essays have been written on that show that can challenge our minds.

Regardless, the Q&A ended with a question about Space Communism (I don’t know) and so I answered the best way I knew how:

“Ah! A question about Space Communism! I am glad you asked this because I have the perfect response to this:

Wow…a question on Space Communism huh?”

The audience laughed and I ended up selling around 4-5 copies of my book.

Laboratory B – October 8th 2016, Burlington VT

The trip over to Burlington was long, complicated and likely the worst.

The Greyhound (yeah, I know) was 45 minutes late and on top of that I decided it was a good idea to read this little book called Nevada which is a fairly realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be trans. Which, given it’s written by a trans person isn’t actually that surprising of course. But yeah…hit home on a lot (read: way too many) things and fucked me up for a few days once I had finished it on the way to Burlington.

So the next few days were somewhat complicated for me emotionally and mentally as I tried to process this astonishingly good but also overpowering book that resonated with me a bit too strongly. In any case, I ended up taking a day for myself (7th) in downtown Burlington, going to local shops and always being tempted to buy…but refusing.

On the 8th I probably got my weakest of all of the showings, but it made sense given that VT was a perilous place to book and I only barely got Lab B booked a week before the event needed to happen. As a result I still got four people to show up (does another person in a different room but within earshot count?) and actually got five copies sold.

One person said they were gonna give a copy to their boss.

After my usual unstructured talk my friend Matt decided to help me facilitate the discussion a bit more and get some folks to chime in. We ended up talking a bit about bullshit jobs, people’s jobs as potential play that is turned into work by capitalism, taking actions against employers and a bunch of other things.

One of the things that really stuck with me was my friend Matt talking about his experiences working for a company where he was the second in a line of three institutions that were all checking the same documentation. It was immigration documents I think but I forget what the exact purpose was in checking them. At any rate, it was a job where Matt had to put in code that other folks had already put in and exactly the same way elsewhere. It sounded infuriating.

And then when Matt suggested some minor changes to improve the company?

They told him his performance lately had been lackluster and that he should leave.

Afterwards we all went to a bar (I don’t drink alcohol so I just got an appetizer that someone graciously paid for me) and shared some stories about my tour and talked about work and other things. A few other folks were already at the bar so it quickly turned into a conversation about many things (music, personal stories, jobs, etc.) and was a lovely time.

Back to Boston and Onwards

On my way back to Boston I learned that my housing had been derailed because of bed bugs, so thinking quickly (i.e. I panicked because I had no back up!) I decided to stay with some other friends nearby.

In the morning I met my mother in Boston and she bought a copy of my book from me (she since read it and sent me encouraging texts about the book that basically made my whole trip worth it but shh, don’t tell her that…).

I’ll relate what happened to NYC in the next part as well as Philly, Virginia and (if I can get to it) North Carolina!.

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One thought on “The Fall 2016 Abolish Work Book Tour – Wrap Up Post (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Working, by Studs Terkel (Preface I-III) - Abolish Work

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