I work in a creative field. I am responsible for a host of logistics, and must constantly conceptualize and provide ideas that will keep our brand attractive to the industry. I really enjoy my work and being on a team where we’re encouraged to share ideas. However, though teamwork is emphasized, my coworkers and I are often so overwhelmed with our expanding list of individual tasks, that we often can’t make time to find ways to efficiently share the workload. My regular 9-5 schedule becomes long afternoons that spill into late nights. When I return home, exhausted, the workload is still not completed. Despite the fact that I’ve worked hard and beyond the agreed upon hours of my job, I find myself critical of my productivity. I catch myself conflating my value as an employee with who I am, as a person. I wonder why I can’t get things done as quickly as I am expected to. I try to fall asleep in a haze of self-flagellating feelings of worthlessness and inefficiency.
When I was a child, my mother ingrained these ideas in me: You will go to school and get good grades; you will go to college and post-graduate so you can have a strong career; you will use your career to sustain your family. These ideas were passed down from my grandmother, and they are well-meaning ideas commonly passed on from immigrant parents to their children: they are the steps you take to achieve The American Dream. The Dream has been a capitalist hook on immigrant families for a long time now. In an ironic twist, capitalist imperialism was the very reason my mother was forced to migrate and to sacrifice everything for me and my family. Now I must justify her migration and sacrifice by achieving “success” in the terms that capitalism has defined for us.
I find myself conflicted–unwilling to let my mom down, but also aware that I do not want to be another product of capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t care about anything but what you can provide, your human capital. My job didn’t care it was my birthday when I got my first promotion. It doesn’t care that I miss important milestones with friends and family to finish my daily tasks. It doesn’t care that I haven’t slept properly for the past week because I keep thinking of how I can finalize and improve my output. Our CEO doesn’t care that I skipped lunch two days in a row, while I was buried in work at my desk. Capitalism is a system that only cares about the bottom line.
If it is true that who we are is what we do, then under capitalism, who I am is what I’ve produced at work. But I know that I am more than that, and I want to be valued as more than that. We run on a treadmill that goes nowhere while capitalism dangles a reward that we’ll never achieve. This “American Dream” is unattainable and it is more of an “American Nightmare” for many workers [if they can even fall asleep at night].
Perhaps the worst part of the cycle I am locked in, is that these ideologies are so deeply instilled in my mind that I don’t know how to overcome them. I’m only aware that I am in constant struggle to break this mentality. Because our worth is not defined by how much we can produce for a capitalistic system.
We need to break these ideas, together. Yes, we all have to work. We all have bills to pay. But let’s not let our jobs suck us dry of our energy and talents. We need those resources to organize for the people’s interests.
Our work should be something that benefits us all as a collective. It’s working towards a future that seeks justice for all of us, worldwide.
Let’s build our unity, stand up and fight back against this system that will always continue to exploit us. We are weak when we are alone, but when we stand as a collective, nothing can stop us. Let’s build a movement together where we value our beliefs and break these ideologies that continue to destroy us and our world.