You Don’t Hate Mondays, You Hate Capitalism
It’s six a.m. on the first day of the work week, and your alarm pulls you out of a deep, incomplete sleep. As you enter consciousness, it hits you – the too-familiar feeling of dread. You’re already looking forward to going back to bed when you get home. Not just because you’re tired. Because from the moment you wake up, your day belongs to your job.
There’s a reason why this is a universal feeling among Americans. We spend 70 percent of the week working, just to recuperate in the remaining 30 percent. It’s why the quietly desperate “TGIF” and “hump day” are normalized phrases and why college grads fear “adulting.” Modern jobs are so demanding that Wednesday is a necessary halfway mark and Friday symbolizes freedom. We have accepted these conditions as reality, but it is only reality under capitalism.
The reason the work day is eight hours long and not more is thanks to the mobilization of labor unions during the Industrial Revolution. Plenty of research suggests that even eight hours is unhealthy when applied to modern jobs, but the number has remained unchanged since then. Today companies require employees to squeeze more and more into those eight hours (time, effort, mental energy). It is understandably exhausting.
It is not only the quantity of work that is soul-crushing, but the quality. Part of our disdain for our jobs is because they’re alienating. Karl Marx described four kinds of alienation. The first is alienation from the product. We are not passionate about the product we sell because we have little influence over its creation. Our jobs offer little satisfaction because we peddle products that are not our own, for a company run by people we have never met.
The second is alienation from the process. Many jobs involve boring, repetitive tasks. This type of work is not stimulating, and can actually be harmful to mental health. Although we can technically quit at any time, we need our jobs to make ends meet, especially with housing prices at an all-time high. This puts us in a position where work feels coercive because it is unsatisfying, yet obligatory.
Another is alienation from coworkers, which brings a whole other meaning to “Don’t talk to me till I’ve had my coffee.” Jobs that require us to fill a quota, or pay by commission, foster a competitive environment. Although humans are naturally communal creatures, capitalism is inherently individualistic. Rather than spending time working toward a common goal, these jobs encourage individual material wealth.
Similarly, capitalism alienates us from ourselves. The time we devote to work takes away the opportunity to fulfill our potential as human beings. The more time we spend working, the less we have to establish our identities. It takes time away that could be spent on creative outlets, and maintaining our mental health.
Marx is not the best, nor the only authority on the subject, and he was racist. But his work does help provide people who hate their jobs (and don’t know why) with the language to express it.
He may as well have based his prediction of late-stage capitalism on modern day America. Marx predicted that it would make the poor poorer and the rich richer. In fact, it has created a class division so wide that “the top one percent of one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent.” That wealth spills over into the public sphere as industries buy out politicians so they vote in their favor. The resulting legislation reflects the interests of business, not public welfare. And that is just in our privileged, American bubble.
American capitalism bleeds over into developing countries. To amass as much wealth as we do, American businesses cut costs by outsourcing products from other countries. These product are cheap because workers in those countries are paid little to nothing. Read: sweat shops. The effects of alienation are felt ten-fold, with even fewer opportunities in those countries to find work. Maquiladoras in Mexico often work 16-hour shifts in factories where sexual harassment is rampant, and are forced to live in government-subsidized slums. The spread of unethical work practices in Mexico can be directly traced to the North American Free Trade Agreement. In countries like China, suicide rates among factory workers are sky-high.
We might consider ourselves lucky here in the America that human rights are a basic workplace requirement; in fact, the States are not immune from the horrors of sweat shops. It is unnecessary to compare trauma between countries; my point is that American capitalism perpetuates this trauma wherever it spreads, its purpose being to make top executives filthy rich. Jeff Bezos? Enough money to buy a house for every homeless person in America and still have $19.2 billion leftover. Meanwhile, his employees live in poverty.
Knowing its wide reach, it is no wonder even people with cushy jobs feel the side effects of this system, even if on a minor scale. People who find themselves dissatisfied should vote for politicians with clean campaign endorsements. Read the news critically. Read advertisements critically. Seek out employment with companies that don’t fall under the umbrella of massive conglomerates, and that aren’t run by CEOs who make substantially more than their employees. Choose an industry that aligns with your moral compass and allows you to follow your passion. Travel to countries who do it differently and ask people why they are happier.