Convenience—luxury—the basking in a belated glow of ignorant ease, is made possible by armies out there embedded in the cusp of entrenched effort. They slog through ungodly tasks and hours, enduring what we would not like to think about, so that we can have what we want, when we want it, at cutthroat prices, in vast arraigned heaps of information and packaging.
Today, royalty includes vast swaths of consumers barely cognizant of their status. You, dear reader, are one of them. You are being served like a pagan deity of yore, a pound of nard for your feet and a waitstaff attending to your every vaicarious bowel movement (BM). You eat food grown, trucked, wrapped and served by ancient fossil fuels that took milleniums to become transformable into rapidly wasted high heat energy. You drive down to the market, where all you have to do to meet your meticulously calculated nutritional requirements is pick off some pre-packaged products from the shelf. You work hard for this privilege, yes: but do you work as hard as a farmer of old, the farmer who rose before dawn and worked past sundown to generate a (possible) surplus? You consider such work to be beneath you, behind you, inhumane, third world.
Do I sound critical, post-modern? Am I deconstructing the dynamics of consumerism? Let me be more clear. I think that the world of commerce and capitalism, generated off of the hard labor of man in conjunction with his machines, is just as it should be. I like to work hard. I do work hard. I work perhaps not as hard as our aforementioned farmer, but just about as hard as I can endure, with sleep deprivation, physical labor, and long hours at all times of the night and morning. I feel at times like I am a soldier, off battling enemies for a society that is barely aware that what I am doing is for their benefit. When I come home from the battlefield, no one wants to hear of my stories, nor will understand them, like Hemingway’s soldier in A Soldier’s Home. I am part of an army of people out there working extremely hard so that you and I can walk into a store and buy what we want without applying any thought to it. Providing service.
There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into providing a lifestyle of convience. And hence, an enormous amount of money to be spent and made. Such is capitalism, and this is its bounty. We can criticize it and predict its demise—ala Marx—all we want, but ultimately, this is the fabric of our economy and the defining nature of our existence, for better or for worse.
But I want to be clear about something else. I do need to whine a little bit sometimes, I need to deconstruct a little bit, critique and discern. So that I can go back to working my butt off and earning my hard-earned cash, providing my customers with the best in customer service. I begrudge no mindless consumer their complacent royalty. So don’t begrudge me my need to vent, my need to be recognized in some manner and degree. I don’t like to complain, or even to talk much about work in general. But it now defines my every sleeping and waking moment. I have to discuss it in some way, shape and form. I have to beg for some kind of empathy and understanding in the midst of the grim reality of my exhaustion.
How long can I do this? How long can I last? Like the soldier who keeps wanting to go back to the front even after his leg is blown off and his mind is frayed, there is something addictive about being pushed beyond your limitations. Something in me, the masochist ascetic who also loves running likes the fact that I am being stripped of all prior associations. Lain bare of my weaknesses, honed by a trial by fire of necessity, of everyday effort. As the trepidations of my initial newbie legs wears off, I grow ever more confidant in my capability. I can live on 4 hours of sleep. I can shed my excess body fat. I can survive on the middle of the night subway amidst sketchy perverts and petty criminals.
I am being shaped by the fires of the city. This is what it is to work. This is what it is to commute. This is what it is to mesh into movement, energy, mindlessness. The city, the compressed motion of commerce, renders us nebulous. We move in multiplicities. We are not one, we are many, defined as one by each other. We are clouds, we are spray, we are bullet points littering across the empty space, sentences to something that is unseen, organized by something beyond that could be cold, heartless, and angry, or could be warm, embracing, and loving, depending on what you make it out to be through the fog of your weary hope.