Just Because It’s Not Paid Work Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Valuable Work

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Some of my critics will love to point out that I don’t have a “real job” and that I’m only able to stay alive because I am “leeching” off the taxpayers of my country.  To which I respond, “Let’s see you fight through a mental illness for twenty years that no one can understand and some even deny exists and then you tell me how much of a leech and a cancer on society I am.”  I have had people who I previously thought were my friends tell me I’m “wasting my life” not working some minimum wage drudgery because it’s the “useful”, “honorable”, and “manly” thing to do.  I have had former friends tell me my blogging about mental illness is “a waste of time.”  Needless to say such short sighted jerks I no longer keep in contact with.

Who gets to define what is honorable and useful to begin with?  I don’t remember getting to vote on such ideas.  By what right do now former friends get to tell me I am wasting my life and time blogging about living with a mental illness?  I can illustrate what living with a mental illness is like.  Many who are mentally ill are unable to articulate what living with it is like.  It’s a lonely existence.  It’s a turbulent existence.  It is a horrible feeling knowing I will never be able to attempt to achieve my dreams.  It is terrible knowing I will never have a family.  It sucks knowing that through no fault of my own I’m always going to be on the fringes of society.  And it scares me that I’m always going to be in poor health and probably die at a younger age than most people.  The public at large needs to know what life is like for the forgotten mentally ill people.  Many mentally ill people rotate in and out of jail because they aren’t getting the kind of treatment they need.  Many mentally ill people are homeless and not by choice.  Some, like myself, have to live on the outside of society looking in because we are not accepted by society as a whole.  It can be a very dreary and dark existence.  I don’t wish the ups and downs of mental illness on anyone, not even my worst enemies.

Why is paid drudge work considered honorable yet unpaid volunteer work, such as what I do with this blog, isn’t?  Why do I have to work as a janitor or a convenience store clerk to “earn my keep?”  As easily as we can grow food, build shelters, and harvest energy anymore, we don’t necessarily need what economists call ‘full employment.’  We don’t need several layers of bureaucracy or managers of managers or ‘inspectors of inspectors’ as Buckminister Fuller put it many years ago.

We don’t have 90 percent of our workforce on farms or factories like we did during the Industrial Revolution because we have machines and scientific processes that can grow crops and make goods far better than we could in bygone years.  I am convinced that holding on the antiquated and obsolete idea that everyone has to have a job is actually hurting us as a society and holding us back as a species.  Besides, when I was working I heard my coworkers and bosses complain and whine about how much they hated their jobs.  It seems to me that everyone enjoys complaining about how much they hate their jobs.  Hating your job, it seems to me, is more American than apple pie, the Stars and Stripes, or baseball. I never understood why normal people took pride in their misery and anger.  That doesn’t seem mentally balanced at all to me.

If there is a point to this post, it’s that maybe we as developed nations should seriously consider letting machines and automation take over as much drudgery work as possible, tax the workings of said machines and automations, and just give people a regular stipend just for being citizens of a post industrial nation.  Pretty much just free people up from the idea of having to have a repetitive and boring job just to eat and pay rent.  These boring and repetitive jobs should have been outsourced to machines and automations a long time ago.  And they will be assigned to the machines eventually.  No politician can prevent the automation revolution that is already underway.

How many kids grow up dreaming of being convenience store clerks, working at Wal Mart, or working on an assembly line?  No, kids grow up dreaming of being things like astronauts, artists, scientists, explorers, performers, etc.  It’s when we start telling these kids they need to ‘quit dreaming’ or ‘get a real job’ that they stop striving for the stars and quit fulfilling their potential. And I think that telling these kids to kill their dreams to do something just for the money is immoral and monstrous.

In closing, the next time you hear some supposedly wise grown up tell a kid or young adult that they need to get a real job or work for money, just remember that the most important job in the world doesn’t pay a dime of money to any of it’s workers.  That job is, of course, parenthood.

 

My Thoughts On Working Life

 

It’s now been four years since I last held a regular job.  Even though I don’t need the money from a job as I am debt free, I do miss the daily structure that having a job gave.  I do not miss dealing with office politics.  It seemed that nothing I ever did at a job was good enough for bosses or coworkers.  I would ask questions and I’d get in trouble.  I wouldn’t ask questions and I’d get in trouble.  I would make mistakes because no one explained procedures and I’d get in trouble.  I dealt with coworkers who were in a foul mood most of the time because they hated their jobs.  I never had any kind of real training and then I’d get into trouble because I was doing things wrong.  I was fired from my first job at age seventeen because I wasn’t figuring things out fast enough.  I was sexually harassed by female and male coworkers. Surprise, even men can get sexually harassed.  I even had a coworker threaten to kill me once.  I walked off the job and quit the next day over that.  I didn’t report it because I was too afraid and it’s my experience that no one would take my problems seriously. Eventually I decided I had enough of the work world in general and just left my last job.  I haven’t looked back.  I would have loved to had the structure and something to do everyday.  But the workplace is just absolutely toxic and unhealthy anymore.  I don’t see how you normals can encourage this nonsense.

Of course my critics think I’m just weak for not being able to deal with toxic work environments.  Some probably think me stupid for not being able to make sense of workplace politics.  I can’t make sense of the work world.  It makes no sense to me why you normals would rather look good but not be productive and not take chances to go for greatness.  Why do you complain about your bosses and coworkers?  Why do you complain about your customers?  I can’t make sense of your workplace, at least not the American workplace.  Surely it couldn’t have always been this toxic and counter productive.  As far as I’m concerned let the robots and automation take most of the jobs.  Most people don’t do their jobs because they love what they do or are even good at it.  Most people work their jobs just for the money.  I think in time people would be happier if they didn’t have to deal with toxic work environments and were at work because they wanted to be not because they had to be.  But with automation set to come in a large way, people may not have to work full time to have a decent life.  If automation makes food and products cheaply, then many people could get by on a low wage job or even a disability pension.

I used to work in customer service.  It seems to be the most abundant set of jobs as fewer people are needed for agriculture and manufacturing in the early 21st century.  And I never could figure out why people are verbally abusive to store clerks and fast food workers.  Most of these workers that get the abuse are front line workers making barely over minimum wage.  I don’t mean this to sound like an insult but if we expected great deals from these front line workers, then we would be paying them more than minimum wage.  And I saw in article last week that Wendy’s, one of the largest fast food chains here in America, is planning on having self ordering kiosks at all of their restaurants by the end of 2016. So you normals are yelling at people whose work can be done by machines now.  Someday your job could be too.

I yelled at a store clerk last summer when I was going through a mini psychotic breakdown.  It was the only time in my life I was mean with a store clerk.  I felt so rotten about it I immediately apologized and I voluntarily stayed out of that store for a month.  I felt so ashamed of myself for yelling at this college aged clerk and he did’t even do anything wrong.  I feel embarrassed writing about it almost a year later.  I used to get verbally abused by customers and coworkers all the time when I worked retail and restaurants.  And I promised myself I would never do that to another person.  It felt terrible being on the receiving end of the abuse and I didn’t feel powerful for being the abuser that one time.  So I ask, why do you normals feel it’s your God given right to be abusive to those in low positions?  We outlawed slavery and serfdom generations ago.  Just because you are in a position of power does not give you the right to be abusive.

I am thankful everyday that I have my disability pension to fall back on.  It wasn’t my first choice when I was growing up. I was a top student as a child and I wanted to be a research scientist since I was five years old.  I knew I wanted to go to college by the time I was in second grade.  I was in a gifted and talented program where I took the college board exams as a thirteen year old.  I was a member of National Honor Society.  I went to college initially as a Pre Med major.  After a year and a half of college, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I could no longer do the tough science and math classes. I continued to go to college and work after I was diagnosed because I really wanted to be a good productive member of society.  But my mental illness destroyed my ability to process stress, read people, and navigate work place politics.  I wouldn’t be so negative about the work place if I could process stress better and read people. I probably could have done some kind of trades work but I am not very good with my hands.  All my talents were in the mental realms. But I’ve had enough bad experiences with the kinds of work I can do with a mental illness that I don’t even want to go back to work ever again.  With more and more lower and even medium level jobs being primed to get taken over by machines and automation within the next several years, working may not even be an option for me and many other people.

I never could understand the mentality that you are only valued for what you do, especially what you do for money.  Most farm work is done with machines now.  Many manufacturing jobs are done by machines with a handful of people in support roles.  Automation is coming to telemarketing, fast food, retail, banking, stock brokering, etc.  We have computers that can beat grandmasters at chess, beat any human at trivia games, store and recall more information than any organic brain could possibly. We are developing automobiles and trucks that can drive themselves, so there goes truck drivers.  Airplanes essentially fly themselves anymore with human pilots there mainly to take over in case of emergencies. We have machines that we send to other planets and explore essentially on their own.  Most of the physical and clerical work a human can do can already be exceeded by machines.  Even the military is using robots and drones, so there’s less need for human soldiers in many developed countries.  Unless you’re in a career that involves a great deal of independent thought, personal touch, and creativity, your job very likely is at risk of being automated.  Then what of that identity you’ve built around your job for most your adult life?

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In closing we as humans are more than what we do for money.  I was always more than my remedial job or small bank account.  We are not the cars we drive, the houses we live in, or the clothing we wear.  With machines being primed to do many jobs better than humans and make high quality products for quite cheap, we humans are going to have to find different measures of distinction.  And I probably would have never gotten to this level of acceptance had I never developed a mental illness.  Many people will be blind sided by the levels of change that are going to hit the workplace and society in general.  It will be interesting and scary at the same time for the next fifteen to twenty years.

It’s a Sane, Sane World

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Over the years of trying to learn what makes average people act the ways they do, the only absolute I have come to is this; the biggest difference between being diagnosed as insane or sane is the number of people involved. It is considered insane to have crippling paranoia or depression. It is considered sane to complain about your shortcomings but do nothing to address said shortcomings. Over the course of the almost three years I have done this alifeofmentalillness blog I have stated on several occasions I would do just about anything to be sane and normal again.  I should be more specific and revise this.  I would give anything to not suffer delusions of persecution, hallucinations, crippling bouts of anger and depression, and the general isolation that comes along with it.  But I do not want to become what most people would consider normal.  By that I mean I do not want to lose my ability for empathy.  From what I have seen out of normals over the years, they seem to have a general lack of empathy or ability to see things from others people’s viewpoints.  I do not want to be uncaring.  It causes a great deal of pain that I sometimes have to be mean and even borderline abusive to people just to get a point across.  I hate being angry and mean to people.  I’m not a natural jerk.  Never have been and never will be.  I don’t know how much of that is the illness and how much of that is my natural personality.  But I absolutely hate being mean and combative to people. If I can’t be pleasant with someone and have them be pleasant to me, I try to avoid that person. To paraphrase Lee Marvin from the classic ‘Paint Your Wagon’ “you don’t have to love thy neighbor if you just leave the poor fool alone.”  But too seldom have I seen anyone, mentally ill or not, just leave other people alone.

Another aspect of sanity I never want to possess is the tendency for group think.  I love having a mind and using it. I hate celebrity gossip.  I hate reality tv.  I hate tabloid journalism.  I’ve even come to hate watching sports on tv because of the base nature of what is modern sports journalism.  It doesn’t bother me that a pro athlete makes more than any worker that isn’t executive management or an entrepreneur.  If I had 50,000 people pay $50 for tickets to read my blogs  or ten million subscribers like some popular youtube personalities, I’d be wealthy too.  Besides, well over half of pro athletes wind up bankrupt within five years of their retirement.  Watch the ESPN documentary ‘Broke‘ to see how true this really is. I am however bothered with how people will build up someone with talent only to knock them down later.  That is why I hope and pray I never become famous or wealthy.  “More money, more problems” as the late Biggie Smalls said.

I love learning new things, which is a skill which will become more valuable than it is now in the coming years and decades as technological and scientific advances get even faster than they are now.  For years I have listened to normals complain about their jobs.  I heard the “Oh God It’s Monday” and “Thank God It’s Friday” memes long before I had even dial up internet.  And I’ve seen and read articles on both domestic and foreign news sites about how potentially we could see job losses to automation with future unemployment rates that would make the 1930s look like a bull market on steroids.  NPR had an interactive article I’m linking to about chances of different types of jobs being taken over by machines and computers.  For example many jobs in customer service will likely be taken over, but many traditional medical and STEM jobs probably won’t be automated anytime soon.  And I bring this up because now many people are fretting over their jobs being taken over by machines.  Seriously?  First you complain about how bad you hate your job.  Now you complain that you may lose said job that you were cursing not even a couple months ago?  Make up your minds, people.  Do you think your current job sucks or do you want to do that lousy job?  Personally I don’t care if the robotics take the jobs I’ve had, providing there is some restructuring to tax laws and social safety nets.  The robots are coming, make no mistake.  They will take a lot of jobs.  Advances can be temporarily delayed but will win out.  Robots and computers will take many, if not most jobs.  How will we address a significant portion of people who identified with their work for their entire lives being unemployed and behind on their payments?  I normally don’t talk politics on this site, but regardless of your political philosophy these are issues that we need to demand our lawmakers discuss, ideally sooner rather than later.

Believe it or not I have worked before, even after I was diagnosed with a mental illness.  I have been a retail clerk, fast food cook, waiter, factory worker, teacher’s aide/graduate assistant, dish washer, janitor, construction worker, farm hand, lawn mower, and newspaper delivery boy (when I was 10 years old).  And everyone of those jobs (with the exception of teacher’s aide) was repetitive, mind numbingly boring, required no creative imagination, and didn’t really make a difference to even my small hometown.  Most of those jobs stand a good chance of being automated within the next twenty years anyway.  So those jobs were drudgery, not stimulating, and I worked mostly with people who were not very creative or intelligent. But those were the only jobs available to me, at least in my small town and rural area.  I can foresee a mass migration out of rural areas and small towns all over the world (more so than now) once automation really gets rolling.  Even I may be going to a big city if enough of my hometown dries up and or stagnates.

Creative jobs will likely become in demand soon.  I liked the teacher’s aide job because I got to interact with above average intelligence people everyday, got to use computers, got to teach a few college courses as a substitute teacher, and was actually encouraged to use my creativity.  Unfortunately that job was contingent on me being a graduate student in the Masters in Business program.  I loved the job but didn’t do well enough in the classes to keep my job.  I could have seen being a computers instructor and research rat for the next fifty  years.  But I can’t because I don’t have that piece of paper that states I am qualified for a job like that.

So here I am living on the fringes of society because of my disability.  Wasn’t my first choice but that is the current system we live under.  I don’t make the rules, I just live by them.  I never wanted to just waist my mind on disability.  But the aspects of the illness that make figuring out office politics and dealing with vicious bosses and coworkers will not allow me to function in our toxic modern work environment.  I don’t see how normals function under such systems.  Perhaps normals do it only by copious doses of reality tv, alcohol, anti depressants, tabloid news channels that don’t report anything that really makes a difference (I watch foreign news casts even more than U.S. news because I don’t care at all about celebrity gossip or what steroid pumped football god beat up his girlfriend this week).  I didn’t like the work environments I was in.  Not because I couldn’t physically or mentally do the work.  Far from it.  I just couldn’t adjust to the environment of toxic coworkers and borderline abusive bosses.

As far as people who think I am lazy and just being a leech off the good tax payers of my nation, I wish to leave you with the following thoughts.

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I am definitely not one of the one in ten thousand who can make the breakthrough, perhaps maybe among the one in ten who truly try to appreciate the men and women who make breakthroughs possible.  If it weren’t for brilliant scientists working on psych meds I would be in a padded room in an insane asylum as would some of the coolest people I ever met.  If it wasn’t for medical science my dear mother might be dead because of heart and thyroid problems.  If it wasn’t for scientists and engineers we wouldn’t have the internet, anti biotic drugs, sanitation, etc.  I am grateful every day for the ‘one in ten thousand.’  Everyone should be.