In the actual dystopian future we now inhabit, the oligarchs have realized they could work everyone harder, pay them less, eliminate benefits, turn every human institution from medicine to corrections into a racket, charge far more for basic rights and services than people in any other nation would stand for without revolting, and get rich beyond the penny ante dreams of a Carnegie or Astor.
In the past few decades, capitalism has exponentially increased the creation of wealth for the already incredibly wealthy at the negligible expense of the well-being, dignity and happiness of most of humanity, plus the nominal cost of a mass extinction and the destruction of the biosphere — like cutting out the inefficient business of digestion and metabolism by pouring a fine bottle of wine directly into the toilet, thereby eliminating the middleman of you.
Everyone knows how productive you can be when you’re avoiding something. We are currently experiencing the civilizational equivalent of that anxiety you feel when you have something due the next day that you haven’t even started thinking about and yet still you sit there, helplessly watching whole seasons of mediocre TV or compulsively clicking through quintillions of memes even as your brain screams at you — the same way we scream at our politicians about guns and abortion and climate change — to do something.
I once watched in awe as my girlfriend, who’d been lying inert on the couch, hypnotized with dread of whatever she had to do next, roused herself by intoning, “One, two, three,” — and on “three,” immediately got up and swung into action.
I have a shameful confession to make: Secretly, I am not lazy. I’ve learned that if I do literally nothing for more than a year, two at most, I start to get depressed. I’m not recanting my old manifesto. I still hope to make it to my grave without ever getting a job job — showing up for eight or more hours a day to a place with fluorescent lighting where I’m expected to feign bushido devotion to a company that could fire me tomorrow and someone’s allowed to yell at you but you’re not allowed to yell back.
But once I become genuinely engaged in a project, I can become fanatically absorbed, spending hundreds of hours on it, no matter how useless and unremunerative. As a teacher, I edit my students’ writing with a nit-picking precision and big-picture ambition they may likely never experience again. And I don’t believe most people are lazy. They would love to be fully, deeply engaged in something worthwhile, something that actually mattered, instead of forfeiting their limited hours on Earth to make a little more money for men they’d rather throw fruit at as they pass by in tumbrels.