Thursday, May 30, 2013

Can a man not working long hours get paid a lot? Yes, I can!

Consider this excerpt:
For upper-middle class men, notes sociologist Michèle Lamont, ambition and a strong work ethic are "doubly sacred. . . as signals of both moral and socioeconomic purity. Elite men's jobs revolve around the work devotion schema, which communicates that high-level professionals should "demonstrate commitment by making work the central focus of their lives" and "manifest singular 'devotion to work,' unencumbered with family responsibilities," to quote sociologist Mary Blair-Loy. ... How do the elite signal to each other how important they are? "I am slammed" is a socially acceptable way of saying "I am important." Fifty years ago, Americans signaled class by displaying their leisure: think banker's hours (9 to 3). Today, the elite — journalist Chrystia Freeland calls them "the working rich" — display their extreme schedules. 
Think about the professionals you know who are in that elite stratosphere.  (I know you, reader, are not one. Because, if you were, you would not have the time to read this post.  Elementary, my dear Watson!)  They are uber-busy, right?  Awfully packed schedules. Always on the go.  You will be lucky if you can get five minutes of their undivided attention.

We have turned the very idea of being rich upside down: we used to think that being rich meant that you had all the time in the world because you didn't have to work at all.  Now, it turns out that being rich means to boast that you have no time at all.

And, there is an unending rush, a long line, to join that elite club.

What's the deal?
It's not productivity. It's not innovation. It's identity. If you've lived a life where holidays are a nuisance, where you've missed your favorite uncle's funeral and your children's childhoods, in a culture that conflates manly heroism with long hours, it's going to take more than a few regressions to convince you it wasn't really necessary, after all, for your work to devour you.
It's identity.  I work, therefore I am.  I work incredibly long hours, therefore I am.  I am tempted to believe that it is not merely the money that motivates this extreme work schedule, but it is very much the identity.  Like the character that George Clooney played in Up in the Air.

I doubt that Max Weber would have ever imagined such an extreme version of the Protestant Ethic.  These rich are, ironically, not in the leisure class anymore!

I have a different version of identity: the good ol' I think, therefore I am.

In this identify, work is a 24x7 commitment.  Thinking is a lot of work.  Sometimes I wish I didn't think.  I worry that I overthink. I even wonder whether I am thinking in my sleep.

But, despite that intense 24x7 schedule, my calendar is always wide open.  Ask my neighbor who jokes all the time that he has never seen me at work.  You want to meet with me?  Say when, and pay for my plane ticket and I can be there.  It is not any BFD, to use Joe Biden's language!

I don't get paid for the 24x7 thinking work that I do.

Well, not in dollars.

I get paid a lot in so many other ways.  For one, I get to interact with you, dear reader.  Did you already know that you are a reward for my thinking?  Yes, without you, I will be infinitely poorer and I don't want to slide into that poverty.

There are plenty of payments that I receive, every single day.  Earlier today, on my way to the physical therapy appointment (now, that is an expense item, not a reward!) I flashed the hazard lights to warn the cars behind and came to a stop.

To collect a payment; this one:

Yes, it is an annual payment I receive for the long hours I work thinking.

And you thought I don't work long hours and that I earn pittance.  Now you know.


Shachi said...

We have a pond at work and many geese/goslings are found there....and you can see them carefully crossing the road next to the pond daily. Everyone stops and admires them. Sometimes they post pics like these on the intranet. It's lovely!

Mike said...

56 Hrs last week. 40 teaching and 16 tutoring.

75 scheduled for this week. 40 Teaching 17 tutoring and the rest tending bar.

Note time spent on course work for Geo 518 not included :)

116 hours in one week of farming is my PR.

I am sure the intent of your post was not to condone such misguided masculinity. But there it is....

Ramesh said...

Oh yes, its all a question of identity. One of the counselors, I know, often creates extreme discomfort for people asking "Who are you". You would be amazed the number of times, the answer is "I am Senior Manager of this or that".

The real tragedy is that much of this "work" in the business world, where most people are employed anyway, is absolutely futile and useless activity.

Sriram Khé said...

The sight of those birds and the young ones is such a reward, right, Shachi? Enjoy them.

Hey, Mike, ease up on that gas pedal, dude. You have another 70 to 80 years to take care of things ... on the other hand, if you are looking for more stuff, a couple of rooms at my place need badly need painting ;)

Yes, it is a tragedy is what I too think, Ramesh, when people identify themselves only in terms of their work. And that too their work status. Often, at any social gathering, the question that follows after we introduce ourselves by our names is "what do you do?"
The older I get, the more I think it is bizarre. Thanks to that Caddyshack line, I am always tempted to say "I am a ditch digger." But, dammit, I am way too polite to say such things--I blame my mother for that ;)

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