The Worship of Work during the State of the Union Address

“I don’t understand. What are you guys all doing here? Shouldn’t you be at work?”

My fellow slackers, idlers and other fellow anti-work people, what did you notice about the State of the Union Address?

Was it the callous use of a soldier who lost most of his body for the nation-state and should lose more for the nation-state. Not just his identity but his very being and the body itself should be lost to war and to industry? He should submit himself to the whims of this market deformed by capitalism and the government that Obama is a prime part of now that he has done much the same for the military. Did you notice that? That this sacrifice represents the hardship of democracy? I can’t even express how belittling this is.

Did you notice how the teacher, the farmer, the autoworker, the entrepreneur and more or less anyone has to have their interests subverted by the nation state? Their work should be done for its satisfaction, its environment, its goals. Not for the individuals or for the child’s interest for the teacher but for the nation-state’s interest. If it is the “citizens” who make the union strong then why are they being treated as little more than cogs in your over-sized machine?

How about his “promise” to end the wars against other countries yet continue the ones domestically on the workers and try to soften this war by appeasing the corporate bosses to make things like “equal pay” for women while they are at jobs that are exploiting them? What use is the equal pay demand from Obama and the like if the jobs are jobs they hate and they have very little workplace autonomy for themselves? What’s the use of getting more money if it’s just liable to be taxed out of existence in no time or their hours cut by bosses who don’t want to give more money to them? What then?

And of course his constant use of the words workjobshard work and so on. He must’ve mentioned the benefits and duties we all have to production at least a dozen times. When you do a search on the speech for the word “work” it comes up around 70 times.

A special money quote (italics mine):

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker — (applause) — how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House — (cheers, applause) — how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)

And the message is clear: We should be working harder (at jobs we hate)! We should be doing more (for people we don’t like)! We should be getting more pay at work (while not having much control over the structure of work itself)! We should raise employment (within a crippling economy structured around benefiting the ruling class)! Full employment for as many as people possible! Work! Work! Work! Why? So we can rule over our fellow workers, our fellow “citizens” so we can be important AKA involved in the ruling class more specifically and our own mutually assured destruction.

Work was the constant cry of Obama throughout his rancid and idiotic speech. Every vapid and cliche was soon followed by another more arrogantly bold in its display of patronizing us as “citizens” and our duties to the nation-states. Obama even mentioned by name the classical liberal notion of self-restraint (AKA denying our self-interest and pleasures) and the founders.

Puritanism doesn’t get more institutionalized than this, folks:

Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities.

We just need better numbers, more employees, more businesses (though he hardly mentioned small ones) and more hard work! Because apparently, to Obama, that’s what America is all about. Past all of his cliched remarks about opportunities and helathcare and whatever else he reinforced time in and time out that hard work was at the cornerstone of American society.

Hard work? For who? Did that soldier who almost died do enough “hard work” for you, Obama? Are the people who are doing those “graveyard shifts” on not-so-comfy buses doing enough “hard work” while they are dreaming of a better future (“A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son.”)? A “big dream” that you’ve completely trashed thanks to the way you help this economy “run”. And by run I mean run into the ground and take the common man with you.

Work won’t make us free. It won’t be the answer to income inequality and it won’t be the answer to workers barely getting by and it won’t be the answer to stopping the wars or having a better environment. No, what is gonna make this economy a better economy is making it more possible for people to live on their own terms. Not your terms, Obama. Not the governments. Not the bosses or the CEOs. It should be on the individuals terms and only that. We don’t need your work to live, we need it to survive and increasing that in the population not only isn’t a good idea it’s a disastrous one that will only lead to more problems, not less.

Work tears people apart. It crushes people’s lives. It distills people’s spirits. It makes them feel disappointed with themselves and angry at themselves. It tears us up on the inside. And you want to increase the rate of these feelings occurring, Obama?

See, what Obama actually wants to do is put little bits of glitter on industries, the corporate structure, bossism and more. He wants to dress it up and make it look more aesthetically pleasing for workers. He wants us to think that the minimum wage, equal pay and so on are going to make us free. It’s not. We’re not going to be free with window-dressing as long as those windows need to be smashed to begin with. Which is to say that these structures are the problem and Obama fundamentally isn’t going to address that point. He fundamentally can’t because so much of this economy relies on the bullshit puritan ethic and a work ethic more broadly.

So all of your light aesthetic response? Shove it. Stop pretending like they’re anything more than just a false pretense to hold bravado and carry yourself a bit higher than you would normally. You aren’t doing this for the common man and even if you were they wouldn’t yield most of the benefits. And for those who are skeptical ask the people of Yemen or other middle east countries how Obama’s policies have helped their middle and lower class.

And for that matter, what middle class? What was Obama talking about? Is there some middle class out there that is really strong that I just don’t know about? That isn’t in tons off debt or dead-end jobs or working things they hate or overworking themselves to the point of insanity? Where is this “strong middle class” that Obama mentioned a few times early in his speech because I sure as hell am not seeing them.

Is work really going to set us free? Not by a long shot. Not under the conditions, not with the prevailing deformed markets, not with the government being involved, not without us free.

Work isn’t going to make us free and neither is Obama, state of the union addresses, stupid cliches, window dressing reformism or worshiping employment.

No, what’s gonna make us free is ourselves, our own rules and structures that we choose and shape and control and don’t let fall into the hands of politicians, bosses and other people with monopolistic positions of power.

Want to know what Obama did during the state of the union address? Reinforce the puritanical work ethic.

Now that is something to “thank” Obama for.

2 thoughts on “The Worship of Work during the State of the Union Address

  1. Pingback: “But Don’t People Need to Work?” | Abolish Work

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