The job cult

A brand new cult has arisen; it’s called the job cult. It’s the new disease of the rational, thinking era. In recent years and without us noticing, it has taken over the lives of millions – even billions – of people. You are more than likely to know people who are part of it. You’re probably even a part of it yourself.

We, as a society, have started to worship ‘the job’. It’s the -sometimes unattainable- life goal of so many of us. It’s why we spend several years of our lives and a whole lot of money on a college education. It’s what defines us as human beings. Without it, we’re nothing. It’s the Holy Grail of the 21st century.

The irony being that we live in a day and age that has the highest number of completely useless jobs, hidden behind a fancy title. We’re no longer bakers and farmers. All you hear these days is junior executive this, consultant that. Which basically means you spend your days answering emails and at hourly intervals have meetings about it.

You’re not exhausted after a long day at work? You must be doing something wrong!

How is this productive? Does it help you to be a better human being? Does it make the earth a lovelier place to live? Probably not. It probably does the exact opposite: making you an extremely stressed and chronically tired human being – and as a result a not-always-so-pleasant-to-be-around human being. Being tired and stressed are of course considered to be qualities in the job cult. Status symbols almost. You’re not exhausted after a long day at work? You must be doing something wrong!

And what is the reward for all this hard work? Well, in return for spending half of your life at it, a job offers you a few bucks that help you survive, and if you’re real lucky, even live a little. That is what you can expect: burn-outs and a Christmas bonus.

Bullshit. And let’s stop pretending this way of life is the only way (like any good cult would have you believe), and let’s stop thinking it’s okay that you need to pop a sleeping pill every night to be able to stop your mind from racing. Pill-popping you see, is how you pray in the job cult: you do it alone, somewhere private, and never tell another living soul about it’s content.

Another thing you should always do, is try to keep up with the Rest. The Rest being the Gods of the job cult. No one knows who and where exactly they are, but they are the ones that always work harder and better than you. No matter how hard you try, you will never be as good as them. But you should always keep trying. That’s how you worship in the job cult.

Feelings are for the weak, without a career of importance who never get promoted.

But secretly most of us know that the job cult is based on nothing. That half of the existing jobs contribute nothing of importance. No beauty, no happiness. Hell, we’ve even banned words like beauty and happiness from the professional life. They’re the dogmas of the job cult. No place for – o the horror! – emotions there. Feelings? Feelings are for the weak, without a career of importance who never get promoted. If you want to be professional, you have to act like you’re dead inside. Hey, that’s what the pills are for.

Being professional, the thing we all want to be so badly, means that you have to keep it all in. No emotions allowed!
I’m sorry, but who is the great cult leader who decided that being ‘professional’ means banning all that makes life beautiful, like creativity, laughter, solidarity and compassion, and sometimes even productivity, and where does he live? I have some beef with him. But it’s no use, because he’s probably never home anyways; too busy working all the time.

Slow down. Slow down. Look around. Dream nice dreams.

Bullshit. We can do so much better. Slow down. Slow down. Look around. Dream nice dreams. Fuck it, if you’re lucky enough to have found your passion in life, despite everything, you should get a trust fund to make it happen. Let’s call it the passion fund. And you are only eligible for it if you can demonstrate a whole range of over-the-top emotions and a severe lack of realism.

So let us do what cults really don’t want their followers to do: be critical about the what and why of things we consider to be normal. Let’s think, really have the courage to think, and question our pill-popping professions. Realize that it is we, human beings, who created this lifestyle that takes life away instead of giving it. Let’s realize that suffering is not a virtue; that we owe it to ourselves, each other and the great gift of life, to do better. To do a better job. One where we go to work everyday with a big fat emotional smile on our face.

Ruth Van de steene is juriste en activiste voor het goede leven

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