I recently saw a meme on social media from a friend about how backwards it is for us humans to work inside in offices under fluorescent lights. I’ve seen several variations of this meme over the years from people I know who live in small town America. I want to workshop this concept because work in a skyscraper in a cubicle under fluorescent lights, but also because I am in the Contrafabulist business, I want to understand, explore, and call out what lies behind these stories.
Sometimes I just see the memes floating in Facebook space as recommended content, but I also see these anti work, office, city, and corporate memes from people I grew up with and have known personally at certain points in my life. I tend to use these situations as a sort of mirror to look at the world, but also understand how far I’ve come in my journey. I like to step back into the past and understand how I might view myself now, but also help me understand and unpack the stories I was susceptible to back in the day, and the programming still unpacking today.
I hate having a job. I loathe working for the man. I’ve long been susceptible to anti-capitalist messages, and ultimately a believer that we find ourselves in the later, more unhealthier stages of a very toxic way of operating the world—capitalism. I’ve read Capital by Karl Marx. I also work for Bloomberg in midtown Manhattan. I also have worked for a number of venture backed startups. I get the reason you would want to be against all of this, and just avoid it. It makes life easier. Or it appears to. I find myself fascinated by the inner workings of it all. I am drawn in by the lull of the gears that operate all of this. I can’t help it.
It is effortless to share memes about living in big cities far away and working in cubicles. It is easy. I would love a job where I work outdoors, or just be independently wealthy and do whatever I want. However, like most other folks I need to make ends meet. I also like to live a certain quality of life. I also find myself needing stimulation, specifically of the intellectual variety. I don’t necessarily need to have a lot of friends around me, and tight social circles, but I do like to surround myself with smart and interesting people. I also like to be going to things that are happening at libraries, in the theater, and culturally. I am also fascinated by how capitalism and our government works, or often times doesn’t work.
I agree, many cubicle jobs suck. I’ve had many. However, I also am really grateful for mine. My cubicle gets me access to a lot of really smart people and really big ideas to wrap my brain around. I don’t just look forward to working because I get paid well, I look forward because I get to tackle some seriously big problems. I like trying to tackle and solve big abstract problems. I like having access to people who are smarter than I am. I like having access to meeting rooms with big white boards full of smart people trying to solve big problems. This is something that makes my world go around, keeps my overactive brain busy, while paying the bills, but is something that would be foreign to my younger self.
My overactive brain is one of the reasons I did drugs as a youngster. I was bored, very bored in a small town. I don’t think that this is something that people see when they diminish living in a big city and working for a corporation in a cubicle. I get it. It is more than distance that divides the two realities. I don’t fault anyone for punching up at corporations—-it is needed. I just think that maybe we aren’t always thinking about the kids around us and how they’ll see things, and truly investing in the future they’ll want. That they’ll need big problems to work on, and maybe they can change how work happens in this world, shifting us out of the corporate man, Information Age fluorescent flickering impression so many folks have about our jobs.
I am all for challenging corporations. However, I’ve also gotten enough of a taste of the scope of problems we have in this world, and acknowledge we will need large private and public enterprises to solve these problems. We need these people working together, often in the same room to move the needle. Let’s keep questioning the reality we’ve collectively created, but I think the social memes about us all devolving in a cubicle under the fluorescent lights are more about your insecurities and what you didn’t do with your life, than it is about sticking it to the man. Otherwise you’d be out here working to change things, being the change you want to see in the world, not just doing nothing in a small town.