Fear of a Lazy Planet – A Book Review of Dr. Devon Price’s “Laziness Does Not Exist”

I was provided this copy in advance by Dr. Price themself and as such my page citations may differ from your own. As well, any errors in quotes or differences from your copy of the book should be seen as my own error or due to my different version and not the fault of Dr. Price, thanks!

Taken from: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Laziness-Does-Not-Exist/Devon-Price/9781982140106

In preparing for this book review I dedicated myself to reading for an hour while also taking notes. There were multiple sessions of reading where I either went over this hour, shamed myself for not pushing myself harder when I didn’t do that, or otherwise thought I wasn’t doing enough.

Originally, this book review was supposed to debut in early January, but due to my constant daily schedule of meditating, exercise and preparing for the two D&D sessions that I dungeon master every week, I often made underwhelming weekly progress towards this review.

It was frustrating and I felt like I was letting Dr. Price down for not having the review out sooner and my audience who I hadn’t written anything for in a long time, not to mention my few loyal patrons who are still donating money to me on a monthly basis.

If it’s not clear already: I am not immune from The Laziness Lie, as Dr. Price calls it:

Deep down I’m lazy and worthless.

I must work incredibly hard, all the time, to overcome my inner laziness.

My worth is earned through my productivity.

Work is the center of life.

Anyone who isn’t accomplished and driven is immoral.

(14)

These are the myths The Laziness Lie tells us and they’re ones I’ve absorbed over the course of my life just like everyone else. Some of these I am better at rejecting consciously while still reinforcing unconsciously and others I’ve shrugged off, as Dr. Price suggests in their book to do.

For instance, I do have self-esteem issues and some of that comes from my lack of interest in working. But most of it comes from my past relationships and the mistakes I made in them. On the other hand I don’t think I have an “inner laziness”, I have an outer laziness that I’m, at times, proud of and, other times, frustrates me. There are days where I want to exercise because I think I weigh too much (230 pounds at 5’10) but I just don’t have the energy and feel bad.

Let’s look at these others myths then, one at a time.

Recently, I did a speedrun of Kingdom Hearts 2, one of my favorite video games of all time. It took me approximately 5 1/2 hours to beat on Beginner (the easiest mode) in game time. I felt a swell of pride in this accomplishment as I hadn’t run the game in a long time and felt good about that time. It also felt odd to have serious pride about something I’ve done as it’s not a sensation I feel a lot. I do feel good about the sessions I dungeon master, but I can’t ever say it rises to full-on pride.

The third part of The Laziness Lie is perhaps one of the most damaging, dangerous and hard to ignore. I try to tell myself that I’ve largely shrugged off the idea that my worth is tied up in how productive I am in a day. But if that’s the case why do I make a schedule for myself every day? And why does it always revolve around getting meditating, writing and exercise done before video games, TV and other “lazy” activities where I’m not actively producing anything?

That said, I can feel confident about the last two myths. I do not think work is the center of my life, the center of my life is those around me who love me and support me. It is my friends, my loved ones, my hobbies, my interests and those who are kind enough to stick with me, despite my flaws and problems. The center of my life hasn’t been work in a long time, if it ever was.

There’s a problem with this argument however: I certainly view schoolwork as a major part of my life and I remember pushing myself so hard last semester with my senior thesis. To the point that I hit burnout and then kept going because I knew it needed to be done. I often try to segment my work (as Dr. Price suggests) but in some cases it seemed impossible, especially as the semester came to an end. This isn’t counting all of the other papers I had to work on either.

In this context, I do see schoolwork as closer to the center of my life, but usually I don’t push myself to the extent I did with my senior thesis last semester. Even when I lost my job back in September of 2020 (a story for another time), I cried not because I thought I was  worthless but because I knew I would miss the dogs I worked with. I was scared of financial insecurity and the future suddenly seemed even more uncertain than it already did thanks to the pandemic.

And that brings us to the last lie that our culture tells us. That we should judge addicts, homeless people, or the unemployed more harshly than those who have part-time and especially full-time jobs. I can safely say I’ve rejected this myth but at the same time my comfort levels around the homeless are not what they would be for someone who was dressed in a suit and tie.

All of this is to say what I said at the beginning: I’m not immune to The Laziness Lie and furthermore, neither is anyone reading this. We are all flawed, imperfect beings to varying extents and we all would like to think we have (consciously and subconsciously) rejected the harmful ideas this society has tried to instill in us about work. But Dr. Price’s book proves to us that this isn’t as easy as we wish it was, it’s never going to be that easy, unfortunately.

But there are ways to make it better! There are ways to resist The Laziness Lie at every turn of your life whether that is relationships, school, work, or just about anything else. That doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect once you start resisting it. Learning is a long road formed often from the mistakes you’ve made along the way, that’s something I’ve had to accept as I get older.

This doesn’t mean we can’t get better though and accept ourselves more and more, practicing self-compassion along the way as Dr. Price advocates.

At this point it’s worth explicitly stating that I recommend this book to any anti-work advocate who wants to take better care of themselves in this messed up capitalist society we are forced to live under. I will warn my readers it is largely a self-help book and Dr. Price is themself a psychologist who uses accessible but scientific language and citations to get their point across.

Personally, I appreciated and enjoyed those aspects of Laziness Does Not Exist, but some may be expecting a political manifesto and wind up disappointed. I will admit that my “major” criticism is that the book moves so tangentially from what I’d consider The Laziness Lie majorly affecting that I started to long for the conclusion, which thankfully soon came.

Not because this book is poorly written (far from it!) but because at that point in the book (nearly 150 pages in) I had said to myself, “OK, I understand your thesis and I think you’ve argued it well, I don’t think these last couple of chapters are strictly speaking necessary.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or that I didn’t appreciate them! But I could definitely see some trimming in this book to knock it down closer to the 150 page mark instead of the 180ish mark it reaches.

Again, this is a weak criticism on my part. Even the sections where I squinted and wasn’t sure how directly related it was to The Laziness Lie were well-written, helpful and agreeable. Dr. Price has written a masterful book on a subject that all anti-work advocates should bring their attention to.

I just hope Dr. Price took some time for themselves while writing it.


Oh hey, it’s been a while!

Feel free to check out my older posts and keep in mind this book review is a one-off before I head back for my final semester at (online) school, so I won’t be writing again till May, if not later. As you may be able to tell a lot has happened in my life since my last post but thanks to the (paltry and sporadic) stimulus checks and upcoming tax return I’m hanging in there.

Stay safe and happy slacking!

Nine to Five: A Movie With Too much Giving (Review)

First things first, Dolly Parton is awesome. Jolene is an absolute banger and the titular song 9 to 5 is great as well. Adding to that, Parton has been, as far as I’m aware, a tireless advocate for marginalized folks despite her privileged and wealthy status and just a rad person.

So watching this film was a bit of a disappointment, sadly.

The film consists of three women: Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly, Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead, and Dolly Parton as Doralee Rhodes. The standout for this film is  Dolly Parton who surprisingly makes her film debut here but her experience singing and performing shines brightly. Parton’s character comes off as immediately likable, trustworthy but still sassy and intelligent. Almost no other character seems to get the amount of attention she does, even Jane Fonda.

Given this film was a “star vehicle” for Parton, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

The story is simple…at first. The biggest problem with the movie is that it drops its grounded narrative over what makes work so awful for women during this time period (1980s) but immediately disposes of it as soon as it can. It eventually becomes a completely fantastical romp in revenge, blackmail, kidnapping and much more.

Now, it is a comedy film and I figured it was something like that going in. Obviously I’m fine with comedy movies being ridiculous but only up to a point. Eventually you either get back on track with the theme or message you’re trying to import to the audience or you risk losing both elements of what you’re trying to make. Sadly, such is the case with Nine to Five, which boasts a promising first half only to completely flub most things in the second.

The plot concerns three women trying to get revenge on their boss for being a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” which is an admirable cause. My dislike of this movie isn’t fueled by the main plot’s hook which I think is great and sorely needed within films. But more so how its executed with “series of misunderstandings” trope that could have easily been resolved if any of the characters had bothered to stop and think for a second and double check their work.

The good news is that when the movie does seriously tackle issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and even sexual assault it does so with care and finesse. But these things are just to set the foundation for an all-too predictable plot that I saw coming a mile away. The movie eventually loses its charm and its work-critical zeal becomes ludicrous and laughable.

Again, I have no issue with comedies of all genres using ridiculous tropes. I could forgive the “series of misunderstandings” comedy trope if it actually led to something interesting but sadly it doesn’t. And the plot continues to get more ridiculous based on a mistake I don’t find believable.

All of that being said the film is wildly progressive for an 80s film. It shows women feeling empowered, has discussions of BDSM (however slight and silly), praises marijuana, and at least passively includes a few black actors and a Hispanic actor into the script who are treated as real people and not stereotypes that could’ve easily gotten play in the 80s.

There’s things to like about this film; the dialogue is often sharp and witty, making me chuckle or even full-on laugh at times. In the early-goings I had a loose attachment to all three of the main characters and their dreams of revenge on their boss. But pointless plots that even the main characters agree are “useless” bog down what would otherwise be an enjoyable movie.

Another problem with the movie is that, by the end of the film, you realize that much of the “reforms” that Judy, Lily and Violet are able to help enact are while revolutionary for their time, these days are passe’. Arguably, that’s a good thing! But it also makes the film lose a lot of its zeal for me when it ends with notions such as “work share”, “childcare” “flexible hours”, “part-time work options” “alcoholics program”and doesn’t do anything structural or systematic. Especially when one of the women complains that “it’s the same all over”. On the other hand, by the end of the film they say they’re “just getting started” so perhaps there’s some hope yet.

To be clear, I’m not saying those changes aren’t good or don’t matter! The kind of place that Consolidated turns into by the end of the film is a inarguably a better place, but it’s also a place led (somehow) by Girl Power and this is implied to fix the issues of the workplace. As many of us know, the issues of work can’t be solved by putting women in power, the power is the problem.

Then again, it isn’t like I expected Comrade Dolly to abolish the workplace (what would that do anyways?) or seize the means of production for the workers collectively instead of for herself and her friends. Ultimately, this movie, like many other movies, uses our distrust and dislike of bosses that many of us share to propel a ridiculous strategy for slightly better conditions. And by the way, the strategy only works because it increases productivity and the chairman (a man) approves.

I’m curious what kind of message the cast and crew think they’re sending here. You can only improve your workplace if you live by the rules of others? Progress can only happen if the chairman is happy? I know the move is to partially explain how these changes take place (except for equal pay, that’s said to be a no-no from the chairman) but it sends a bad message.

None of this is mentioning the breakneck speed at which the film gets rid of plausible obstacles to the women’s schemes and especially during its epilogue. There’s some slightly offensive stuff I found in here but this film likely ages better than 90% of 80s films. There’s a joke sequence about the “boss getting a taste of his own medicine” with regards to sexual harassment and assault that I didn’t appreciate but other than that a few tropes or words, it wasn’t as bad as you’d think.

Overall, I just recommend you listen to the song. It’s better, has a more radical message and makes me wonder if the film dilutes Dolly’s beliefs, as it certainly seems to.


If you enjoyed this movie review, consider making small monthly donations to my Patreon!

“Laziness” is Context, not Content

Coming in early 2021!

I could have written this post yesterday. Instead, after reading an excellent article by Devon Price about how Laziness Does Not Exist, I chose not to. Instead, I decided to go play video games for nearly 3 hours, then have dinner, play video games with friends (Fall Guys) and then play more video games from 11 PM to nearly 3 AM (It’s Ghost of Tsushima , if you’re curious).

Am I lazy? Why didn’t I just write this article instead of slacking off? What does it say about my character that even though I had hours of opportunities to write this I didn’t?

According to Price? Nothing.

…[W\hen I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness,” I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?

Taking Price’s line of reasoning here what were my barriers to action that others may not see?

Well, I’d already done some organizing for a D&D session during my birthday in a couple of weeks. I read some other articles before that and generally didn’t feel like overwhelming myself. I felt a strong urge to do something to just relax and get lost in and I felt video games fit that need of mine better than writing did. I was also aware that this site is completely run by me (even if it’s just an unconscious recognition at this point) and that I make my own deadlines.

But do all these barriers say something about my character? Nope. They’re just circumstances I find myself in and I react however I feel best able to in the moment. My ability to “recognize those barriers—and viewing them as legitimate” is key in me still finding enjoyment in writing.

Consider an alternative scenario: I shame myself heavily for not writing. I tell myself I’m a failure and that this just further proves I can’t commit to anything without messing it up. What would that do for me? According to Price it would do the opposite of helping:

It has nothing to do with desire, motivation, or moral upstandingness. Procastinators can will themselves to work for hours; they can sit in front of a blank word document, doing nothing else, and torture themselves; they can pile on the guilt again and again — none of it makes initiating the task any easier. In fact, their desire to get the damn thing done may worsen their stress and make starting the task harder.

The solution, instead, is to look for what is holding the procrastinator back. If anxiety is the major barrier, the procrastinator actually needs to walk away from the computer/book/word document and engage in a relaxing activity. Being branded “lazy” by other people is likely to lead to the exact opposite behavior.

I can shout, hurl insults, negative self-talk and curse myself out for existing all I want but what good will it do me? And even if it got me to write the damn thing, what would it accomplish? I’d likely still see myself as a failure or that the article suffered because I guilt myself so feverishly. This would only keep the cycle of self-hatred going and affect my writing even more!

No, there’s no point in self-shaming yourself over what you can’t find in yourself to accomplish. Ask yourself this question: Even if shaming got you to where you needed to be: Would it be worth it? Would it be worth constantly denigrating, belittling and emotionally harming yourself just to check something off on a checklist for the day? How much is the assignment you’re berating yourself really worth? Is it worth your self-esteem or your sense of well-being? I doubt it.

Shame is a powerful social tool but it’s often too strong for what we think is necessary. Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing to feel. Feeling remorse for past wrongs isn’t a fault and telling yourself you should have and need to do better isn’t either! But shame doesn’t work like that, as we’ve been talking about in the last couple of articles. Shame builds secrecy, it makes people take out their anger on themselves instead of focusing that energy on progress for themselves.

So OK, you get it, self-shaming doesn’t work.

Well, Price thinks their so smart so what is the solution then?

The class & I talked about the unfair judgments people levy against those with mental illness; how depression is interpreted as laziness, how mood swings are framed as manipulative, how people with “severe” mental illnesses are assumed incompetent or dangerous.

The quiet, occasionally-class-skipping student watched this discussion with keen interest. After class, as people filtered out of the room, she hung back and asked to talk to me. And then she disclosed that she had a mental illness and was actively working to treat it. She was busy with therapy and switching medications, and all the side effects that entails. Sometimes, she was not able to leave the house or sit still in a classroom for hours. She didn’t dare tell her other professors that this was why she was missing classes and late, sometimes, on assignments; they’d think she was using her illness as an excuse. But she trusted me to understand.

Support! As I talked about in the previous article with regards to addiction (and of course mental health issues and addiction often go hand and hand), support from your peers is one of the most important things people can have. If I didn’t have my loving and supportive partner, my close friends or my online communities, I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. I’d still probably be just as preoccupied with hating myself and wishing I could’ve done X or Y over again.

But just like with “laziness” these things don’t help me. They make me feel worse while helping no one around me. It makes me spiral into the pits of despair and self-hatred and eventually those emotions need to be let out somehow and often they’ll be on people I love and care about. I don’t want to be that person anymore and so I have to strive to do better, not wallow in self-pity.

And what happens when this kind of support is given?

Price explains:

These students all came to me willingly, and shared what was bothering them. Because I discussed mental illness, trauma, and stigma in my class, they knew I would be understanding. And with some accommodations, they blossomed academically. They gained confidence, made attempts at assignments that intimidated them, raised their grades, started considering graduate school and internships.

Success! Support leads to success! It’s almost like making folks feel ashamed of themselves by forcing them to go to work camps or go to prison is a bad idea! It’s almost like manipulatively hosting summer field picking jobs is a way to reinforce to people that they need to be productive or else they’re not leading a “full” life, even in retirement!

As Price says, y’all aren’t lazy. And even if you were, it’s OK to be lazy and take care of yourself when you need to do so. There’s a need that you feel isn’t being met at that time and that’s valid and so important to listen to. It should be better respective and legitimized in today’s society. But sadly, we live under a capitalist regime so that kind of legitimacy won’t be afforded anytime soon.

If I had one quibble with Price’s (excellent) piece, it’s that while laziness as a moral status doesn’t exist, I think it’s very much the case that laziness as a neutral status does. Yeah, maybe I was being lazy yesterday when I didn’t want to write immediately after reading an article that mentions mental health, sexual assault, and trauma, but you know what?

That’s OK, because I’m here now and I wrote it, didn’t I?


If you enjoyed this article, consider donating to my Patreon!

When Prison is Better than Work: The Story of CAAIR

Almost a smile

When I told y’all about exoskeletons keeping the elderly working past when they should I figured that’d be the most horrific thing I’d talk about this month. It’s pretty hard to outdo making use of genuinely useful and needed technological advancements in such exploitative ways but I think I’ve found a story that does just that and then some.

Not that this is a suffering contest, both of these issues matter and are worth our attention and criticism. But I think it’s safe to say that this story may hit a little harder, affect more folks generally speaking and may be even less known than the exoskeletons.

Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery or CAAIR is about as bad as it sounds. It’s a “rehab” program for “addicts” or more concretely criminals who don’t want to go to prison. Most people would do just about anything than go to prison (myself included) so it’s a  Good thing to give alternatives to the prison system! Well, that would be the case normally…

But in this case, the alternative may be just as bad, if not worse:

People called it “the Chicken Farm,” a rural retreat where defendants stayed for a year, got addiction treatment and learned to live more productive lives. Most were sent there by courts from across Oklahoma and neighboring states, part of the nationwide push to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison.

A few weeks later, McGahey stood in front of a speeding conveyor belt inside a frigid poultry plant, pulling guts and stray feathers from slaughtered chickens destined for major fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

There wasn’t much substance abuse treatment at CAAIR. It was mostly factory work for one of America’s top poultry companies. If McGahey got hurt or worked too slowly, his bosses threatened him with prison.

And he worked for free. CAAIR pocketed the pay.

“It was a slave camp,” McGahey said. “I can’t believe the court sent me there.”

Of course, I can believe it. If you know anything about the way prisons work (and I’m not blaming McGahey here) then you probably know about the 13th amendment and how prisons undermine this important part of the constitution. It says (in brief) that slavery is abolished except as a punishment for being convicted of a crime. This opened the door to all kinds of exploitative work “opportunities” happening in prisons with prisoners being paid next to nothing.

You can also see this in shows like Orange is the New Black where the characters are constantly working for pitiful wages in sometimes dangerous jobs with minimum supervision. They do this so they can buy things like deodorant or ramen, etc. So the fact that judges would send people to a place like this and then have their “softer” option as CAAIR doesn’t surprise me one iota.

The situation at this chicken farm doesn’t sound much different. The sad thing is that although McGahey is correct about the chicken farm being a slave camp he wouldn’t have been much better off at prison. Though, I don’t know that for a fact. And as it turns out, he got released from prison when he failed the program later after a couple of months…due to overcrowding.

Perhaps the saddest part is that these factories have become, “…the bedrock of criminal justice reform, aiming to transform lives and ease overcrowded prisons.” But instead they’ve transformed an already exploited population into an arguably more exploited population:

[They are] little more than lucrative work camps for private industry, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

The programs promise freedom from addiction. Instead, they’ve turned thousands of men and women into indentured servants.

Perhaps no rehab better exemplifies this allegiance to big business than CAAIR. It was started in 2007 by chicken company executives struggling to find workers. By forming a Christian rehab, they could supply plants with a cheap and captive labor force while helping men overcome their addictions.

The allure of a “captive work force” shouldn’t be new to any of my anti-capitalist readers. But just in case, capitalists have a long history of wanting to make use of the easiest and most vulnerable working population. Why? Easier wages. It’s why immigrants are so often hired in terrible work environments and industries, because capitalists know they can pay them less and get away with more and especially if those immigrants are undocumented. Then you can just threaten them with deportation or ICE and that gets people to work on the cheap very easily.

Besides this bosses also tend to love it, especially historically, when workers will decide to scab (or work in place of striking workers) and then work for less. Speculation on my part but I’m betting that’s often how bosses can get scabs to begin with, promise them a solid wage to replace people who are striking against workplace injustices and then eventually get their wages up to normal.

Lastly, we can go even further back to look at the history of feudalism and pre-industrial revolution and how often landlords and capitalists loved using peasants who were dispossessed of their lands, often by the feudal lords themselves. No matter what part of history you’re looking at there’s a long line of people in power taking advantage of the vulnerable, especially in work.

By the way, just so you know, try to steer clear of these brands:

They slaughter and process chickens for some of America’s largest retailers and restaurants, including Walmart, KFC and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. They also make pet food for PetSmart and Rachael Ray’s Nutrish brand.

Just giving y’all some places to avoid, think of it makings your choice paralysis minimize by taking out the extremely shitty brands and making way for the only moderately shitty ones!

There’s discussion in this article about how dangerous chicken farms can be, but y’all could’ve figured that out. A place like that where the countless slaughter of animals happen (I’m not vegan, but when they’re right, they’re right) keeping a place like that safe and sanitary is a huge job pretty much no one is well-equipped to deal with.

Here’s another quote about captive workers:

“They work you to death. They work you every single day,” said Nate Turner, who graduated from CAAIR in 2015. “It’s a work camp. They know people are desperate to get out of jail, and they’ll do whatever they can do to stay out of prison.”

Desperation breeds injustice is a great slogan I just thought of but has probably been said by someone better than me before and in a more succinct way. In any case, it’s true. I’ve been in desperate situations myself and they’ve often culminated in great harm befalling either myself or others, sometimes with myself as the person harmed and sometimes I’m the person harming.

As noted anarcha-feminist Voltairine de Cleyre said, “The hells of capitalism create the desperate; the desperate act-desperately!” And in desperation these workers will take just about any job they can get their hands on instead of going to prison. There’s a supposed dignity in work that cannot be said about prison. Even if you say things like “I did my time” people won’t exactly be handing you medals and saying congrats. But saying you worked your butt off in horrible conditions?

Well that’s a recipe to get a polite smile, more than you’ll likely get from saying you did time. It’s also worth noting that the shame I noted last week that people feel when they aren’t working (even when they’re “retired”) coalesces “nicely” with the shame people feel for going to prison. If we can do something our culture looks kindly on instead of one that is heavily punished (felons still have to fight for their right to vote) then it seems like a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean CAAIR is a good choice:

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Noah Zatz, a professor specializing in labor law at UCLA, said when presented with Reveal’s findings. “That’s a very strong 13th Amendment violation case.”

Instead of paychecks, the men get bunk beds, meals and Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. If there’s time between work shifts, they can meet with a counselor or attend classes on anger management and parenting. Weekly Bible study is mandatory. For the first four months, so is church. Most days revolve around the work.

Now, to be the most generous I can be, this program has helped some addicts. There’s a few people in the article who either speak up or are mentioned as being genuinely helped by the program and gotten away from their addictions. But even in those cases the way forward shouldn’t involve dangerous, no-pay and exploitative work to get clean. There should be a far better treatment path for addicts who committed crime in the name of their addiction.

That doesn’t mean I’m not happy for those that felt helped by the program and got themselves into a better state of mind and living. Just that I think there can be better ways forward for those  people. Having support programs without the work component is a good start.

There’s also some disgusting defenses that I don’t think this article does enough to tear apart, so I’m gonna do it instead. I’m not writing journalism, it’s all about those polemics!

“Money is an obstacle for so many of these men,” said Janet Wilkerson, CAAIR’s founder and CEO. “We’re not going to charge them to come here, but they’re going to have to work. That’s a part of recovery, getting up like you and I do every day and going to a job.”

Part of recovery, for many people, is having a support system and work doesn’t always facilitate that for non-addicts, let alone for people struggling with drugs and alcohol. Work often gives us the opposite of support systems in the form of abusive bosses, temporary co-workers who are gone as soon as we get to know them or live long enough to become the villain (the boss).

And just because “you and I” do something every day doesn’t mean it should be considered part of a healthy routine. Plenty of people hate what they do every day or at the very least wish it was something different. Something that inspires them, pays them more, treats them better, gives them more hope in the world or whatever else. Yes, we all get up to our jobs and that’s bad.

Seeing “recovery” as a form of assimilation is exactly what’s wrong with huge corporations dictating what “recovery” means to begin with. Sure, it’s possible this program may (and has) helped some people with their addiction. But it’s even more likely it’s left many people injured, isolated, pressured and falling off the wagon once they leave. I doubt CAAIR gives those statistics.

But Donny Epp, a spokesman for Simmons Foods, said the company does not depend on CAAIR to fill a labor shortage.

“It’s about building relationships with our community and supporting the opportunity to help people become productive citizens,” he said.

Building relationships isn’t the same as employing people! I can’t believe this needs to be explained to someone who claims to be smart enough to manage corporations. On the other hand I suppose it’s entirely believable. Employment is seen as a relationship starter with communities instead of what it really is: A toxic and abusive relationship that’s often a non-starter.

Employing people doesn’t make people necessarily productive either. Many folks will tell you that they pull out every trick in the (anti-work) book to make sure they can slack off. Some of them take micro naps, others gossip, some people re-fold the same pile of clothes for a few minutes.

Whatever the case may be, being productive is overrated. Productivity isn’t all there is to life, it’s just enough to be and not have to deal with the constant pressures of modernity. That doesn’t mean we should go back to a bygone era but it does mean there are some serious issues when society starts to conflate the words “recovery” and “productivity” in the workplace.

Let’s get a little bit into how CAAIR started, per the article:

[Janet Wilkerson’s] brother had died from alcoholism, and her husband’s drinking had nearly destroyed their marriage. She had long wanted to help others like them. The economics also made sense. The chicken plants needed workers, and Jones’ program was bringing in revenue of more than $2 million a year.

This was after a meth dealer came to Wilkerson offering her the use of his men as they’d be cheap and easily available. But I don’t need to elaborate for you to guess that some of these “sensible” premises and economics contributed to brutality towards workers both in the short-run and especially in the long-run. And not only did that but it deepened the pockets of the higher ups:

By 2010, hundreds of men poured into CAAIR from courts across Oklahoma. So did the money, allowing the Wilkersons – Janet as CEO and her husband, Don, as vice president of operations – to draw combined salaries of $168,000 a year, nearly four times the median household income in their area.

How bad were these places? The article details McGahey’s experiences which, while I won’t fully detail here, I’ll leave up to your imagination. Read the article if you want the full picture, but just imagine someone who is familiar with dead animals nearly vomiting after first stepping into one of the chicken plants. And then to have nearly lost the use of his arm only three months later.

CAAIR’s response?

Wilkerson said she doesn’t remember the specifics of McGahey’s case but acknowledged that CAAIR has given such ultimatums before.

“You can either work or you can go to prison,” McGahey remembered administrators telling him. “It’s up to you.”

He already had made up his mind.

“I’ll take prison over this place,” he said. “Anywhere is better than here.”

McGahey’s story doesn’t get any happier from there, but read the article for yourself if you want all of the details. It’s a sad story about a building pill addiction due to pain, CAAIR being financially irresponsible (to say the least) and another example of how our perceptions around work in this country are fundamentally damaged and need to be re-examined.

Abolishing capitalism means abolishing CAAIR, it means abolishing work.


If you enjoyed this article consider donating a small monthly payment to my Patreon!

Your Life Ends When Work Ends (And It Never Ends)

I’m not being paid to do this, but the book seems neat!

I get up just about noon
My head sends a message for me to reach for my shoes and then walk
Gotta go to work, gotta go to work, gotta have a job

Remember when folks used to retire? You know, that pesky thing that makes work finally end for maybe 10-20 years (the latter if you’re lucky) and then you die. Cool, right?

You’ve spent just about 3/4 of your life and now you can finally relax and enjoy your life! Except you’ve still got rent to pay, bills to pay and the retirement money isn’t as good as it used to be. But lucky for you there are opportunities out there for industrious seniors like yourself!

Does it suck that work has left you somewhat crippled or handicapped in your advanced age? Doesn’t it blow that you need ibuprofen all of the time, so much that you need to get a prescription from your doctor? You’ve likely lost the ability to safely drive due to some of your cells decaying and dying over the years, maybe faster due to work, so you’ll need to take the bus.

Or, maybe you’ll need to be reliant on Uber or a friends good graces. Maybe you’re lucky and only need to be partially taken care of and haven’t been left to rot in a nursing home like so many other people. You’re independent after all! No one can slow you down now that you’ve got more time to spend on yourself. But time isn’t money, not unless you’re working for that time. And even with social security finally doing something meaningful (however slight) you still feel pressured to be productive and a fully-engaged member of your larger community. How grand!

Thank goodness Amazon makes that easy:

They’ve got these warehouses, which they call “fulfillment centers,” which to me sounds like Orwellian jargon, all over the country. And when you place an order, it goes through to whichever one is near you and has it. And these warehouses are essentially just huge input/output machines. … Amazon markets this kind of work to old people as a positive thing, using language about freedom and flexibility. But why even worry about optics when they’re dealing with people who are kind of desperate?

The interviewer here (bold), Allie Conti is speaking with journalist Jessica Bruder who has written a book on the, “shocking number of seniors who travel the country working seasonal odd jobs at places like Amazon’s network of warehouses.” Bruder did the typical journalist thing, she went undercover and saw how these people’s lives were going now that they were in this line of work.

Predictably, it doesn’t go well for them. Amazon markets their wages, flexibility, etc. while ignoring the awful fact that this is necessary to begin with. Shouldn’t these people be spending their twilight years away from “flexibility and high wages”. They should be getting money for nothing even if you’re the most die-hard conservative? These people put decades into providing society value and their bodies only for society go, “Yeah, but about how a little more? You know, for fun?” And seniors often feel pressured into it due to the way shame and leisure intersect.

As Bruder writes,

So what I see out there is a lot of people don’t want to say to other people, “Yeah, I’m going to work at Amazon this winter because I’m broke, and I need money.” It’s a lot easier to say, “I’m going to stay active, I’m going to make friends, I’m going for some camaraderie, and, yeah, maybe I’ve gotta take a lot of ibuprofen, but that’s really a weight loss program, the 15 miles a day of walking I have to do.”

People don’t want to say to their friends or family, “Oh I still need a job because the economy sucks!” They want their families to know they’re still worthwhile and in this culture being “worthy” often means you’re producing something. Even for myself, someone who prides herself on being lazy and taking my time with things it’s hard to deny that writing these articles makes me feel good. Or that it gives me a positive boost in my mood, especially when I’m having a tough day.

Part of that is just me loving to write. It’s something I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to better formulate my opinions, emotions and preferences to a larger audience. Even if that audience is just one other person, that’s at least one more person I can connect with. But another part is the feeling that I need to write. I need to be productive or otherwise my day will be a waste! To be clear, the money I get from Patreon is appreciated but never makes me feel like I need to write. It’s the boss in my head that does that, not my lovely patrons.

One of my favorite sayings about writing comes from the anarchist Benjamin Tucker who once said, “[Liberty] will be edited to suit its editor, not its readers. He hopes that what suits him will suit them; but, if not, it will make no difference.” My hope is that when I write, it’ll both elevate myself and others around me, but ultimately as long as I get something out of it, I’m satisfied.

One of the most horrifying aspects of this articles come in here:

…So what do you replace this unskilled labor with that’s easier on the body?

Did I tell you what’s happening in Japan with exoskeletons? This is fucking crazy.

Oh?

The population is aging in Japan, and there are some employers whose workers have heavy lifting jobs—and they’ve started giving them these exoskeletons so that they can lift heavier loads.

Jesus.

In a weird a way, I kind of think this hybridization is what we’re going to see in the immediate future. Some people look at it as positive, like, “Oh, it makes things easier on your body,” and maybe I’m a bit more cyclical because I think, Oh, wow, you can squeeze even more exertion out of this human piece of meat.

It’s not cynical (which I think is what was meant here?) at all! It’s 100% realistic to call out this capitalistic exploitation for what it is. It doesn’t matter, as Bruder points out, whether automation happens or not but who controls that automation. I’ve been saying this for a while and to see a normal(ish) website have something like that made me smile. Not that it’s a happy thing to reflect on but as I’ve stated before, it’s nice to see your opinion validated every now and then.

I told my partner about the exoskeleton while we were having dinner. She looked at me and went, “What?” I’m not sure she believed me at first, hell, I almost couldn’t believe it myself. There’s something so insidious and destructive about capitalism and I’ve only become more and more convinced about that as I get older, not less. Trying to draw as much labor time from human beings who are old and retired is especially cruel when they should be living their life.

And, as always, our lives are very different from work. The way we act, the things we do and say, I often think about all of the things I’d rather do than go to work. And by the way, I’ve got a pretty cushy overnight shift that doesn’t require much from me. Well, you know besides wrecking my sense of time more than 2020 has already done and my sleep schedule as well. Making my timing with friends and my partner more difficult than it would be otherwise, no big deal though, right?

One last thing on this:

I don’t think that universal basic income without something that allows for social mobility is a solution. If it creates a subsistence level where people are alive and sheltered and whatever, but there’s still no way to better their lot, then that’s not good enough.

I loved seeing this as well. Bruder seems to have a good head on her shoulder about the way capitalism works and the ways it has fundamentally failed our elderly. The same goes for Conti and her pointed questions and responses to what Bruder says.

It’s a great interview and comes highly recommended to my readers!


If you enjoyed this post consider checking out my Patreon link above and giving what you can!