Yesterday I was talking to someone I work with about why “re-entry” after a vacation can be so psychically difficult, and what can be done to assuage that. My theory was—well, let’s just say she suggested I open a side practice in Marxist Therapy (TERRIBLE IDEA—I couldn’t charge!).
Want to hear it? Here it goes.
The first step in not being overwhelmed by a return to work—as someone who currently works three jobs, I guess trust me?—is to come to terms with the fact that as a worker, you are eminently replaceable. This is actually something insufferable tea-party bigot and Grade-A Fuckface Matt Walsh said in a recent post about stay-at-home moms that inexplicably went viral with my progressive friends last week. This is a guy who believes that the Benghazi tragedy was a multi-level conspiracy, that Pres. Obama is 100% at fault for the government shutdown, that there is such a thing as a “billion-dollar abortion industry,” that there is such a thing as rampant “black-on-white hate crime,” and that everyone on food stamps is stealing from him. He is—you know what? I’m going to stick with Grade-A Fuckface because it’s been a tough week and I can’t think of anything better.
Anyway, I begrudgingly admit that he made a few salient points in what was otherwise a post full of patriarchal claptrap, barely-disguised homophobia and general tea-party smugness, the most important of which is this: at any job where you receive a salary, you can be replaced. Will your replacement be exactly like you? No, but who cares (and, sometimes, yes). Where you cannot be replaced is—to un-heteronormify Walsh—with your loved ones (he says: “as a mother”).
If my colleague Dan took my classes for the next three weeks, there might be some grumbling for the first fifteen minutes, and then nobody would care. For me to think, I AM IRREPLACEABLE AS A PROFESSOR! is the mark of a tremendous amount of delusion—especially because I am an adjunct, the very definition of expendability. But what if I decided I didn’t want to be me anymore, and I sent Dan home to my husband? Dan might be able to boil three sweet potatoes and mash them up with raisins (my definition of “vegan gourmet cooking”), but it is possible that my husband would not like being superseded for House’s Best/Only Beard. Walsh is correct to say that when parents abdicate their duties (he says “mothers” because he is a patriarchal fuckface), entire families collapse, childhoods are thrown asunder, etc.
Why, then, do so many people take for granted their indispensability at home, and yet seek it out, desperately and deludedly (and to no avail), at a place where the very act of being remunerated for your labor makes it very clear that you are not indispensible? That you are part of an exchange, a circulation, a Kreislauf (for you Germanists out there) of exchanging compensation for goods or services? That the running of that Kreislauf is not at all contingent upon any of its particular members’ particularities, but simply that they are present in circulation at all?
This is actually why Walsh is such a goon—he says, in his correct attempt to explain that people mistakenly view compensated labor as “important” and uncompensated labor as “unimportant,” that those who do must have read that in the Communist Manifesto. Actually, dipshit, the Manifesto says the opposite: that Capitalism destroys and remakes the family in its own image, as a relative amount of potential income. Marry, because then you’ll have two incomes from that factory. Don’t have a kid, because then you’ll lose one income…until you can put that kid to work, and then you’ll have three! Family=earning potential. IN CAPITALISM. So yes, I suppose that idea is in the Manifesto, but it is the object of Marx and Engels’ critique, not their adulation. But Matt Walsh probably believes that reading Marx on purpose will cause Lucifer himself to emerge from the Ninth Circle, and fasten one of his pus-dripping mouths directly onto Matt Walsh’s cock (can you tell I am still teaching Dante? OH YOU CAN?).
Still, though, once you strip away the patriarchal righteousness and functional illiteracy, Walsh’s point stands: the place you are indispensable is at home (I would replace his “stay-at-home mothers” with “stay-at-home parents of any gender”); the place where you are very much dispensable is at work. So the first step in letting go of work-related stress is to realize this: my place in the Capitalist Kreislauf is just that. I am but a cog in a larger system primarily designed to keep me down. I can stay or go, but in the end it will make very little difference to other people, and this is true from the lowliest Custodial Engineer (a job I have had!) to the highest-ranking CEO. Steve Jobs, Patron Saint of Objectivism, has entered the transcendental Cloud, and yet Apple soldiers on. Whatever shitty bank Jamie Dimon is in charge of will continue to have big dumb piles of Scrooge McDuck money when he’s gone (and how impressed is everyone that I know that person’s name? Just me? Yeah, probably).
But nobody wants to believe this about themselves. Everyone wants to think: if I don’t go to work tomorrow, it will matter to someone, over and above my salary. People are counting on me. And therein lies the mistake: they’re not counting on you; they’re counting on whoever has your job.
Indispensability at work is a delusion, but it is a very important one that most of us (me included) maintain, because without it, then the craven reality of our participation in a rigged system becomes manifest, fatis become amor’d, and pretty soon it’s just ECCE NIHILISM (and yes, I realize that not a single use of Latin in the past sentence has been correct). I don’t think a society with a majority of people cranked up to Full Early Nietzsche would be ideal either, so in many ways (really most ways) the perpetuation of this delusion is in not only our own best interests, but those of our fellow man as well.
And yet, I think it would do us some good to remember our occupational dispensability, because our time and attention are zero-sum situations. The less time we spend caring about work in our time off the clock, the more time we can spend caring about the important things—by which, of course, I mean catching up on Nashville and Scandal. Why, what did you think I meant?