I’m absolutely not alone in this paucity of time. In fact as a young person without children I count myself as exceptionally lucky in this regard. It blows my mind that anyone could possibly raise a child, let alone multiple children, in this society. The fact that anyone is raised in any way properly - which is arguably the most important job of all to get right - is a miracle. I really think it’s sick how we end up having so little time to spend with the people we care about.
None of this is a law of nature or our faults. When humans lived on the plains of Africa 150-200,000 years ago they didn’t have their days mapped out down to the hour by some all-encompassing and rigid ‘society’. They weren’t stressed to the gills with deadlines. They didn’t have to pencil in meetings with their loved ones 2-4 weeks in advance. They could do whatever they wanted. Obviously I don’t want to go back to that time. In particular modern labour-saving and medical technology, at least in theory, makes life a lot easier. Which is actually incredibly annoying because somehow we’ve still ended up so busy that we often want to tear our hair out.
The point is that we’ve been enlisted in this economic machine which demands too much of us and our time. And for what? The vast majority of us work so that someone else can get rich. And not even for some great cause, but often for some relatively trivial commercial purpose. Making stuff and providing services that probably don’t even need to exist or could be better put to use. Not to mention all of the goods and services which exist because we’re so time poor.
Or we do it to pay bills and debts. Yeah we’re fined for existing. Oh you want food, water, electricity, and a place to live? That’ll cost you. It’s not like every human on the planet needs these things.
I dread the idea of being a drone in this stupid capitalist system for the rest of my life. It terrifies me. I have so much to offer but it’s a constant struggle to express any significant amount of that in the little hours here and there that aren’t spoken for already. And again I know I’m far from the only one who thinks this. After work, I spend the majority of my time trying to improve the world and make all of our lives better through political change. That’s an activity none of us would have to do (to anywhere near the same extent) if we actually lived in a free and fair society. I’m no hero, just one of millions who’ve tried to do their bit over hundreds of years. But it takes time too. I look around me and see so much misery and injustice.
Climate change is going to make sure that there is no future for us. Our essential crops are going to drop by up to half by mid-century. Hundreds of millions will flee from their homelands. We’re constantly on the verge of nuclear war even though most are unaware of this tension (the Atomic Doomsday Clock is at 2 minutes to midnight last I checked). Our natural resources are being robbed by private companies left, right, and centre, like our water in Ireland. The scumbag far-right are taking off. Decent jobs are being replaced by awful casual ones. Digital technology threatens to trap us in an unbreakable 1984-style surveillance nightmare. And so on, and on. I wish more than anything I could spend all day fighting against this. We’re so unbelievably fucked and we’re running out of time. But instead I’m forced to turn up to a desk each morning and do stuff that someone else decided, because otherwise I won’t be able to eat. It’s infuriating. That’s what people call ‘alienation’. You’re not in control of your own life. Someone else is.
Anyway not everyone is an ‘activist’ (I prefer the word ‘revolutionary’), but most of us have our own parallels. We want to care for our family members, who need our love and attention. They might be ill. We want to provide a shoulder to lean on to our friends in trouble. We want to help out in our community. We want to do something to make things lighter for others, and have real connections with people based on respect and care. It’s a natural human trait.
Where did our lives go? Who took them away? How did everything get so narrowed? I wasn’t born to work, go on a few holidays, browse the internet, and die. This isn’t fun. This isn’t freedom. I don’t feel free at all. I don’t care what the politicians say, or the advertisers who wreck my head daily. If I was free I wouldn’t have to turn up to work on Monday under pain of starvation and homelessness, and then take orders all day like I was in the army. And no, bullshit corporate leaflets about mental health don’t help. If you mean it, give me shorter hours so I can sleep at night and stop exploiting me while you’re at it.
I keep saying to myself I’m not alone. I know I’m not. But I feel alone. This capitalist society makes us feel so alone. I want to see my friends and have a laugh. I want to care for my family. I want to have a loving romantic bond. Did you know that younger generations are giving up on romantic relationships because of the demands of time and careers? How sad is that? It’s not because we’re shallow monsters, it’s because it’s becoming barely possible.
I want to be part of a community of people who work together and help each other be our best, through thick and thin. Where is that? Where are our communities? Instead it’s just an onslaught of concrete and demands. They’ve destroyed them. Thank goodness for the water charges because the bastards made us come together and re-discover the meaning of community. I had a community once, in the Barricade Inn social centre on Parnell Street. That was probably the best time of my life. But the state ripped that apart and left behind an empty building.
It would drive you to drink. And so many of us do. I’m drinking writing this thing, I have to do something to calm my brain. We do all sorts of things to escape our situations apart from drinking, other drugs, sex, TV. It’s an epidemic of escape. But ultimately, we never do escape. We just put it out of our heads for a few hours, and keep going. Everything is grand.
I feel like I’m in a crumbling temple. The people dearest to me are in trouble, wrecked on the thorns of this merciless conveyor belt world, and I’m basically powerless to help them. So many of the people I hold dear just can’t cope. There’s so much mental illness and anguish around me. And around everyone. It reminds me of the song Under Pressure:
‘It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming, "Let me out!"’
If only I had more time, I could make more of a difference.
John Maynard Keynes was the most influential economist of the 20th century. His mission was to save capitalism. He wasn’t the only one, but even as an advocate of capitalism he predicted that by now we’d be working a 15 hour week (e.g. 3 hours a day) because of the massive advances in technology. We’ve had those massive advances in technology, and we’ve had them 100 times over. Where the hell is our 15 hour week? It’s such a cheat. The technology has become so powerful that we can’t even believe it’s real. But we’re still wasting our lives in front of computer screens, and mucking about warehouses, or whatever else. And even when the robots come, more so than they already are, that’s not going to make us live better, it’s going to screw us.
That’s because profit comes first. Not happiness. If happiness came first we’d have a society where the vast majority of us would have control. We’d organise society so that we could spend time with the people we care about. We’d live in real communities. We’d do meaningful work that actually had value and which we got the full fruits of. But no, the working class are just bits of meat to push around so that the actual interesting and important people with all the property can climb higher on the economic scoreboard.
There’s no clear conclusion to this article. I’m so fed up, and so are you. This isn’t life. We have to do something. I firmly believe that we can create the beautiful free world we all want and deserve, where every voice is heard and we aren’t ground into pulp. Everyone who can withstand this madness at all inspires me. People have struggled for freedom who might as well have lived in hell itself. We’re so full of genius and art and wit and graft we can achieve anything if we can get over the sadness and low self-esteem which those pricks at the top have infected us with. You’re not alone, I believe in you.