No small number of us prefer the school of experience, the school of colonial knowledge, or any school so long as it frees us from work on the farm.
The work we seek instead requires that we powder our faces and press our clothes for air-conditioned offices. Of course to us this sounds like no mean standard for work. It’s child’s play. Just costuming and networking.
So we eagerly agree, “Sign me up now!” This is our golden ticket. Leaving the village for the city, sliding imported shoes onto once bare feet, hitting the road not by stride but by swerve are the signposts of what we have now characterized as upward mobility.
Time elapses. After some weeks or months, however long before the novelty wears off, we notice that work is not the paradise once envisaged. This realization sets upon us notwithstanding, amidst the drudgery. The ennui. Crunching numbers, staring at hourly updates through the glow of a monitor, replying all to a chain of emails–none of the quotidian tasks derives any mental stimulation, much less satisfaction, much less meaning.
Though we continue on through the days, if only for the weekends. We only live when we are free from the work which long before sounded like child’s play. Our only satisfaction and meaning comes when we exchange the paper we bring home from work into the things we carry.
When our loads become too heavy, we hang those things in closets, on shelves, in cupboards. When they overfill our rooms and dressers, we make new room for them in new houses or in storage. Finding no pleasure in our work, these things become our pride and joy. The more we have, the more we carry. The more we have to show for ourselves and to others.
Work has now unleashed a new utility for us. Not the mental stimulation that we initially thought it would offer but something better–the potential for profit!
The profit motive subsumes a wealth of life treasures. We rationalize why we must spend less time with our loved ones.
Hours of the day are not relations between the sun and earth, they are working hours, hours when the company needs us. Checking our wrist watch becomes a familiar motion. We cannot understand if the dials are moving slower or if our concept of the work day eludes us.
Surely we have less time for friends and family, who become vacation days marked off on a calendar. They should understand how important this work is for us to secure our things. Kiss the children for me when they get home.
Decades later, when we all wish we spent more time with loved ones, when we all have goals of what we really want to do when we finally retire, when we all wonder where did the time go, why do we not question the very concept of how we structure most of our lives? Why do we, from the beginning, consume ourselves with meaningless work?
Why does this obsession come at the expense of having the freedom to live, to pursue our dreams, and to enjoy life, whether our pleasure is basking under a fading sun or feeling the crisp toast of sand in between our toes by the sea? Why instead of enjoying life’s pleasures must we consume ourselves with a lifetime desire for bottomless profit?
Is this the society that Africans envision for Africa or what we have unwittingly accepted?
With fruitful earth, by plentiful kin, and in good health, we can certainly develop a lifestyle free from the profit motive. Much like in the internet age, our collective vision should be a living document that is free to and most certainly will evolve–it is my hope, for the better.