Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sweat Equity (a morning's ramble)

Sweat Equity is a term used in startup land. It means how it sounds - founders and shareholders can bring money, or they can bring expertise and effort to buy into an enterprise - their sweat, so to speak, and sometimes, literally.

What if the enterprise is life?

Each life is a series of hours that are for sale. I can use those hours however I like, sell them or not, but in order to live as a functioning member of the society in which I find myself, I am forced to sell some to people willing to give me money in exchange for my expertise and effort. If I don't use my hours to buy into anything solid that I own a piece of, but rather sell them for money that is used for my daily consumption, that's called a job.

Some of my hours can't be for sale. These are the hours I invest in what matters to me. I invest them in a healthy body by doing things like eating well, sleeping enough, staying fit, spending time in nature, giving and receiving touch. I invest them in building relationships with my spouse, children, friends, family, colleagues, and other people in my life. I invest them in maintaining my household free of pests, in good repair, considerate to neighbours. I invest them in staying alive and pursuing happiness and peace. How many of those hours I have to invest depends entirely on how many are left after I sell the ones I need to sell in order to pay for the shelter, food, transportation, and other costs associated with living life in society.

Often, responsibilities to others erode or eclipse investments in a healthy body, which is the base foundation for being alive. Just like we kill the Earth for the Economy, when the Earth is the base foundation. It's crazy, but our whole society has conditioned us to this crazy as the only possible reality. Questioning it is considered dangerous.

To put our sweat equity back into our lives, we would need to put a bubble around the time required for our healthy bodies, healthy relationships, and healthy communities. Realistically, if a person were to live according to the advice, do the shopping and cooking required for healthy, plant-heavy, organic-based, locally-sourced meals, exercise for heart and lung health, stretch and engage physio for specific injuries and strains or body anomalies, spend time as a family and time one-on-one with each important person in our lives, read and better ourselves professionally, participate in community volunteerism, help our neighbours out, and sleep 8+ hours every night, we wouldn't have enough hours left to work full time. That's the sad reality of the society and work expectations we've built. It is not possible to work full time and take proper care of your body, relationships and society. That's why everyone is so stressed out and angry over stupid things. That's why everyone is limiting themselves to easy answers, quick fixes and flip judgments.

I feel lucky that most of the time, I am now able to structure my paid work time to let me pursue my well-being in a serious way, even if I can't always achieve it. Most people are not so lucky. A full time job owns your time, you are forced to sell those hours even if, this week, you'd rather not. And lacking a full time job is even worse, if you depend on it for your living. It's a root cause of suffering in our society, which leads to costs - policing, courts, mental health intervention, preventable medical expenses associated with stress and other factors. And it's not sustainable. This is a conversation no politicians are having, and it concerns me.

The time is coming when we won't need all these humans in jobs. It's important for us to think about how we will handle that. Will we let swaths of our population languish in shame and boredom, anger and guilt, fear and scarcity? We could start reducing work weeks without reducing salaries now, so that we have a couple of decades to ease people out of relying solely on an employment wage to cover the costs of their lives. A couple of decades for the profiteers to adjust their models to make it worthwhile to do business in a society that demands a higher minimum standard for its citizens. To decide as a society what our healthy minimum well-being standards look like. First, we need to decide that's a goal, to reduce the work week, focus people on self-care and care of each other and this place, and prepare for a future where society sets the minimums rather than allowing profiteers to drive them to ever-new lows.

But before society can even think about setting a goal, we ourselves need to know that we deserve it, so we can ask for it. We need to realize that the only purpose of society, economy, and government, is to enable the well-being of citizens. That's all. That's the only reason for all of this. So if anyone is not able to pursue well-being, the system is not serving its purpose. We can say, I require enough time to pursue the best human knowledge of what creates well-being: eating well, sleeping well, having good sanitation and safe shelter, and taking care of my body, mind, spirit, relationships, community, country and planet. Those responsibilities of citizenship are worth something to everyone in society. Regardless of employment, I need to know I can maintain that minimum. It's not "entitlement" to think that society should strive to provide a minimum dignity in exchange for participation. We know we can. The money is in the system, it's just hoarded at the top. We're brainwashed to want the worst for each other and ourselves, to think that's all that's possible. It's not.

We will have no choice but to change. I'd like to see us choose a direction that remembers why we're doing all this work in the first place. A system that lets people choose to put more sweat equity into well-being and peaceful co-existence. This has not been finalized as the goal of humanity, but I think we would be better off if it were. At least we could start turning the ship.