Does the Breakdown of the American Marriage Signal Something More Sinister? [https://medium.com/]
march 2018 by kme
startupculture marriage thefamily society worklifebalance loneliness
But, startups aren’t the interesting part of this. The interesting part is, why did I spend so long giving up things I loved to keep working a job I hated? And, we can say options! or big payout! and that was part of it, for sure. I was hoping for the big payout. But it went deeper than that; I believed my worth was connected with how much I produced. I believed that being an engineer made me valuable in a way that being someone’s girlfriend or being a mother wouldn’t. Suffice it to say, I now believe I was deeply misguided, but it’s what I thought. Part of me believed I was “better” than women who were “just” homemakers or moms, and I lost a decade of my life to that belief.
And I’m not the only one. How do we motivate people to do miserable things they don’t want to do? How do we convince people to pour decades of their work into things that are not helping them achieve the goals that would bring them deep happiness? We tell them that they’re better in some non-definable way. We humiliate people who don’t play by the rules, aka, people who don’t earn enough money. Money has become more than just having the means for life; it has become a way of demonstrating your superiority to those around you. This is why people with millions of dollars work their ass off to make millions more; not because they need more things, but because they think twice as much money will make them twice as good. Twice as valuable.
Somehow, people working 70 hour weeks and sacrificing their happiness and personal life for the goals of their employers believe they are free. They believe they are the luckiest people in the USA, because they have the most money, and not because they need the money, but because they feel like having money increases their innate worth. If I was going to rewrite the slogans for the tech industry, I might come up with this:
Slavery is Freedom. Money is Virtue. Suffering is Joy.
And, I think marriage is the canary in the coal mine. Fewer people are getting married than ever before, and there are a bunch of divorces, and etc. I personally don’t really believe in marriage, so I never really had a problem with that, but I think that most Americans do believe in marriage. I think most Americans want to get married, and they don’t want their marriages to end in divorce. This trend toward less productive marriages, I believe, is indicative of a cultural shift where people are less able to get what they want in their personal lives because of the demands of their professional lives. Most of the male engineers I’ve worked with, for instance, tended toward being single because they worked too long to date. And, even if they did date, sometimes they came across as “weird” because they had cultivated a social self that was suited towards being an ideal employee and not an ideal mate.
This trend towards the “self” developing as an “ideal employee” intensifies over your life as work becomes the major social force for a grownup. And, if you think about it, the ideal employee wouldn’t have a personal life. The ideal employee is probably a single, childfree workaholic and *what do you know* that’s exactly the type of person our society is producing more and more of. Ideally, they wouldn’t have too many distracting friends either, hey, check it out — the number of close friends people have is shrinking over time. The decline in marriage is, I believe, both a symptom of this, but also a cause of its acceleration.
While community, and spouses, do tend to cramp down on people’s emotional freedom, a large employer is likely worse for your freedom than either. This is because, often the people making decisions about your wellbeing do not have to interact with you in person. They do not have to witness your sadness, or have any knowledge of your personal goals, so the constraints of exploitation normally imposed by human sentimentality break down. Your employer is free to demand what it wants from you, absent any mitigating checks and balances. So, to maintain the emotional support provided by your company, you are likely to have to work harder at less pleasant tasks than you would to get support from your spouse or community, because bearing witness to your suffering is something your employer will not do.
march 2018 by kme
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