Happy labour day! It is a controversial title especially for jobless people out there and for grateful workers who still have a job in spite of the lockdown. In fact, digging deeper to the concept of labour, one can tell that the alteration of labour in our understanding had led to an alteration in the concept of freedom. How did we become modern slaves?
The word freedom comes from libertas. In Ancient Rome, a liber meant a free man who is not a slave. So, back then, slavery and freedom were legal statuses. Fast forward many centuries later, with the outcome of the Industrial Revolution (19th century), labour became a social, legal, political and philosophical theme. Therefore, labour is a recent concept, born with the evolution of society. Since then, with the progressive abolition of slavery and monarchies in Europe, everybody was working. Freedom as a concept was understood as financial independence.
Alongside the new concepts of both labour and freedom, capitalism (especially in its industrial form) encouraged ambition conceived as wealth which was not a bad thing. The bad thing happened later, when capitalism turned to become consumerism and a financial capitalism. Simply put, loans and massive production turned the world population into forever indebted to banks and states. Freedom as a concept both in its old and new understanding, became an illusion. Adding to this, the new virtual surveillance of online work.
Charles Bukowski said it better:
How in the hell, could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 am by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where you essentially made lots of money for somebody else and asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?
in Factotum, 1975
Happy labour day everybody!