When I was 16, I cleaned a sugar factory in 100F indoor temperatures daily. When I was 17, I had three jobs (at the same time) for a while. I’d come home from one of them, change uniforms, and bolt to another. I made minimum wage (with the exception of the cleaning job), and it left my young self exhausted. I’m still convinced I have some kind of PTSD from almost daily customer confrontations in my retail position.
Why the hell did I do that to myself?
One reasons was that my parents were riding me to get into the job market. They knew that my value in the future would be based on how much I earned as an adult. So I jumped completely into the water rather than just getting my feet wet.
Looking back, my parents were pretty easy on me. They let me choose my learning path. I did my share of chores, but they didn’t treat me like an employee.
I feel some parents have kids for the sole purpose of working hard, and taking care of them when they get old. That’s more of an investment than a decision.
There’s still a strong sentiment out there that kids need to start doing chores at a young age, get a job by 15, and slug it out through college until they graduate to a high-paying job to support their family.
There’s nothing wrong with following this path. But why should our younger generations work their asses off to comply with a system they never agreed to, that’s not stacked in their favour?
Maybe it’s time we re-evaluated their direction, and our priorities.
I see many younger people hustling hard, sometimes working more than one job. Many of them are working themselves sick doing primarily service jobs for little compensation. This is to uphold our capitalist standards, so that the system wealthy people benefit from doesn’t collapse.
This is what I learned from 30 years in the workforce so far.
Our labour mostly benefits the wealthy, not us
We clearly don’t value our younger workers that much. We said we did during the pandemic, calling them “heroes” for working at grocery stores and other essential places. That was really just anxiety from corporations, fearing lost business if the low-paid staff left.
Now these same heroes are back to making the minimum wage, and they’re no further ahead. Meanwhile, companies are getting richer off their backs every day.
But create more opportunity for oneself is expensive. The average annual costs for a university student in Canada easily tops $19,000, with roughly 35% of that amount for tuition, and the rest for things like food and rent. If and when they do graduate, they’re laden with student debt, and there’s no guarantee they will land a job in their field.
(Some of the most famous people in history didn’t finish school, or got lousy grades. Learning academia gives you a solid foundation, but doesn’t necessarily help kids think outside the box.)
Then there’s the dream of a home if they work hard. While the housing market in Canada is cooling down, properties are still out of reach for many first-time buyers, even those with university-paying jobs. For example, recent numbers suggest one has to earn $240,000 a year to qualify for the average mortgage in Toronto.
Our parents had good careers and bought real estate, because it was more reasonable for them to do so at the time. However, with the cost of a home versus average wages is quickly heading off the charts, soon the only way young people will own property is if their parents have some to give them when they kick off.
Capitalism is a rigged system
We are not meant to be collectively wealthy. Being rich depends on others struggling, and that will also includes our kids who will work hard for other people. Those people will just keep accumulating wealth, even when they have everything.
What’s the point in that?
Maybe the lives of our kids shouldn’t be completely about making money and owning things. That’s still considered “success” by societal standards, but it can also leave people physically and mentally drained, with no time to enjoy the fruits of their labours.
Instead, maybe we should focus more on our kids’ quality of life. Yeah, I know, it takes money to have a decent quality of life. But that’s only because our capitalist framework makes basic necessities like food and housing expensive, and puts the onus on the populace to earn more. It also glamorizes wealth, so people get sucked into running towards the mirage.
Having skills and working hard is good and all, but we shouldn’t make it so damn difficult for average people to stay afloat. Perhaps we should further explore the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) so people can feed the economy while having more time to be human. The concept is not far-fetched, when you consider that Canada suddenly had billions of dollars available in relief funds during the height of the pandemic.
The current system tricks even the educated among us to work jobs they don’t necessarily enjoy, so they can eventually enjoy a utopia that never appears. We’re told that hard work is the key to a good life, and that can be true sometimes. But some people get a financial head start in life, and they are off experiencing real life while others use up their time labouring.
We were not born to work ourselves to death
Look, I’m not encouraging our son to be lazy. I told him if he wants the career he’s already chosen, he’s going to have to work hard for it amongst stiff competition.
I’m not saying your kids won’t have to put in the effort to fulfill their dreams. But they shouldn’t have to do it at the cost of their own well-being, while only select individuals profit. Our society needs to give everyone more space to reach their potential, not just have them work survival gigs.
I want our son to be satisfied by what he achieves, rather than by the size of his income. I want him to have a life that allows the energy to dream, to create, to explore. I don’t want him working three jobs just to prove his worth to anyone, including himself.
I don’t want him to end up as one of those 25-year gamer kids living in their parents’ basement. But also, maybe gaming isn’t such a bad thing? Maybe having more time to be with friends and family is good?
Maybe we should stop seeing living as something that interrupts work, instead of work interrupting living?
I know many people don’t have a choice but to work jobs they hate to feed their family. But wouldn’t it be nice if our hard work means our kids can live differently, without needing to be wealthy? To put the value more on people over profits? To collectively work toward bigger goals, instead of hoarding resources?
Maybe it’s all a pipe dream, and the cycle of servitude will continue until humanity ceases to exist. But just because our grandparents sweat in a factory for below minimum wage, our parents worked long hours often without vacations, and we ourselves have pushed ourselves to the limits — doesn’t mean our kids have to. We should treat them like the kids they are, not future employees of the household that will one day pay the bills.
Children should be allowed to exist in a world that doesn’t require endless labour while accepting scraps from upper society. Humans are amazing creatures, and we exist for more than repetitive work. We need to break the class system that only benefits the lucky few.
It’s time to tap into our true collective potential, for a better future for all.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
|Compliments Men Want to Hear More Often||Relationships Aren’t Easy, But They’re Worth It||The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex||..A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything|
Photo credit: Filip Urban on Unsplash