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Subject:  Re: Unwritten Rules of Wage Slavery Date:  2/1/2000  10:58 AM
Author:  hocus Number:  2789 of 875709

BlissAK writes:

I have had a growing sense of unease with a certain acceptance of the idea that there exists a "man" lurking in the shadows who through his cunning forces people into slavery.

Using the term "slavery" in the heading was deliberately provocative and the structure of the post was playful (the aim being to take the edge off of a discussion that otherwise might be overly serious). I do realize that we are not talking about real slavery here and tried to make note of that in the conclusion. So if your concern is that, taken literally, some of the language is too strong, I don't disagree.

There is a serious point underlying the playful language, though--that the prevailing system of work calls for a level of "control" on the part of the employer that is sometimes excessive. The thrust of the post is that people should be aware of this, be concerned about it, and want to do something about it.

It's important to note that the proposed solution is not to see oneself as a victim. The wonderful thing about the Retire Early approach is that rather than giving up on finding meaning and independence in one's work or complaining about a situation without taking constructive steps to improve it, making a Retire Early plan means taking positive action to improve one's life. Those who retire early do not look to others to fix things; they analyze their circumstances and develop a creative means of fixing things themselves.

That does not, IMHO, justify demonizing employers.

I do not believe that employers as individuals should be demonized. Most employers are just long-time employees who got promoted. If I'm demonizing anything, it's a system of work that affects the lives of both employees and employers.

Even the system should not really be demonized; it works well for many people, as I noted. But the Retire Early approach promises to change things for the better for both, in my view. To point out how things could be better it is sometimes necessary to criticize what exists. Not in a mean-spirited or whiny way, I hope. But not in a mealy mouthed or tentative way either. The goal is to find a way that says what the problems are clearly without giving in to any temptations to either blame others for our troubles or to ignore the good in the system that exists.

Leaving the world of earned income does not, of course, make a person unproductive or unworthy but it raises the question. In the minds of others and in ourselves.

This is the core of the debate, in my view, and it is a big question that could be faced from several perspectives. Work gives life meaning. To suggest that it is not necessary to work imperils the thing that gives life meaning for many.

That's why my post tried to make the point that people seeking early retirement generally do not want to stop working, just to stop working for pay. Early retirement was not an option for most of human history, so the issue here is somewhat new (although elements of it have been debated intensely through the years). Coming to terms with what it really means to "retire early" is a longterm project; this post was intended as no more than a small first step in the thought process.

My main beef with the existing system is that work in many cases has lost its significance. I see the Retire Early approach not as a means of running away from the problem of unsatisfying work, but as a means of restoring significance to what we do with much of our time. There are many things that need to be done in the world but that won't be addressed by those operating from the motive of making a profit. Early retirees may in some cases be able to pick up the slack. That's the hope, anyway.

Some of this rhetoric against employers suggests that the author may not have worked out for himself all the implications of retirement....Work can be deeply fulfilling. Mine has been.

I love work. I love it enough that I want to be able to direct the work I do into a meaningful direction. Sometimes I can make use of structures already set up to make the work I do more powerful than it would be if I were working alone. Those times I enjoy the existing system of work. Sometimes, though, the existing system throws up obstacles. For those times, I want to have the ability to retire early as an option.

I'm glad you posted your thoughts. As I indicated above, my own thoughts on this subject are very much a work in progress. You gave me a lot of things to think about.

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