[Book Review] “40% of the work is meaningless, why are you rushing to do it?” “: Isn’t flowering in shit work the best rebuttal?

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Some time ago I met Iron, an English teacher. Before working as an English teacher in a private bilingual school, Iron has been an “English teacher” in a public school. He is proud of his “English teaching work” and “the friendly relationship with children”. I was curious about her motivation for changing jobs. Iron said very proudly: “Actually, I first looked for this job to come here to learn English. Bilingual schools must be very good at English.” After working on the title for five months, Iron couldn’t pronounce or write the students’ names. And she who claims that “I used to write English emails before, and my English was very good when I was young”, she is not very good at using commas and periods in English compositions, and she doesn’t know when to use uppercase and lowercase letters, let alone verbs. plural form.

In the English class, she mechanically said to the three-year-old children, read to me: apple, apple, a, p, p, l, e; when the students asked her what are you doing, she paused for several seconds and said : I don’t know, go; I look at the students with slack eyes every day, and don’t say a word. The explanation given by her, who is only in her 30s, is: “When I get older, my brain is not enough, I don’t get enough sleep every day, and I can’t remember; there is no environment where English is used, so I can’t use English, and I can’t communicate with bilingual children.” And She has not used it for a long time, but she changed from “English teacher in public school” to “English teacher in bilingual school” a few months ago.

I was shocked by the “contradictions” in her narration-English is very good, but I don’t know how to use commas and periods, but I don’t know how to use them; I’m curious about this “contradiction”.

In the afternoon of a sudden typhoon, I asked my doubts, and she complained unexpectedly: “This school will not have a future, it is a garbage school, my English teacher actually asked me to clean and make me do handicrafts , I have to play with the children, and the management is a mess!” I wondered: “Then why didn’t you resign?” She dismissed: “Let me tell you the truth, I just can’t find another job now, so I first resigned Just do it, find me and leave. And I don’t actually need to do this job. My husband said that my son needs me to watch at home since he just started elementary school, so I just look for a job. If it doesn’t work, I will You can go home and take the kids.”

Iron, who “does not have English proficiency” but “became an English teacher”, was filled with righteous indignation about “jobs are rubbish” and “relying on work to dawdle”. I saw David Graeber’s ” 40% of The work is meaningless, why are you rushing to do it? On the emergence of bullshit jobs and rethinking the value of labor (Bullshit Jobs: A Theory) – can this book explain Iron’s description of “garbage jobs”? Besides the garbage job that Iron said, what else is a garbage job? And as Graeber pointed out-“Why do so many people work day after day in positions that they think are meaningless”?

I couldn’t wait to open the book and happened to see the table of contents-40% of the work was pointless.

Eric, a graduate student in history, came into the company and was assigned to sell and manage a poorly functioning, unpopular “garbage” interface system. This job where “he couldn’t find any way to decipher even a trace of meaning from his work” made Eric start some hidden resistance behaviors – arriving late and leaving early, having a glass of wine at work, taking off his shoes to read novels , forging false meetings, taking ecstasy. Eric “felt dissociated and depressed, and this kind of aimless day (brought me) a deep torment.” Until finally he was fired.

In fact, it wasn’t just Iron and Eric who felt their jobs were pointless. Dietrich, who works in the warehouse of a novelty store, “was spending a lot of his waking hours lugging around boxes filled with clown noses, Tricky Sneeze Powder. , plastic champagne flutes, cardboard cutouts of basketball players, and all kinds of other stupid nonsense.” Patrick, who was asked by his family to find a job in a convenience store, was asked to “pretend to be busy” and “pretend to be happy to entertain customers” at work, and then developed a “deeper hatred” for his work. Charles, who works as a game tester in the video game industry, has almost nothing to go to work every day. He just needs to “sit and pretend to work”, and “doing a job that only pays for nothing” Charles “feels worthless “.

This is the “essence” of bullshit work-it is not only meaningless in terms of work form, it brings more “mental violence”.

Although “teachers and many jobs in other fields cannot be completely regarded as bullshit jobs”, because for the whole society, these jobs still play a “useful” role. However, even so, these positions also have a bullshit part. Just like “most scholars initially devote themselves to academia because of the charm of knowledge and the ideas that excite him/her…however, most of their work is trapped in the complexity of administrative affairs.” “As a teacher, he/they can’t even show that he/they like to think and love knowledge, because that is considered to be disrespectful to work”-the core of bullshit work is to make the joy of work disappear, creating hypocrisy and a sense of aimlessness – “The worst part about a shit job is that you know it’s a shit job.” But unfortunately “there’s hardly any job in the world that you can say doesn’t involve anything useless and stupid”. The paradox is that even if it is a shit job, “almost everyone is taught from an early age to work hard in order to realize their self-worth.”

And what makes these jobs shit jobs are economic, political, social and cultural institutions. Most people don’t know that work itself is just an alienation, an ideology of voluntary labor injected by capitalism into the minds of working people—“Leaving aside whether work itself is good or not, but not working is extremely bad; People who don’t work hard at things they don’t particularly enjoy are mean villains, lazy slackers who shy away from labor, and parasites who steal the fruits of other people’s labor.” Therefore, when the social and economic levels are promoting the increase and solidification of bullshit jobs, and when the cultural and political levels are increasing the bullshit of jobs, when we all know that our jobs have no social effectiveness and value, we still need to repeat them day by day. Are we really at a loss as we go on day after day?

The same is not satisfactory, and Smooth was recruited by a bilingual school as an “English teacher”. The daily work content is more about urinating shit, changing diapers, serving meals for students, cleaning classrooms, preparing lessons, and teaching English. Instead, ” See stitches.” What’s even more outrageous is that there is no contract or insurance in the first year of work, nine hours a day without institutional breaks, six days a week, and even the winter and summer vacation schools are occupied in the name of “opening interest classes”. The salary is so meager that it is lower than the standard of teachers in this international city; what is worse is that the school teachers act in front of the parents and behind the parents’ backs, and the degree of cruelty to the students is outrageous. I thought that Smooth, who graduated from a prestigious school and speaks fluent English, would be filled with righteous indignation and resentment. What I didn’t expect was that she with short hair was wearing a gray skirt and carrying a pink schoolbag and walked into the coffee shop – the place where I met her. She kept laughing, her eyes narrowed into a line, and she couldn’t restrain her happiness.

I don’t get it – shouldn’t she be like Iron? Shouldn’t a bullshit job in a garbage school be a kind of internal friction and physical consumption? And there are no benefits to speak of, it’s total exploitation. But, she seems to be having a good time doing it? I questioned. Smooth still smiled, and said in a calm tone that contrasted with her age in her 20s: “Actually, many people have asked me this question. I have to say that this is a rubbish school, and the daily work is also rubbish. But the work itself is meaningless.” , work itself shouldn’t be rubbish, shouldn’t it? Work is alienation. I don’t have any expectations for work itself.”

Smooth is sharper than Graber – 100% of the work doesn’t make sense.

She went on to say: “But I really like children, and I can use this job to see how to teach English best. When I first came in, I didn’t know anything, and I was often bullied, but can you believe it? ?Now I have created my own teaching method, and it has been tried and tested, and I have my own reputation. This feeling is great!” She said more and more excitedly: “Every time I walk into the classroom, I see children Those happy eyes, and listening to him/they happily talk about the content I taught in class after class, I am even more happy!” This kind of narrative of “creating joy in garbage work” makes I was shocked – is there really someone who is so joyful at work? Could Smooth be just a rare case?

Fortunately, Warren in the book has a similar experience.

Warren, a substitute teacher in a public school district in Connecticut. The job content is very simple – roll call and urge students to seriously devote themselves to the study arrangement at hand. “Teachers rarely assign teaching tasks to me. But I don’t mind, I think this arrangement is good, because I have a lot of my own time to read books and learn Chinese, and I also talk to students from time to time. It’s fun to chat. Maybe my job isn’t necessary, but for now, I’m super happy doing it.”

The work of a substitute teacher is actually optional, but the most important thing is that this job allows Warren to do what he likes—chatting with students, reading books, and learning Chinese. Unsurprisingly, Smooth also has his own hobbies outside of work—”I like reading books and doing research. This job seems to have given me nothing, but the only thing it has given me is time. In addition to work, I can spend all my time doing what I like, reading my favorite books, and refining my own opinions, which in turn have greatly helped me in teaching.”

She/they are not happy with the work itself, but happy with life and themselves, so they are happy with work. The joy of work, in turn, blesses the joy of life and self.

Isn’t that the best rebuttal to bullshit jobs?

Smooth and Warren offer a possibility – flowering in shit work.

Smooth and Warren; Iron and Eric all think their jobs are bullshit jobs, or to some extent bullshit. The difference between s/he is whether s/he has goals inside and outside of work, and more importantly, whether s/he has goals for life and self. Iron, Eric, Ditruchy and others couldn’t find any way to decipher even a trace of meaning from their work. “Hooligans” and “passive resistance” are her/their attitudes towards work, life and self. The only cognition.

To put it harshly, what are Iron and him/them who think work is bullshit?

In the book, Nouri, who encounters one ridiculous and abusive work environment after another, begins to conduct a detailed analysis of the hidden social and institutional forces behind failed corporate projects-Nuri becomes an anthropologist ! He even became interested in politics, and began to divert his time and energy, planning to try to destroy the system that created all kinds of ridiculous jobs, and it was at this time that his physical condition began to improve dramatically.

Going the other way, using trash to clean up trash, isn’t that a great counter to bullshit work?

Some time ago, I went to see Smooth and asked her how her work life was going. A shy smile reappeared: “Well, it’s been pretty good recently, and I got a doctoral full scholarship offer.”

Use dreams to assign value to bullshit work, and use bullshit work to achieve dreams. This is not work, but the highest state of life.

I’m curious if the “contradictory” Iron really insists on this “shit job”, or quits this “shit job” and goes home to take care of her children. Will her next generation become the same after more than ten years? The “contradictory” Iron? Will you be convinced that work is “shit”?

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