Who came up with your lifestyle, and what is the real reason for the forty-hour workweek

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Blogger David Kane shared interesting thoughts on the efficiency of the work schedule, modern consumer society, and other pressing issues.

“Well, here I am again in the working world. Found myself a well-paid job in the engineering industry and life is finally returning to normal after nine months of traveling.

Since I used to lead a completely different lifestyle, the sudden transition to the schedule from 9 to 5 made me think about things that I had previously lost sight of.

From the moment I was offered the job, I became noticeably more careless with my money. Not mindless, but slightly wasteful. For example, I buy expensive coffees again.

We are not talking about large and extravagant purchases. I’m talking about small, random, out-of-control spending on things that aren’t really that important in my life.

Looking back, I think I always did it when I was making good money. But for nine months I traveled, climbed, and led a completely different lifestyle, with no income.

I suppose the additional expense is dictated by my sense of my own growth. I’m a highly paid professional again, which kind of qualifies me for a certain level of extravagance. You get a curious sense of your own influence when you lay out a couple of twenty-dollar bills, bypassing critical thinking. It’s nice to use the power of the dollar when you know that spending will recover pretty soon.

There is nothing unusual in what I do. Everyone else seems to be doing the same. I just returned to my normal consumer mentality after spending some time away from it.

One of the most amazing discoveries I have made during my travels is that when traveling abroad, I spent much less in a month (including countries more expensive than Canada) than when I was at home and constantly working. I had much more free time, I visited the most beautiful places in the world, constantly met new people, did not worry about anything, had an unforgettable time, and all this cost me less than my modest life with a schedule from 9 to 5 one of the least expensive cities in Canada.

It seems like I got a lot more for my money when I traveled. But why?”

Formation of a culture of consumption, unnecessary goods or services.

Here in the West, big business has deliberately cultivated a waste-oriented lifestyle. Companies from all industries have played an important role in fostering sloppy money management in society. They encourage the habit of spending money casually or unnecessarily.

In the documentary The Corporation, a marketing psychologist discussed one of the methods she used to increase sales. Her staff investigated how effective child nagging increases the likelihood that a parent will buy the desired toy. They found that 20% to 40% of toys would have remained in the store if the child hadn’t tormented the parents with whims. Likewise, one of the four visits to the theme park would not have taken place. The results of the study were used to sell products directly to children, encouraging them to beg their parents for a purchase.

This marketing campaign alone resulted in millions of dollars worth of shoppers losing out on artificially generated demand.

“You can manipulate customers to want – and therefore buy – your products.” Lucy Hughes, co-creator of The Nag Factor.

This is just one small example of something that has been going on for a very long time. Large companies make millions not by sincerely praising the merits of their products, but by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people who buy much more than they need and try to dispel dissatisfaction with life with money.

We buy things to cheer ourselves up, to be no worse than others, to embody our childhood ideas about future adult life, to show the world our status, and for many other psychological reasons that have very little to do with the actual usefulness of the product. How many things do you have in your basement or garage that you didn’t use last year?

The real reason for the forty hour work week.

To support this kind of culture, corporations have established the 40-hour workweek as the norm. Under such conditions, workers are forced to arrange life in the evenings and on weekends. This disposes us to spend more on entertainment and convenience since there is little free time.

I returned to work just a few days ago, and already noticed how many useful things have disappeared from my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and additional writing.

All of these activities have one thing in common: they are free or low cost, but they take time.

Suddenly I had a lot more money and much less time. This means that I began to develop into a typical working North American, which was not observed several months ago. While I was abroad, I didn’t have such frequent thoughts about spending, I was walking in a national park or reading a book for hours on the beach. Now, such things are out of the question, because in such an occupation you can lose a precious day off!

The last thing I want to do when I come home is to exercise. It’s the last thing I want to do after lunch, or before bed, or right after waking up. And so every weekday.

Obviously, there is a simple solution to this problem: work less so that you have more free time. I have already made sure that I can lead a fulfilling lifestyle with less income than I have now. Unfortunately, in my industry and most others, this is nearly impossible. Either you work 40+ hours, or you don’t work at all. My clients and contractors adhere to a standard work schedule, so I cannot ask them not to ask me anything after 13:00.

The eight-hour working day was developed in the 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution in England. Before that, factory workers were exploited for 14-16 hours a day.

Thanks to advanced technologies and methods, workers in all branches of industry have gained the ability to produce much more work in a short period of time. It would be logical to expect that this will lead to a shortening of the workday.

But the 8-hour day is far too profitable for big business. The benefit is not that during this time people do a huge amount of work – the average office worker does three hours of real work in these 8 hours. But an acute shortage of free time is pushing people to pay more readily for comforts, pleasures, and whatever joys available. This keeps them from watching TV ads. This robs ambition outside of office hours.

We have come to a culture that we have developed to keep us tired, hungry, indulgent, and pay a lot for comfort and entertainment. And most importantly, vague dissatisfaction with our life persists, so we constantly desire what we do not have. We buy so much because it always seems that something else is missing.

Western countries, especially the United States, are built with desire, addiction, and unnecessary spending in mind. We spend money to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to solve problems, to raise our status, to relieve boredom.

Can you imagine what would happen if all of America stopped buying so many unnecessary things that do not bring significant and long-term benefits to our lives?

The economy would collapse and never recover.

All of America’s widespread problems, including obesity, depression, pollution, and corruption, are the price paid to build and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For an economy to be “healthy,” America must remain unhealthy.

Healthy, happy people do not feel that they need a lot of what they don’t have yet. This means they don’t buy that much junk, they don’t need that much entertainment, and they don’t stare at the commercials.

The culture of the eight-hour workday is the most powerful tool for big businesses to keep people in a state where the answer to all problems is buying something.

You may have heard of Parkinson’s Law: “Work fills the time allotted for it.” You can accomplish a surprising amount in twenty minutes. But only when you have only twenty minutes to complete the actions. If you have all day, it will most likely take longer.

Most of us feel this way about our money. The more we earn, the more we spend. This is not because we suddenly have to buy more. We spend more simply because we can afford it. In fact, it is quite difficult for people to avoid rising living standards (or at least contain spending levels) when there is an increase in income.

I don’t think you need to hide from the ugly system, settle in the woods, and pretend to be deaf and dumb, as suggested by the symbol of non-conformism, Holden Coalfield. But it is useful for us to understand what large corporations want us to be. They have worked for decades to create millions of ideal customers and they have succeeded. If you are not a real anomaly, then your lifestyle has long been planned out.

The ideal client is constantly dissatisfied, but full of hope, not interested in serious personal development, very attached to the TV, works full time, earns good money, indulges himself in his free time, and just goes with the flow.

Doesn’t it remind anyone?

Two weeks ago, I would say that this is definitely not about me. But if all my weeks became similar to the past seven days, then such an answer would be self-deception.

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