Working harder won’t set you free

I came a cross a tweet the other day that riled me up. It’s not like that’s a particularly uncommon occurrence, but usually tweets that piss me off come from Donnie Boy or one of the other right-wing sadists working to enrich themselves while screwing over the American people. This time, though, the tweet was from a man named Nathan Hubbard, the former CEO of Ticketmaster and a bigwig at Twitter.

The tweet reads:

“Whatever you’re hustling for, take note: most people/companies are shut down until ‘18. That means you get 2 extra weeks to outwork your competition. That’s 3.8% more time. For perspective: Usain Bolt won his gold medals running 1.2% faster. These 2 weeks are a gift. Get to work.”

I am all about hard work. I love what I do because I get to create funny and beautiful things while also keeping my community informed about important happenings. And, doing so, I work my ass off. Hell, I work pretty much every day. That said, Hubbard’s tweet is absolute garbage. And I let him know.

My response:

“Dear god man! We already have the least amount of vacation time of any developed nation. We work ourselves to the bone without unions to protects us & many of us work 1099 jobs. It took centuries for working people to win the right to leisure. We all deserve to fuck off for a bit.”

I’m not the only one who felt this way. Hundreds of people responded to his tweet in a similar tenor. Some used direct quotes from Usain Bolt about the importance of taking time off for rest; others completely dragged Hubbard.

“The Twitter profile says ‘Dad of 3’ but the tweet says ‘don’t spend time with family during the holidays,’” wrote Matt Duff (@mattcantstop).

Hubbard’s tweet obviously struck a nerve. The vast majority of Americans are overworked, underpaid and don’t receive nearly the amount of benefits they deserve. Ever since Ronald Reagan used the office of the president to break the Air Traffic Controllers strike in 1981, the right has been waging a very successful war against organized labor. Nearly 40 years later, and with much of organized labor gone, nobody is looking out for the well-being of American workers.

This has allowed for the proliferation of contract employment, meaning more and more people are working to make companies like TaskRabbit and Uber insanely profitable without being treated like actual employees. They are working more hours to pay for health insurance, which work doesn’t provide them, and which the government and the insurance companies are making harrowingly unaffordable. Plus, they don’t get any paid time off.   

On top of that, many of these same companies are investing heavily in robotics, artificial intelligence and automation; eventually, the contract jobs that do exist will be done by robots and computers in the next decade or two. People are literally working themselves out of a job.

While part of the solution would be Universal Basic Income, we also have a collection of jackals running the country who are pushing a tax bill that would hurt most working people and give the wealthy absurd tax breaks. They’d rather get an STD than give Americans a UBI.

So, tell us to work harder. Say it! Tell us that despite the odds being heavily stacked against most Americans, everything will work out for us if we just work harder.

I can see why it would be easy to think this if, like Hubbard, you’re a straight white man who went to both Stanford and Princeton. The amount of privilege all of that affords is boundless, so much so that he may not even fully realize the extent of it. I’m not saying Hubbard didn’t work hard to get where he’s at, but there are tens of millions of Americans who’ve worked just as hard or harder just to survive. Telling them to work harder — while you’re in Hawaii “hustling to lose five pounds” — is tone-deaf and absurd.

For the vast majority of the world, work doesn’t set you free. It just makes your boss richer.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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