I always thought I was really good at thinking outside the box. But it took me 30 years to finally see the box. And all the patches that hold it together.

How many worlds end at the till?

We work to earn money (and if we’re lucky we like the person we work for/with), we watch TV to learn what new products will improve our quality of life, use money to buy what we need and if we have any left over we buy what we  want. Then we go home. Sleep. Do it again tomorrow and prepare for the day when we can’t do it anymore.

Admittedly, for the longest time, I never thought about what happens to make all this work. To me the person that takes money from me to give me change afterwards was pretty much just like the till itself. Or the walls that hold the shop. The shelves that hold the products. But beyond the till there is a human being. An employee who earns a living by doing what she gets paid for by the owner of the shop. And the owner is king.

Once upon a time this king was a peasant with an idea, and he made the choice of taking a risk: to rent or buy the location, buy a large amount of goods to offer for sale. He either worked hard to save enough money to pull it off, or he got sponsored or he borrowed the money, probably from the bank. Then he jumped into the cold water and opened shop hoping it would work out. At some point he realized that the shop was running well enough for him to not be able to run it by himself anymore (or he wanted more spare time) so he got an employee. Or more. Who depend on him for their income. Their existence. The king started building himself an empire.

If the employees seem happy then the owner probably understands this co-dependency: the employees either help keep the place running or they increase the quality of life for the owner by reducing his workload. Ideally both. The employees feel a sense of purpose. They know who and what they are working for, are treated with respect and feel safe and grateful. They are passionate about their work and feel that their life is empty if they are away from work for more than two weeks.

If the employees give you a fake smile or seem miserable even, then the owner probably doesn’t understand this balance. He may view the employees as replaceable and treat them that way. He may sense how much his employees need their jobs since jobs are not that easy to come by these days. And he may exploit it. Pay too little, expect too much or simply satisfy his need to command and conquer. And he may think that this is perfectly normal. Just business. It’s how the world works.

But luckily we have video games to direct our anger away from our king who has the power to take away our existence. Luckily we have TV to help us forget and escape into a world of happy ends. Or of people with problems so enormous that they dwarf our own. Just think of the kids in Africa! Who are we to complain? We have food, shelter and even a few hours to spare for hobbies.

Unless we don’t. And if we don’t then we clearly didn’t work hard enough for it or are too dumb. Survival of the Fittest, right? If we don’t belong to those people who have earned enough money to buy the freedom to do what they want when they want it, then we’re obviously not fit enough.

Fucked. up.

All of a sudden showing up for a job feels different. I’ve looked beyond the till.  All of a sudden certain terms that used to be romantic, naive or simply none of my business push their way into my consciousness: choice, waged slavery, politics, pirates, corporations, cyclic consumption, interest, resource based economy, industrialization, unemployment, unconditional basic income, tax, government, community, society, equality, sustainability, independence, co-dependence, individuality, power, responsibility, profit, competition, market, bankruptcy, debt, wealth, class, human rights,… all of which I’ll be looking into in this blog.

There is no spoon.