The flawed premise of modernity - of work and vacation

You come upon a fork in the road. One road is a well-maintained cobblestone path, while the other is a dirth path with overgrown trees. Which road do you take?

What you should really be asking is:

  • Why are those the only choices?
  • Can I not cut my own path?

There came a time where we found ourselves enslaved to powers that be, whether they were lords or CEOs of a fortune 500 company. And in the attempt to win our freedom, we won something much more valuable, vacation time.

Vacation was awarded to us as a means to distract us from recognizing the reality of what was really happening around us: our time is being taken away.

For the majority of people, when it comes to the topic of work, they don’t question why they must work. It is taken for granted because it is obvious to them that work is a means to provide for themselves. Given this narrow framing, it then becomes obvious that to win time, they can do so through earning more vacation. This, I propose, is the flawed premise of modernity.

Modern society has been constructed in a way where all human life centers around the idea of work, therefore, work as a requirement becomes the basis upon which we build; as such, concepts like “vacation” are value-adds on top of work. However, work in this fashion is an artificial concept, a consequence of the form that modern society takes. Consider the kind of work that nomadic tribes have; they certainly don’t like ideas such as vacation.

If we consider the comparison to nomadic tribes, we can further tease out similarities between tasks they need to perform for their own survival and comparable tasks in our lives. I think we can say that a majority of their tasks are essentially the equivalent to what we call “chores”. If that is the case, then what we would call “work” should only take up a fraction of our day; yet it takes up the majority of our day.

Our time is effectively being stolen. Then it’s reframed in such a way that it seems like we won time by getting vacation. This framing puts external entities in control of our time rather than it being time that we grant to others. And as long as society continues to operate under this framing, we will always not be in control of our own time.

For those who retire young or founders who sold their startups, the reality is that they won time by working in the confines of the existing system to steal time from others. The system is zero sum, so as long as one gets enough time to retire early, then that means the time came from somewhere else. This is the danger of winning within a given system. If the system was constructed to take advantage of people, then even a win resulted in people taken advantage of. So, even touting the idea of retiring early is actively perpetuating a system that is undesireable.