It was the fall into history that enslaved us to the labor cycle, to the agricultural cycle and notice how fiendish it is… A person who dedicates themselves to agriculture who did in the paleolithic can produce hundreds of times the amount of food they can consume… So why would anyone do that? Well the answer is because you can use it to play power games… you can trade it for wives, or land, or animals, or something like that. – Terence McKenna
So if by Terence McKenna’s view: power = trading your excess for what you want… and you never have any excess, you’re never bound to get what you want. Working to attain something you’ll never achieve is a recipe for suffering.
In Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Grandpa Joe said, “When a loaf of bread looks like a banquet I have no right buying tobacco.” Now tobacco smoking isn’t the healthiest hobby, but Grandpa Joe’s quote illustrates the problem with the cycle of poor and middle class people working toward ideals they’ll never attain.
Because the poor and middle class will never have that considerable excess [to “trade for wives, or land, or animals”], even life’s necessities like food become a luxury. You can hear this in the sentiments of people who complain about food stamp recipients buying organic groceries. Instead of thinking “why wouldn’t they?” people jump to classifying nutritious food as something those on food stamps have no right to. While that is dehumanizing, that sentiment is not intentionally malicious. It’s more a reflection of the person saying it. They say it because nutritious food — which is actually one of life’s necessities — has become decadent to them. That’s problematic as fuck.
The possible solutions:
work more to have more excess change your definition of power.
The United states is already an overworked nation. We work more hours and take less vacation than the majority of the industrialized world. We’re overworked, overstressed and disconnected. In light of that, working more doesn’t look like a wise choice. Then why support leaders and systems who encourage you to keep working toward something you’ll never have?
There’s no good reason to, emotionally or logically. You work more, are more miserable, but don’t have more. Or you get more, but don’t have the energy to enjoy it, or your loved ones. Either way, you end up feeling bad.
Changing our personal definitions of power then seems like the golden ticket. Unlike becoming wealthy, there’s no one size fits all definition when you define power for yourself. Defining power and success for yourself frees you up to not make fear-based decisions. It frees you up to live life closest to your own terms. You become able to enjoy the benefits of civilization without getting trapped by them. You free yourself from the suffering created by following the dictates of policy makers who want to trap you in the work-consume-despair cycle.
That’s powerful as fuck. Have you defined power yourself? Comment below with what success or power look like to you.