Lately, for reasons vastly too stupid to go into here, I’ve been revisiting the music of some of the bands I was in when I was a teenager. I’ve been struck several times by a few things. Namely: I really, really used to be an even worse singer than I am now and I used to spend an awful lot of time singing about the ethereal idea of ‘freedom.’
It seems that the me of approximately twenty years old felt that freedom was the most important thing in the world, the homeless exemplified living this dream and were subsequently ostracized by everyone else caught in the stranglehold of the enemy of freedom, the Job.
As a twenty year old, I’d had a few jobs but none had ever paid me so well as making music (this isn’t saying much…the notion that I made more from a royalty statement [back when people used to buy records] than working at Ben and Jerrys or McDonalds [actual jobs I held and even wrote about a year ago in this very space] is hardly a surprise. Those jobs didn’t pay shit. And they sucked. And I didn’t really need them because my expenses were exactly 0 dollars and I made a little bit of money just fucking off with my band.
What I’m saying is, I was completely free at that time. I’d attained total freedom and I guess these songs were a sort of ode to living the dream on one hand and on the other hand a ‘fuck you’ to the world of people with jobs. That’s slavery, man. Fuck a job. Fuck you, you drones! At least the homeless have their freedom, man!
And on and on like this for record after record.
Here’s what I didn’t understand: A job is not a yoke. A job isn’t slavery. Yes. Lots of jobs totally suck dicks and especially right now, it’s hard to get jobs so people often feel stuck…but jobs don’t have an agenda for YOU. YOU can quit. The job won’t care. It will get someone else to do the job that you once did and it’ll be fine. The job is a tool that allows you to have some money and do things with the time that you have where you’re not there. That’s all it is, and that’s the way the whole thing should be measured.
Do you have time when you’re not at your job where you’re able to enjoy the money that they’ve given you to be there? Not always. Lots of people work really hard jobs and at the end of the day they just come home, drink themselves to oblivion and then pass out, wake up and do it all again. That sucks. That’s the kind of job you should probably quit. But otherwise, if you’re enjoying your money (which is what you get in exchange for working…I’m not trying to paint a grossly materialistic portrait here, I’m just emphasizing the nuts and bolts exchange that exists when you have a job) and your free time, well, in the great scheme of things, you’ve got a pretty good job (I’m not really getting into things like ‘enjoying your work’ or being self employed, or any self actualization that comes from just doing your job well…mostly because for our purposes here, it’s kind of irrelevant, but believe me, I’m acutely aware that those are huge factors in feeling like you’ve got a good job or not).
But the fact remains, the job is not your master, and neither is your boss. If you want to, you can tell your boss to go fuck himself. You’ll probably be fired and getting another job may be hard, but it’s not an illegal thing to do, nor is it uncommon. The thing that makes you a slave is the way you spend your money and your leisure time. THAT’S the enemy of freedom. Not work. Work is a tool that can help you to enjoy your freedom. A house that you own, however, or a family, THOSE things require responsibility and money and a pretty never ending supply of both. And it’s usually only through your old buddy, the job, that you can get that steady flow, and that’s where the whole thing becomes perverted to young ideologues who have never really stared down the notion of freedom vs slavery.
It’s easy to rail against a boss (because bosses are cocksuckers a lot of the time) and it’s easy to rail against a large corporation (because lots and lots of shady stuff gets done in the name of maintaining a favorable bottom line for the ‘fat cats’ while poor people slave in factories). And big corporations and bosses DO tend to suck, but they’re not the enemy of your freedom (unless you live in China and work for Nike). They’re the people that enable you to decide if you want to work and have money, or not work and not have money. They offer you a tool that you may or may not use. That’s it. Again, they don’t have an agenda for you. They’re just trying to give you money in exchange for part of your life, but only if you’re willing to make that deal.
BUT, there’s not really a good, angst-y way to rail against adjustable rate mortgages and babies. To bitch about babies is to be a real weirdo/asshole, especially if you’re just a kid doing it theoretically. And singing hardcore songs about bank loans is so painfully dorky that it actually may have gone all the way around the dial and become a cool idea, so uh…I dunno. I’m not gonna do it, but maybe one of you should.
I guess my point is that I sang all these songs about freedom from responsibility and jobs back when that was all I knew: freedom from responsibility and jobs. And now that I’m older and I listen to those songs, I can’t help but notice that I’m singing against all the wrong things. Not like I’ve changed my mind or that I’ve ‘grown up and no longer believe,’ but rather that I was railing against a straw man.
I dunno. Maybe that IS what I’m saying, but I still like freedom and I still like to have no responsibilities. But you know what? Responsibilities are things you take on in exchange for cool stuff, like having a house or a family, things that are really, really nice and hopefully, things that make taking on that responsibility worthwhile. And you know what else?
There’s nothing so gross as the grownup that’s never taken any resposnsibility for anything. Living in a shitty hovel and bumming around and being broke and out all night and shit is romantic and awesome when you’re 22 or 19, but when you’re pushing forty? It’s gross. It’s like doing jumps on stage while you’re playing guitar or dying your hair funny colors or any number of other things vaguely associated with being young and cool. It’s cool when you’re young, but once you’re not young, that shit ain’t cool. Don’t believe me? Go down to the hipster part of your town and hang out in a happening bar that’s full of cool people. Look around for the dude that’s older than me with the bleached hair and the hip clothes talking to the 22 year old girls. Is that cool?
Get some dignity.