The Five Minute Guide to Modern Rebellion
Let’s not fuck around with the problems. Everyone talks about the problems: education is shit, we have no health care, we’re taxed to death, and so on. We argue about abortion and welfare and military spending and the justice system and everything else, but I’m not going to approach any of those things. Sure, the system is fucked. Sure, there are problems. Sure, it’s scary that we raise generation after generation of well-armed and undereducated citizens. That’s all a beaten dead horse. But it’s not really what we’re all pissed off about deep down inside. What really pisses us off is this new prosperity. Television, magazines, and newspapers keep talking about everyone getting rich, the stock market going crazy, millions making millions off the Internet, and so on. But what all these millionaires have in common is that they’re not us. Everyone’s getting rich except you and me, right? That’s what The Wall Street Journal said, so it’s got to be true, right? Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the forty-hour workweek is becoming a thing of the past. Don’t be discouraged by the angry faces you face everyday in traffic. Don’t believe that, just because everyone you know is working harder for less money, prosperity doesn’t exist.
Right? Well, it is right in a sense. Some people are getting very rich off this new economy. Two of them are running for president. The rest of them are running the country from the offices of large banks, insurance companies, and weapons manufacturers. The rich are getting richer. CEOs who once made only four or five times as much as their average employees are now making more along the lines of four hundred times as much. It’s all a thing called trickle-down economics. The only problem is that it’s not trickling down. We’re working harder to make someone else richer, which just makes us work harder to support the burden of their wealth. And that’s the big problem as I see it, but as I said, we’re not here to talk about problems. We’re here for solutions, and I have that solution. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, but it’s the cornerstone to a successful rebellion and you only have to do one thing. Quit your job.
This, of course, may be the toughest thing in the world to do, because Americans are obsessed with work. We do it all the time. We go to our jobs and put in fifty hours a week and come home and mow the lawn and plant a garden and build bookshelves and change our oil and paint the bathroom and design hometown Web pages and rig our stereos so the television runs through them and cook and clean and go to sleep and get up and go to work. It doesn’t matter what we do, if it’s not important enough to be considered work, we feel as if we’re wasting our time. We meet each other after long absences due to work, and we say, “Hey, I haven’t seen you for a while. What have you been up to?” and our friends inevitably reply, “Working.” We despise those who don’t work. We propose to end homelessness and hunger by spitting down on the downtrodden with, “Get a job.” We applaud Presidents like Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (who were all really the same guy. Don’t be fooled) for creating jobs even if those jobs are nothing more than losing your independent business to a Wal-Mart or an Office Depot, then having to go to said Wal-Mart or Office Depot and get a job for half of what you were making. We completely ignore the fact that it’s better not to have a job than it is to have a job at Wal-Mart. By the same token, we look at college graduates who are unable to find a job suited for their talents and knowledge and say, “You’ve got a strong back. You can work.” For that reason, we set up no programs that allow us to bridge gaps between employment. There is no dole. In our minds, this is a good thing. A dole is full of nothing more than leeches bleeding the state dry. Just look at England with all their unemployed. What the fuck are they doing on the dole? They just need a good temp agency, right? And we ignore examples like J.K. Rowling, the Scottish woman who wrote the first Harry Potter novel while on the dole. She had a short period of bad luck, her government helped her through it, and she rose out of it with the most successful series of novels in recent memory. In America, she would’ve taken that period of bad luck and turned it into a new job as a cashier at Publix or Safeway, because that’s our attitude: fuck creativity, fuck independent advancement, fuck controlling your own destiny. Get out there and get a fucking job. Your value as a person is worth nothing more than what you can rent your labor for. But I’m talking about problems again, and remember, this is about solutions. The solution for getting Americans over their obsession of work and thereby commencing to the original step of quitting their jobs is also simple.
America is a capitalist country driven by the laws of supply and demand. The problem we face right now is that there is a greater supply of labor than there is demand, but this is a simple problem to solve. We simply have to create a false shortage of labor. In that way, the supply of labor dwindles, the demand for it increases, and the value goes back up to the living wage. So how do we do this? We work part time. Forty hours a week, even though most people work longer than that, is still way too long. I can’t think of anything I want to do for forty hours a week every week. I love sex, but I couldn’t imagine having to fuck from nine to five on any given week. I drink heavily, but I’d hate to have to get drunk for forty hours a week. And sex and drinking are cool. Working isn’t. Accounting or otherwise sitting in a cubicle has nothing on getting drunk or laid, so what makes us think that a healthy life consists of forty hours a week in a cubicle? It’s absurd.
So here’s what you do. You bring a watch with you to work on Monday morning and you start gauging your time. When you hit twenty hours, you go home until the next Monday morning. Explain to your boss what you’re doing. Don’t ask to get paid for the time you’re not working. Just make sure that you don’t work any more than twenty hours.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “but Sean, if I only work twenty hours a week, my boss is going to fire me.” Well, you’re right. Of course he’s going to fire you. I didn’t say it would be easy. This is a revolution we’re talking about. Besides that, getting fired from a job isn’t that bad. I’ve been fired from a half dozen jobs, and it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve quit probably another two dozen jobs. It’s taught me something very important. The more times you have to get a job, the better you become at getting one. You get your lies down for the interview. You become comfortable in that job-hunt tie. You lose the initial nervousness of applying and interviewing. Most of all, though, you lose that fear of unemployment. You realize that, if you get fired, so fucking what? Your job sucked anyway. All jobs suck. That’s why someone has to pay you to do it.
So you lose your fear of your boss and of unemployment, but there’s still another big obstacle to face: bills. You can’t quit your job because you have bills to pay. Well, in a way, that’s true. Some bills you do have to pay. It’s good to have things like electricity, food, a roof, walls, and a phone. Make enough money to cover those things. Other bills, though, like credit cards, are optional. In fact, you shouldn’t pay them at all. Credit card companies are evil, with their twenty-one percent interest rates. You know what you call someone who gives out loans at a twenty-one percent interest rate? You call him a loan shark. You know what you call someone who works to pay a loan like that? An indentured servant. Don’t do it. Stop paying your credit card bills and you’ll find that VISA doesn’t have any thugs who’ll come by and break your legs. They can maybe prove that you owe them that money, sure, but you’ll find that proving someone owes you money is something completely different from actually collecting that money. They’ll probably just turn it over to someone who’ll send a few threatening letters and make some phone calls, but if you’re rude enough, he’ll go away. And here are some other helpful hints in the non-payment of bills department: it takes ninety days to get evicted (which amounts to three rent-free months), student loans don’t have to be paid all that often, and don’t worry about your credit rating. A credit free life is what we’re going for.
So here you are, free of an overabundance of bills and the full time whip of a boss, but also free of any extra money. How does this bring us any closer to a revolution? Well, for one thing, since this is a revolution and everyone is skipping out on their VISA bills, that fucking loan shark is gonna crumble soon. That’s one good thing. Then, you get into new, money free discoveries. You learn that cars can live a long time with a little extra care, and since you’re only working twenty hours a week, you can’t afford a new one, so General Motors and Ford, the American car makers with their underpaid Mexican assembly lines, start to suffer in new car sales. You learn, since you don’t have to buy work clothes and you don’t have to look nice all that often, that thrift store clothes and shirts with holes are actually all right. So the Gap, with its power in the World Trade Organization, its sweatshops, and its annoying fucking commercials, starts to lose money and power. And the revolution goes from there. Banks, who loan you seventy thousand dollars to buy a house, then expect you to pay them back two hundred thousand dollars over the next thirty years, start to suffer. The stock market, which is going to crash anyway, starts to teeter on the brink. Insurance companies suffer from the lack of full time employees reaping full time benefits, and basically it all falls down. It could happen that way, but it probably wouldn’t. It would probably take more.
That’s where the next step of all your extra time comes in. You’re only working twenty hours a week, so you have a big void in time to fill. You’re living in a country obsessed with work and you’re trying to get over your own obsession, so what do you do? You start using that time for yourself. For one thing, you could use it to fill in the gaps caused by your lackluster education and the mind-numbing mass media. You could educate yourself. The first step would be to start really paying attention to the mass media. Realize that six multi-national companies own pretty much every movie studio, television station, book publisher, magazine, newspaper, and Web site. And what do they give you? They give you about five hundred versions of the same three movies, sitcoms that all tell the same jokes, a million books about lawyers and abusive childhoods, models singing really bad songs, reporters who report sound bites instead of stories, and a barrage of self-promotion to keep you engaged in these movies, TV shows, books, models, and reporters.
Do you really need that? Do you even enjoy it? Of course not. You only pay attention because you’re working so fucking hard that you don’t want to work even harder to find real entertainment and relevant information. But now that you’re only working twenty hours a week, you can. You can seek out legitimate alternative, community-owned news sources that report on Mumia Abu-Jamal instead of O.J. Simpson, that discuss the four countries that Clinton bombed in 1999 instead of caring about one goddamn blowjob, and that openly discuss things like health care, education, and the World Trade Organization. Once you become aware of the problems that the mass media goes out of their way to ignore, you can start working towards a viable solution. You can become active in grass roots campaigns, you can work for positive change instead of just a paycheck, and you can work to redevelop the sense of community that we’ve all lost.
Of course, there’s more to a revolution that what I can stuff into an Ink 19 column. There are down sides to everything I’ve proposed here. There are a lot of wrinkles to work out, but you’ll be able to figure them all out after you start working part time and have the freedom to think again. Or, if you’re not willing to follow me into that leap, if you’re dead set on being a wage slave working to make someone else rich, at least vote for Ralph Nader. At least he’s trying to give some power back to the working people.