Jobs are jails

An unfortunate fact of modern life: we have replaced callings with jobs and careers.

“Jobs” are things you attend where other people tell you what to do. In order to insure that you do not become too valuable to replace, your task will be broken down into simple steps and highly isolated fields of “expertise.” The result is apocalyptic boredom.

“Careers” are designed to convince you that a string of jobs equals a purpose. There’s a nod and a wink here, which is you recognizing that you’re disposable, and so seeing the “career” — the job of having jobs of the type you like, and hopefully moving up the ladder — as more important than the company you’re now working for.

In contrast, a calling was a skill and the ability to run a business around it. If you were a cobbler, a blacksmith, a teacher, a stonemason, an armorer, a priest or a farmer, you were an independent businessperson producing actual value.

This was distinct from the commercial class, who took the products of your labor and traded them around and spiced them up, making great profit from the cityfolk. For example, if you were a country spinner, and made fine cloth and sewed it into clothes, a city merchant might add a crocheted, stylized flower and call it a new design.

We can’t even relate to what kind of world that was. Today you tumble out of bed as a youngster, and then get shuffled through a series of grades until they find the right funnel to drop you in, and then pour you down it. You then find a job, and they spruce that up into a career so you have something to talk about at cocktail parties.

Everyone knows but few will say the obvious: very little of each day goes to actual work. The rest is mostly activities to include others, such as meetings or group projects. There’s exciting paperwork. There’s waiting on coworkers. There’s goofing off. At the end of the day, an hour of real work has occurred.

In the meantime, from the top of the cycle to the bottom, everyone is fairly miserable. The rich hate the way they are slaves to their jobs, but can’t stop. The demi-professional middle classes are terrified of losing their jobs or even worse, not rising. Everyone else just hangs on.

One ugly side-effect of this is crushing boredom, frustration, resentment and a thirst for oblivion. People run out of the offices and fly screaming into the sports stadiums. They don’t care what the beer costs. Smash the brain, pound it flat, make it stop sending back signals of misery.

They take it out on their kids too. Either they’re typical suburban dads, who are never around and when they are need to be (a) drunk or (b) zoned out and thus are “too busy” to toss a football around with the whiny kid, or they go the direct but less damaging route and beat their children bloody.

The cycle goes on and on. What can we do? First we have to look at the problem of modern jobs: they are designed to be interchangeable parts and thus are geared toward morons, and so must be boring. Even worse, the competition is fierce because there’s always someone worse off than you who wants to spend more hours “working” for lower pay than you get. To reverse that:

  • Halve the workforce. Get women back into the home. If they don’t have families, let them live with their parents. Very few of them want to be in the workplace, but they’ve been programmed by media to consider their disposable jobs “important.” Yet few succeed and none thrive, ending up instead bitter old maids. In the meantime, men come to hate them, because women are natural detail-maniacs, which drives men up a wall since someone who is always in detail mode will never know when to skip a detail.
  • Increase loyalty. Bring back the pension and the cumulative benefits. Encourage people to spend 20-30 years at a company. Get rid of do-nothing federal programs that pretend to take over this function. Perhaps allow greater employee vesting in 401k plans. If you’re getting matching funds to a percentage of the number of the years you’d been at the firm, you might stick around.
  • Deport immigrants. Our entire workforce is being shoved upward because we keep importing ludicrously cheap workers to do our construction and agriculture job. Forget that; replace them with traditional Americans. While no one doubts that illegal aliens work hard, they take frequent breaks and quality control is terrible — our construction industry became mediocre overnight. But even worse was that the immigrants displaced many people, and forced them into administrative or sales jobs that they’re not qualified for, and thus are botching.
  • Stop being nice. If Jimmy is smarter than Johnny, say it. You don’t need to say it to his face. Stop pretending that everyone can do every job if they just attend the right series of two week do-nothing training sessions. Put Jimmy on top and keep Johnny on the floor. Our bureaucracies murder themselves by promoting the incompetent.

These politically incorrect suggestions are sure to shock, horrify, and abjectly nauseate our readers. Hold that thought — savor it and relish just how disgusted you are. Now when you go back to your job in the morning, you’ll be able to compare your disgust at these suggestions to your drear misery and see which is worse.

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60 Responses to “Jobs are jails”

  1. crow says:

    What’s wrong with me?
    Why am I not disgusted and nauseated?
    Maybe I need counseling.
    Or something.

  2. 1349 says:

    but they’ve been programmed by media to consider their disposable jobs “important.”

    I need reprogramming techniques.
    Some young women i know say being at home is boring…

    • Ryan says:

      tell them to look at a norman rockwell painting maybe?

    • Some young women i know say being at home is boring…

      Spits out drink, howls at screen.

      And they think a job is less boring?

      Introduce them to the art of classical Europe, the idea of the nuclear family, and a reverence for children and love. Their problem is that they are bitter. They do not believe life has anything good in store for them. So they invent the fiction that if they at least have money and power, they’re not so bad off. Of course, that’s going in the wrong direction… but that seems to be what the power structure wants.

  3. Ted Swanson says:

    Our apocalypse will be a boring one!

    The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Boredom, Malaise, Comfort, Petty Squabble (Petty Squabble is our version of War)


  4. […] Brett Stevens: “Jobs” are things you attend where other people tell you what to do. In order to insure that […]

  5. John says:

    You’re dead on with this. Thus, the ever increasing appeal of escapism. The modern human is desperate for any shred of meaning in his life.

    • Ryan says:

      exactly great point, and Thanks for this Mr. Stevens i’ve been waiting for this one for a while! washing dishes for money is the most atomizing thing ever, you can feel yourself becoming a gear, the older workers broken and worn and you, all new and happy being pushed in to relieve them, it is terrifying, where is St. benedict?

  6. Milo says:

    Callings are so de-valued nowadays, that even those of us who have one still need some kind of “job” to make ends meet. Or find a mate with a “career.”

  7. Jon says:

    Robotic humanoids: future technology will exchange entertainment for labor. By hooking your brain up directly to an electronic programming device, your body can perform menial labor tasks all the while thinking you’re actually watching the latest Romantic Comedy movie or playing the latest video game! Yay we can finally beat China!

  8. ferret says:

    “At the end of the day, an hour of real work has occurred.”

    No. It’s much worse: you are working non-stop 24/7 if you are, say, a programmer. You are doing it on a sub-conscious level.

    “Forget that; replace them with traditional Americans.”

    I guess, you mean native Americans, since all others are immigrants. It would be fun to see how native Americans replace all American workforce.

    “there’s always someone worse off than you who wants to spend more hours “working” for lower pay than you get.”

    It is a part of market, it is a part of competition, it is a part of natural selection. Are you trying to say that Capitalist economy is possible without competition, having profit, and so on?

    Looks like you were reading K. Marx recently, though not very thoroughly.

    • CorkyAgain says:

      “Forget that; replace them with traditional Americans.”

      I guess, you mean native Americans, since all others are immigrants.

      No, let’s not go down that rat-hole and start arguing about who was here first.

      Instead, let’s acknowledge that the place to begin is to aim at employing the people who are already here and who already have citizenship. Yes, that includes some recent arrivals who some of us might wish had been kept out. But that’s no reason to let even more of them in to compete for the few job openings we have.

      • Ryan says:

        he meant WHITE americans if you want to be reductionist, he was just being PC and polite, “american civilization” is a European enlightenment liberal manifestation, the natives were here, sure, but, A) they are basically assimilated at this point. and B) they did not create a hegemonic industrialized nation-state with a conveniant ideology in which a middle class developed, and could have a say (ideally).

        • Ryan says:

          in the case of europe, just “corking” off immigration is not going to solve the difference in birth rates, that is something “traditional americans” are usually thinking about.

        • ferret says:

          he meant native Americans living in reservations at the moment. he was sarcastic: which exactly tradition should be kept?

      • Ouroboros says:

        And the Natives came over the bering straight

        they’re immigrants too

  9. TStron says:

    Pretty good stuff. The four suggestions are a step in the right direction but I feel they may not be enough. I think you would end up with many people in jobs free of immigrants and woman, that provide great pensions, promote competent people without regard to feelings and yet still be bored as hell because you are on a production line doing the same damn thing for hours and hours day after day.

    In promoting pensions you might also help reduce the workforce in allowing people to retire earlier. This is a problem now as many have postponed retirement because their 401k took a huge nose dive.

    I would also not assume no woman thrives in the workforce. Believe it or not some woman are more competent in their jobs than some men. Yet, our society might benefit from our children being raised by their actual parents instead of day care providers who charge a small fortune for their services.

  10. Cantillon says:

    Some thoughts:-

    – the jobs geared towards workers as interchangeable parts is a reflection of the mechanistic and Cartesian trend in our society – as Iain McGilchrist points out in his oustanding work “The Master and His Emissary”, this comes from a culture where dominance left-hemisphere consciousness has entered a spiral that has gone out of control. one can actually useful attack the symptom (jobs without meaning), but one also has to consider how one can attack the cause at its root.

    – you have talked previously about the disappearance of discernment, and indeed discrimination; you have spoken about the existence of a natural elite amongst men. one ought then, even in a popular piece, to distinguish between the contribution of legal immigrant Andy Grove (and the multitude of less well-known immigrant technologists that contributed to Intel’s success), and the illegal immigrant mowing your lawn at a cut-price. and of course in reality the distinctions are more subtle than this. I am afraid it is not harmless to fail to make such distinctions for ease of reading in a popular piece – look at what has happened in Britain, where the government responded to popular concerns about low-quality immigration by restricting only high-quality immigration. There are legitimate questions of identity and cohesion when there is a large influx of immigrants with different folkways, but one ought to explicitly discuss this.

    – women back into the home does not mean women out of the workforce given how the internet has changed things. for most of human history women were both at home and in the workforce (sometimes producing for own-use, sometimes producing for exchange), so this is a return to normality.

  11. EvilBuzzard says:

    1) Overcome the existential angst of a pointless job w/ a balanced life.
    2) Find ways to make something out of the work. Ditch the job for something else if necessary.

    It is neither society’s nor my employers’ duty to make me feel happy about work.

  12. Mihai says:

    Modern jobs are brain-dead, mechanical labor that reflect a brain-dead, utilitarian world-view.

    As long as the economy will be seen as the central purpose in life- a generator, instead of it being generated by real and objective needs- until that, the world will be full of pointless jobs and would-be intellectuals that waste their lives and their qualities working for some pointless corporation.

    It is this reason that leaves me perplexed when I hear people that describe themselves as right-wing or tradition centered to support capitalism- which, apart from its form, is in essence as utilitarian and materialistic as socialism.

    • ferret says:

      Mihai, I tried many times to make a hint that the problems we have are inherent to capitalism, but nobody would think this direction. People mostly have no idea what is capitalism, communism, socialism, etc. I’ve spent some time explaining that communism is not what once happened in former Soviet Union (

      People are so lazy. They wouldn’t even check an wiki article on capitalism, or communism, or whatever. One girl on was arguing with me about the subject for couple of days! Eventually, she got tired but didn’t learn the definitions of the things she was talking about.

      As you said, in the economy generating needs we have pointless jobs. And we will never have a real progress in science, technology, art, social life. Never, because of these artificial goals of the society to make profit, ensure the economy growth, etc.

      If one will try to imagine a rational society without all these negative traits, this society may appear way to different from capitalism, and this is scary.

      • Cantillon says:

        Ferret – I am not sure what your intent is when you say that the Soviet Union was not communist. Of course it was not, because such utopian experiments tend to break down rather quickly when tried. The origin of US thanksgiving (and the disastrous experiment that led to the reforms commemorated by this day) ought to be a sufficient illustration of the problems of this approach to social organisation.

        The term capitalism is fraught with difficulty, because it was used by an opponent of spontaneous orders to attack the set of institutions and practices that had emerged during the process of industrialization – a particular era in Europe. This is only occasionally a term used by those who defend a free system of governance. One conflates the problem of the sets of institutions as they exist at a particular time with the system itself, whereas in reality things are constantly in flux, with problems leading to solutions that generate yet new problems.

        • ferret says:

          “Of course it was not, because such utopian experiments tend to break down rather quickly when tried.”

          It was never tried, that was my point.

        • ferret says:

          “The origin of US thanksgiving (and the disastrous experiment that led to the reforms commemorated by this day) ought to be a sufficient illustration of the problems of this approach to social organisation.”

          I’m not sure there is a connection between the thanksgiving (a celebration of the conquest and genocide of Native Americans by European colonists) and some experiments you are mentioning.
          Perhaps, I don’t get what the “US thanksgiving” is.


            So, from 1620 to 1622, Plymouth was essentially a commune with all land and profits owned by the community as a whole.

            The result of this communal style of living was disastrous. Death, starvation and disease ensued. The Pilgrims were “languish[ing] in mystery” in the words of Bradford. Although Plymouth was filled with “godly and sober men,” he said the community fell victim to sloth, laziness, and the refusal to work.

            Why? For the same reason communism never works; it’s the free-rider effect. The few who break their backs working watch the fruits of their labor go to the lazy or the free-riders who latch onto their coattails without doing any of the work themselves.

            Bradford found a solution to the Pilgrims’ woes:

            “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor… gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves… And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.” In short, property was privatized, and the colonists experienced “very good success.”

            Bradford acknowledged the folly of their previous ways: “The experience that we had in this common course and condition tried sundry years… that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing — as if they were wiser than God.”

            Realizing that communism was not the answer, that each man can only appreciate the things he earns, the Pilgrims continued to privatize more and more over the years. In doing so, they wrote not just the story of Thanksgiving, but also the story of America.

            • ferret says:

              Thanks for the link. Interesting story indeed, though there is nothing about communism. The author of that article has no idea, or she makes statements like “communism never works” in order not to ruin her career.

              One can make a similar statement:
              “Flying an airplane is impossible” after trying it without getting trained or at least reading the manual.

              “In Marxist theory, communism is a specific stage of historical development that inevitably emerges from the development of the productive forces that leads to a superabundance of material wealth, allowing for distribution based on need and social relations based on freely associated individuals.[1][2]” -wiki, communism.

              It is about the phase of developed capitalism, when material wealth is not a problem. At the same time, people should be ready for communist relations, they have to have a different approach to work. Marks believed, for example, that communism will grow off the developed capitalism spreaded over the world, and that it is impossible to build it in a single country.

              Common property and communism are not same things.
              Pilgrims’ community and developed capitalist society are not same things.
              Pilgrims’ production force and capitalist production force are not same thigs.

    • Cantillon says:


      I do not very often hear thoughtful traditionalists defend capitalism (because of the semantic murkiness surrounding that word), but there are those who both celebrate the importance of tradition, and believe that free communities of men and women are better able to govern themselves than those that are ruled by a large state, particularly a non-monarchical state.

      If one looks at 19th Century England or Austro-Hungary, they were both free-market paradises, and somewhat more pleasing to reactionaries than the system of today. England had few governmental restrictions on personal freedom, but a rather strict set of rules for Society.

      • Ryan says:

        excellent point!

      • Mihai says:

        I do not, in any way, support state planned and controlled economy. Quite the contrary. Capitalism, however, is not part of the solution, but a great part of the problem, a major cause behind the downfall of western civilization, operating much the same way as do the left-wing ideologies.

    • Ryan says:

      that is an excellent point, thanks!

  13. Jason says:

    On the “About” section, it describes liberal anarchism and commercial fascism as methods to create the society that we live in.

    It’s starting to make sense how these forces come together, but I actually think the commercial fascism element is worse.

    In the city I live in, Vancouver, breeds hipsterism like crazy. The only way out(in my demented mind)is to think like the youtube video. Focused on money over everything else. It’s probably not healthy!

    Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  14. Ben says:

    I sincerely hope it won’t be this way in electrical engineering. Should one bust his skull for 4 years to be a top notch engineer to attend meetings and fill out forms? And if in some fields things do not work this way, why? If it is because they are based on on actually producing something, mayber all non-producing industries should be disbanded, and all graphics designers and interior decorators could be sent to replaces the immigrant slave labour, with no health care (privatised)

  15. Sarah says:

    Halving the workforce by excluding women may be the wrong way to go. Instead, womens’ jobs should be compatible with their maternal natures and traditional duties. For example, women can still be nurses, nannies, schoolteachers, librarians, etc. Meanwhile, they should leave hard work like war, construction and management to men. And of course women should always consider their families – kids – when looking for jobs. This should be a sufficient alternative for women who don’t want to waste their lives by staying home.

    • Instead, women’s jobs should be compatible with their maternal natures and their traditional homemaking duties. For example, women could still be nurses, nannies, librarians, schoolteachers, etc.

      This is an interesting idea and applies in many cases. As with all things, there are exceptions, but they must be exceptional.


      This should be an alternative for women who don’t want to waste their lives by staying home.

      I can’t agree with you here. I don’t think it’s a waste of a life to stay home and raise a family and be active in the home arts and society; then again, I grew up in a fairly Faulknerian place where the men worked and made laws, but what actually kept society from disintegrating was the women. Women got the kids ready in the morning, sent them off to school, cleaned the houses and prepared the food, and took care of the kids (and husbands) after school, but that took up only about 4 hours of the day. For the remaining 8 of daylight, they spent a good deal of time socializing, working on home arts, and functioning together as a unit that kept social balance. I think it’s a huge mistake to disregard that and ask that you reconsider your stance on this issue.

      • crow says:

        Sarah makes a fine point. It’s refreshing to be reminded that not all women are the way so many women are.
        Brett: I don’t think she meant ‘it’s a waste of time’, but that there are women who think it is. They think what they think, and that’s that, until they don’t.
        Nobody and nothing is going to change that, but them.

        But words are such ambiguous things (:>

    • Ted Swanson says:

      Nurses and schoolteachers are both good work for women. Schoolteacher is the best because they’re on the same schedule as their own children if they have them. One thing about teachers though: women make the best teachers for kindergarten to about 6th grade. In fact, I would say they are superior to men for that age group. But, after that, I actually think men are better suited because they are better at keeping order with rowdy kids at that age and the kids are more apt to obey a man than a woman.

      • Anne says:

        As always, there are exceptions… I found this amusing because I happen to have been a high school physics teacher. I was in demand and did a great job of managing my classroom. The only reason I left was to accept a highly technical position as the director of a lab. (Much more challenging than teaching, not to mention pays much better!)

        I’ve never had the desire to have children and am fortunate to have found a partner who just as adamant about not raising kids of our either.

        I would find staying home to be mind-numbingly depressing. I have a passion for what I do and can’t imagine I’m the only woman to do so.

        Other than that, I agree wholeheartedly that one must choose a career based on their passion. No one sets out in life to be an HR manager, you know?

  16. Cagefighter says:

    “This should be a sufficient alternative for women who don’t want to waste their lives by staying home”
    “Staying at home” is about woman maintaining the homestead and nurturing their children toward something higher than their petty corporeal selves. There is an urgent need to bring to life those qualities and ideals of being that are now comatose (not dead) such as honor, wisdom, dignity, loyalty, sacrifice, glory, for its own sake. Keeping the decadence and filth of modernity at an arm’s length, with openness toward higher possibilities than what is promulgated by today’s Equality theologians and default pc commissars — aka the “educated” class. Far from wasting your life, I’d say that’s one hell of a task!
    Btw I am married with 5 children. It’s far from easy, but in subtle ways we can “ride the tiger”. Of course, we can be devoured anytime; so a little cultivation in detachment from “the world” is good medicine to fall back on, even a bit suicidal ideation doesn’t hurt.
    Spengler and others have stated that living entity’s, such as the West, will come and go and never return. Just as languages come and go. With this idea of the cyclical nature of living things (which has yet to become authentically cardinal, in our being, unlike the linear view of life which presently dominates our perception of being) many opportunities’ will emerge. Many forms of being will blossom and in effect sweep away the broken shell of the West.
    The interesting thing is that this colossus “the West” is on its death bed and, I believe, needs to be pushed, so that new forms of life can emerge in its place. This does not have to be done militarily (exoteric) but from the metaphysical (esoteric) way of beating an adversary – military egg heads call it psy-ops, which is partially correct, but the term doesn’t encompass spirit.
    ….Which all leads me back to the title of this piece. “Jobs” are clearly more than ever a way to prevent any effective rebelling of the status quo. Getting folks “jobs” so that they can busy themselves in constant diversions, mind-numbness and paying taxes to facilitate their enslavement to the bourgeois, aspiritual, ever expanding obsession of technology and material well-being for sake of………. Well we mustn’t go there. Heaven knows what could come about if folks started to heed the inside calling, and started authentically asking foundational questions of what’s life really all about.
    Btw I am not against jobs. I just think jobs now as they are used and defined are a hindrance to radical change.
    So in a way we are in a similar place as late Rome, but the stakes are higher. If ones accept this — as I do – then there must be “a letting go” for any chance for a awe inspiring “Dark Age” to emerge, that could even surpass the European “Dark Age” (Medieval Time) in color and spiritual depth.

    • Jobs” are clearly more than ever a way to prevent any effective rebelling of the status quo

      They’re addictive, since we start off life in debt, and allegedly our choice to have one. The perfect indirect control mechanism.

    • ferret says:

      “Getting folks “jobs” so that they can busy themselves in constant diversions, mind-numbness and paying taxes to facilitate their enslavement to the bourgeois, aspiritual, ever expanding obsession of technology…”

      The technology gave us the Internet; our future depends on ideas spreading on it.
      There is a good chance of “bring[ing] to life those qualities and ideals of being that are now comatose (not dead) such as honor, wisdom, dignity, loyalty, sacrifice, glory, for its own sake”.

      Internet can shorten the down phase of the spiritual cycle; just throw right seeds in it.

      “”the West”… needs to be pushed, so that new forms of life can emerge in its place.” – time to seed.

      Even common sense may resurrect earlier than we can imagine.

  17. Sarah says:

    Thank you for backing me up Crow. That is exactly what I meant. Once a woman has kids, she should stay home and find other fulfilling activities. But in the interim between puberty and marriage/kids, women should be allowed to have some type of outside employment.

    • crow says:

      You’re welcome.
      Does this mean we are ‘going-steady’, now?

    • Once a woman has kids, she should stay home and find other fulfilling activities.

      This makes sense to me, with one caveat: it should be acceptable for children to return home as adults and live until they are married, both men and women. The reason for this is to avoid thrusting women into careers they don’t want, or to force men into entry-level jobs with the burden of household when they should be saving up to take a wife. Old-fashioned but it works better.

      I would also like to see a return to courtship; it is simply a more elegant and gentle way of finding a mate, and one that benefits both men and women better. True, there’s less sex, drunkenness and apocalyptic lonely rock ‘n’ roll nights, but there is more long-term satisfaction for the good. Would you (Sarah and/or Crow) render an opinion on this as well?

  18. Sarah says:

    I’ve never really considered courtship before. It would be ok if I knew my intended husband for a long time before the official courting, like from childhood. This would guard against unpleasant surprises. One question though, would a courtship include a betrothal when the couple are still children? I know this was a common practice was common in the 12th – 18th centuries. Or would it be like arranged marriages in India where the groom courts the family and not the girl?

  19. Stephen says:

    So women live with their parents unless they have a ‘family.’ What if they’re lesbian?

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