Don’t Wish for Affluenza; Instead, LOOK for the Way Out

Pulling today’s cards a bit late in the day, I decided to go for the blunt, to the point wisdom of the Corporate Flash Cards — and pulled this: Golden Handcuffs, and Team Player.golden handcuffs -- Corporate Flash Cardsteam player -- Corporate Flash Cards In case the print on these cards is too tiny to read, let me pull out this definition from the Golden Handcuffs card:

1: benefits proferred to keep employees in otherwise unsatisfying or problematic jobs 2: dependence on financial compensation and benefits, esp. to maintain one’s current lifestyle and obligations….see also JOY-TO-STUFF RATIO, AFFLUENZA, SELLOUT…EXISTENTIAL MALAISE

Many of us who may not be doing so well financially in this economy will object to the term “affluenza.” I WISH I had affluenza, that’s what some of you are thinking. Well, not if being affluent means being a zombie stuck in a job that you hate, no, you don’t. Sometimes, of course, we have to have it. All work for an employer is, to some degree, a form of prostitution: it’s doing what you have to do and making the compromises that you have to make, because you need the money to feed your family. That sounds like a very judgmental statement. But it isn’t. Whether you do work that you love, or work that you don’t love but that allows you to make a living, it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s still important to understand that finding your joy in life will be possible only to the extent that your work allows you the freedom to soar.

Let’s turn to the Team Player card.

1: one who works exceptionally well with others and values group goals above personal gain 2: an employee who is willing to work long hours — syn MARTYR, WHITE-COLLAR SLAVE 3: a worker who obeys without question — syn BROWNNOSER, YES-MAN, WINDOW-LICKER, JELLYFISH

Ooh, yes, let’s all be window-lickers and jellyfish. Sorry — I’m not a big fan of teams and teamwork. But sometimes we need teams. We need to work together to make the world a better place. Still, I can’t help but point out that joining a workplace team means signing up for golden handcuffs. That’s the price of affluenza.

Well, this is a pretty depressing outlook, and it’s nothing Karl Marx hasn’t already told us. Working for “the man” does mean being a wage slave. As Marx would say, it’s capitalism’s dirty secret. But what’s the alternative, realistically, at this point in history? Should we all be lone wolf entrepreneurial sole proprietors? No. That’s not what I’m saying. These are not better or worse options, just different ones. Because guess what? An entrepreneur is just a prostitute who works the streets, rather than one who works in a whorehouse. Is that a happier alternative? Again: perhaps, but it depends on the extent that your work allows you the freedom to soar.

Here’s what I want to say about this: we live in risky economic times. This is the way it is. Don’t let the riskiness of the times we live in cause you to wish for some pie-in-the-sky 1050s version of American affluence, because it wasn’t as great when we had it as you might think it was. It wasn’t security, it was slavery, and if you want to know what insecurity is, try being a slave who is turned out into the streets because your employer/master can’t afford to keep you any more. This way of life was a holding pattern and a buying of time, nothing more. But when you buy time, like the baby boomers, you often find out later that it was a bad bargain, because the time you bought has only brought you to a more advanced age. The wealth of today is NOT necessarily the wealth of tomorrow. You can’t take it with you.

Be careful what you wish for, and be careful what you try to manifest. It may not turn out to be what you expected.

And, look at yourself and your situation as accurately as you possibly can: don’t get down on yourself, and don’t get egotistical, just LOOK. You have to LOOK to find the way out.

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” –Tyrion Lannister, from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

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