The Victim Blaming Logic Behind “Work is only boring if you’re boring”

Individuality reduced to our titles doesn’t leave much left for us as individuals.

Earlier today a friend of mine who I care about deeply and respect said something like:

…work is only boring to boring people

My point isn’t to pick on them per se’ or get some sort of passive aggressive and smug feeling from responding.

But their comment made me realize that our culture really punishes people in lots of different ways for having crumby jobs they don’t like.

They already might feel worthless because they know their job isn’t great or their customers, fellow workers or (of course) their boss might be unhelpful at best to them as it is.

So how is it helpful to tell them that they are there because they’re boring?

When I’ve worked my retail jobs and found them boring it wasn’t because I was boring. You could’ve asked my roommates or whomever I was staying with at the time and they probably would’ve said nothing of the sort. I wasn’t boring because I found the job boring. If anything, I became boring after I got back from my job. Social interactions drain me more quickly than other people and I also have a harder reading people’s social signals and facial features.

These things combined, plus my lack of balance and spatial relations can make even fairly routine activities a little challenging. Going through crowds while traveling with a luggage bag in my hand and another bag on my shoulder isn’t a minor thing. Sure, anyone would probably bump into other people but it seems to me like I tend to do it more or at least more notably when it does happen.

Regardless, these boring jobs aren’t the sum total of my being. If I find them boring then why would I put all that I am into it? But even if I found them amazing then I still likely wouldn’t be putting my entire personality into the job. That just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not even sure how someone could somehow distill their entire persona into just one activity. Even if the activity has many components it still seems like a stretch that all of this person is somehow revealed for what they are.

But let’s take another approach: So what?

So what if some people are boring? Does everyone in the world need to be vibrant or interesting in the particular way that you want them to be? Do they all need to be excited about what they do 9-5? What if they’re boring at their job but excited elsewhere? I see no reason why someone who works a job they hate while being incredibly interesting when they talk about astrophysics isn’t possible. Maybe they have some hobbies outside of the job where they are incredibly interesting!

More to the title of this post though, this claim that folks are just boring if they’re working at something they don’t get excited about is, as far as I can tell, victim-blaming.

The reason I say that is because we don’t determine what the current economic structures are. And by “we” I mean lower-class folks, folks who work in crummy retail jobs and so on. We aren’t the central planners, the CEOs, the Higher Powers that decide to shape economic policy through special interest groups and lots of money.

We’re often at these jobs because we don’t have that sort of money. I’m not saying we should get that money to bribe the political class or the corporate elite. But it seems hardly fair to turn towards the McDonald’s employee and call them boring because they didn’t have the connections to be more “interesting” for you.

The state and its cronies are the folks who tend to consolidate decisions over what few firms get to do this or that. The government has, historically, given rise to the capitalist powers that currently exist.

Now, I’m not saying that we as lower-class people or just folks who have had little options for one reason or another have no power. I also don’t mean to suggest that we have no influence on the economy. Surely, as a class of people we have a lot of power.

But I’m not talking about “boring” people as a class. I’m talking about us as individuals and that’s what this saying seems to be targeting to me. Even if it’s not meant to induce shame, victim-blame or whitewash the history of oppression that the state and capitalist class have inflicted on the poor it does just that in practice. 

Should we ignore the real phenomenon of wage slavery that’s caused by state intervention through history just to dismiss people who work jobs they hate?

Again, this post isn’t designed to pick on anything but this notion that only “boring” people work boring jobs. And even if it wasn’t relying on victim-blaming logic, it would still be guilty of reducing people to their jobs. And I have some fundamental objections to that (see here and here for more) as well.

This is a statement that claims that folks are simply reducible to the activity they spend the most time on even if they don’t actually care about it at all. And that doesn’t make a lot of intuitive sense to me.

When I was working a convenience store job but also doing a lot of writing when I wasn’t working there. In that situation do you think it was more likely my friends knew me as a writer or a convenience store clerk?

Similarly, if that person who does astrophysics outside of the job they hate do you think their friends (if they’re any good anyways) are going to define them by something they hate or something that makes the glow in their eyes come out?

Work makes us boring more often than not. The solution to this problem isn’t to blame the employees who are involved in such work because of debt or restrictions on who they can choose to work for (thanks to the state as mentioned before).

Even if they are at fault, does it really make sense to just call them boring?

Some jobs just are boring for a lot of people. They’re repetitive, dull, monotonous, repetitive…did I mention repetitive?

Their bosses are groan-worthy, their fellow workers are just kiss-ups to the boss, the wages suck, the customers are rude and unappreciative, etc.

But sure, let’s just pretend, from just that information that we can somehow reduce this individual to being boring.

I’m sure that’ll help us all get gainfully employed, somehow.

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