Working in the Game of Trade
As almost everybody in this world I have to play the game of trade every now and then. I have to trade my time, energy, skills and attention in a job to get some money which allows me to buy and do things I need and want. A couple weeks ago I finished my latest job experience in Switzerland and I’ll tell you about that plus other experiences. Since Jen wrote a fantastic article about the primitive notion of jobs, this will be a personal addition to that.
My first job experience was during my school time. I wanted to work somewhere in my summer holidays to earn some money to buy this “cool” Macbook from Apple and to also see how this job world looks like.
Since my aunt is working in a medical company which was located close to where I grew up and this company usually hires relatives from people who already work there, I wanted to check that out. It might be interesting to learn about these medical instruments, I thought. The company is specialized in endoscopes and they are leading experts in their field with locations all over the world.
So I applied for it, got the job and had my first day.
Sidenote: I was working in that exact same job a couple times in my life so I will describe all of these experiences in general. Furthermore, the pictures you will see are all taken by me and my camera had a crack that’s why they are a bit blurry in one side.
When I arrived there I encountered that grey building in an industrial park:
What’s happening in that building?
Usually a hospital buys or borrows medical machines and surgical instruments from that company and some products are used for student training courses for example or showcased in a medical exhibition. All of these products will eventually come back to this building to get cleaned, tested if they work properly and then either stored in that huge warehouse or sent out again.
If a product doesn’t work anymore it gets repaired right here, if possible, or, in case the damage was too severe, it gets sent to the repair center.
So my job was in the equipment testing department where I cleaned and checked some devices. I got instructions from the boss how to do that.
On my first day the boss showed me around, gave me a work place and access to the computer:
I also got a chip-card that I needed to enter the building and to stamp my working time.
So here I was and I did what they explained me to do. It was basically easy to do. Once I tested a camera for example, I did the same testing for the same camera model and usually I had one pallet of around 20 cameras. When that pallet was done I got another pallet. Same testing, same work.
When I had questions I could just ask my colleagues who would help me. Usually every worker had his own specialized field. Some were dealing only with surgical instruments, some only with screens and some only with equipment carts for example.
Fortunately they gave me different things to test like cameras, light machines, suction pumps and some other simple things like power cables (yes I had to check if they were damaged and still work properly).
It was interesting to learn about these units and get an insight, but once I got that, I was basically doing the same thing over and over again. I learned how to test a camera and once I got it, I did tens and hundreds of them. I learned how to test a light machine
and then I was doing that – over and over again.
And that was it more or less. That was the work I did.
Now I will showcase some negative sides of that.
People come there in the morning, they start their testing devices and then test the products – one by one – , then there’s a 15 minutes morning break, a 30 minutes lunch break and then they leave in the afternoon. Day by Day. 5 days a week. And 250 days per year. If you calculate with 8 hours per day you end up with 2000 hours per year. Add the hours you need to get there somehow (by car or bus) and it will be way more.
Just for working in a workplace like this:
It wasn’t physically hard or mentally difficult, but it feels like this:
Repeating the same routine, day by day, made me realize that it was like a prison.
As you might imagine seeing these pictures, I felt so depressed in that environment. I felt like zombies are walking around, merely existing than living. I also realized, I got into kind of a mode where I get detached. My mind was somewhere completely else and my body was just doing the same thing over and over and over again. Something like an auto-pilot.
It felt like in this video:
Keep in mind, I have done this only a couple times for a few weeks, others do this for 20, 30 years or more. No wonder why people get depression and burnout in environments like that one.
It is complete slavery and the chip-card and the time stamp clock are like a ball and a chain.
The building with the fence around and the hallways look like a prison:
So it was tough for me, but I kept telling me that I do this only for a couple of weeks and I only do it for the money to make it through.
Waste of human potential
I was allowed to talk occasionally with other people and I liked talking with the colleague who was sitting next to me. He not only helped me whenever I had a question but also told me about his life experiences and we could talk about science and the universe. He was particularly interested in the weather and how it works and physics in general.
This old man (he was over 60 years old) was interested and curious about the world and learned radio engineering and telecommunications when he was young. As he got older he had a job as a customer service advisor in a coffee machine company and eventually ended up where he was working now, testing screens, doing the same routine I was doing – day by day.
It was sad to realize how human potential gets enormously wasted. Human brains have more than 86 billion neurons which shouldn’t be used to do monotonous and boring tasks. We have machines for that. In fact we can automate almost all of these robotic tasks, so that we are free to learn more about the world and ourselves, our relation to planet earth and all the species on it. We have enough mysteries and riddles to solve: How can we solve cancer? How can we provide for everybody on earth in a efficient and sustainable manner? How can we cure aging? Are there other forms of life out in space?
But most humans are trapped in this constant struggle of the trade system.
When I was working in that medical company, I didn’t have to work very hard. Yes I tested a lot of devices, I worked around 9 hours per day 5 days a week and it was mentally exhausting as I explained. But I want to show you something else:
What you see in these two pictures are cupboards where you can put stuff inside. They were old and dirty. My job was to clean them and remove the slat/ledge (as you can see on the second picture).
I can’t remember anymore exactly, but in a few days I cleaned around 8 of those which means I got a couple hundred euros for cleaning cupboards.
Now see this picture where a guy in Nepal works in construction:
How in the world can I earn a couple hundred euros by cleaning cupboards and he barely survives with the hard work he is doing?
It is ridiculous how this trade system works.
My point is, most people in this world work very hard their entire life, some might have 2 jobs and they work in a physically and mentally more stressful job and earn just a tiny bit of the amount of money that I earned.
It is completely unfair.
What I noticed is that this environment makes you self centered and ignorant about others. The young people who made an apprenticeship there cared mostly about the weekend where they’ll get drunk, the next holidays where they’ll fly to Morocco, Bali or Mexico and about their cars.
What about the poor people in this world? What about the destruction of the environment? What about the huge inequality, war and corruption?
It totally makes sense: When you’re trapped in this environment where you constantly have to trade and you feel locked in this daily routine, you start to seek pleasure and/or happiness in consumeristic things and don’t care about the world or other things.
Steve Cutts clearly brings that to the point:
It’s all about hating monday and loving the weekend – maybe it’s the job that you hate?
But as I explained in my article about the german culture, working is an essential part of that culture, so once you start to question that, you go into a no-no zone. Maybe that’s also due to the interlocking of ones identity with his/her main working occupation.
Some might see it just as a job and they realize it’s just a game, but some might really believe in it and think they are doing the right thing and completely self-identify with their job. Their job composes their self-image.
Just like a priest who alters his outlook on God and religion risks severing his self-image and relationships with others who know and love him for who he is, a worker might risks that too.
Of course we should not forget that most people just don’t even have a choice to not work, else they would end in poverty and struggle to survive.
So to summarize my experience in this job: could be worse.
That job was not physically hard. It was also not stressful, since there’s no certain number of units you have to do per day. Yes, there is a certain average number of units per week, but if you manage to keep that it’s fine. The amount of stress also varies depending on the time in the year.
And I mean I was allowed to talk with other people and cleaned cupboards – could definitively be worse.
Well then I did some other jobs and I noticed, it could be way worse. An example was a factory where I worked 8 hours per day standing in front of a machine doing the same arm and body movement by putting a piece of plastic onto that machine. It was a toilet factory where I was part of the production process of toilet tanks. The wage is not bad since you’re left with a bit less than 2 thousand euros per month net, but the work is tough though – physically and mentally.
Standing all the time, having the pressure of making around 900 pieces per day and working in shift operation which means you work one week from 4 to 12 am, the other week from 12 to 8 pm and the third week from 8 pm to 4 am was really tough and exhausting.
Altough that factory was highly automated, it still required some people to do monotonous things. But they could be automated as well of course.
Being a waiter
My latest work experience was in switzerland where I worked in restaurants as a food server and as a waiter.
The first place where I worked was a traditional restaurant located in the middle of a ski area which was horrible because of the boss and the stress. The boss not only insulted his workers, but also screamed at them and treated them like shit.
It was super stressful due to the high amounts of skiers and snowboarders who came for lunch time to eat in that restaurant.
That showed me how this trade environment can fuck people up. It has to go super fast and the boss is constantly stressed and calls you names whenever you do something wrong.
I took these photos when I arrived there before the season started. In the high season, people flock in that restaurant.
So eventually I quit to search something else in another area.
Luckily I found something in a restaurant located in a fancy hotel in Davos. Yes exactly, the Davos where the world economic forum takes place every year. Unfortunately I missed that shitshow (I could have made an article about that).
The people in that restaurant were friendly, but the stress was not.
I usually had to work in the morning from 9 to 2 pm, then I had a break until 6 pm and then I worked from 6 until 10 pm, sometimes longer.
The dinner was the most stressful I’d say, since I had to think about so many things. This drink has to go to that table, this table ordered that food, that table wants to order something, and that food has to go to this table. Ohh I forgot to bring this bottle of wine to that table and ohh shit, there’s a new table coming right here… fuck me haha
But I managed it somehow and got through it.
Rarely I could enjoy snowboarding in the alps when I had a day or two off and the energy to make it to the ski lift.
You might think the hotel looks so fancy and the mountains are so beautiful and yes that’s true, but I couldn’t enjoy much of it, since for me it was basically working and sleeping.
I was curious about this working world, where you can get a career and become “successful”.
What I learned was that jobs are an incredible stupid way of keeping people busy so that they don’t realize they are enslaved by the trade game where only a few rich ones benefit from.
And even if they realize that it’s just a game we’re playing, they can’t do much about it, since the rich ones have most of the power which they use to keep this outdated, unfair and unsustainable game of trade in place.
I think I don’t have to mention that the ideas proposed in this video are only patchwork and won’t solve anything.
I know it’s a tricky situation we’re in. People depend on these jobs to feed their family and themselves, to pay rent for an apartment and many have debts they have to pay off. It’s difficult to see how humanity makes it’s way out of that. Scientific education and trade-free goods and services are key, but how these things will develop in our fucked up world is impossible to predict. Maybe let’s just work on these two things and see what happens.
That’s also how I want to end this article. Let’s move beyond this primitive notion of jobs, try to make people aware of that, create trade-free goods and services whenever we can, help projects/organizations who work in this direction and minimize our consumption and dependency on the trade system.
How can you contribute to this direction?
As almost everybody in this world I have to play the game of trade every now and then. I have to trade my time, energy, skills and attention in a job to get some money which allows me to buy and do things I need and want. A couple weeks ago I finished my latest working experience in Switzerland and I’ll tell you about that plus other experiences.
This article will be about the german culture and my experience growing up in germany. One of the 194 tribes on planet earth which has quiet a good image in this world.