30 June 2014 – Click HERE for all posts pertaining to downshifting!
I recently returned from a long trip to the states, where the main purpose of the visit was the wedding of very good friend from college. Taking root in rock climbing trips and then evolving into other travels, a group of 5 of us calling ourselves the ‘bobos’ all left college in varied directions. Despite the diaspora, we stay connected and make it a point to get the group together as often as our schedules will allow. Weddings have been the most obvious of occasions – planned far in advance and substantial: it’s hard to say ‘can’t make it’ to a good friend on the most important day in his life.
The difficult phone call came just two weeks before the wedding, making the supposed reunion more like a meeting with four friends and yet five chairs – some one was clearly missing and the dynamic wasn’t the same. Disappointment and emotions aside, the reason for the absence was disturbing. The friend had recently graduated from his masters program and had successfully interviewed for a job which was to begin in August – a full 3 months in the future and more crucially, 3 months from the beginning of salary and benefits.
In the meantime, there were projects to be worked on, phone calls to be made and extensive planning to be undertaken. For now I’ll disregard the very real possibility of an accident – who would be held responsible and liable? The point of course, and you may have already guessed it, is that the friend was prevented from attending the wedding because the employer sprung a last minute training trip which was to occur on the same weekend.
Which brings us to the decision node: attend the wedding and reunite with friends, or placate the future boss by attending an unpaid training weekend.
2014’s labour market is an interesting one, wherein market power seems like a precarious football game of fumbles, momentum and defensive punts. The personal example of my friend isn’t unique and certainly representative of many industries and companies. It’s the same one where the boss drops 2 days worth of work on Friday at 2 PM and requests submission on Monday. It’s the same one where a full time salaried worker puts in an ‘on paper 40 hours,’ but in reality works upwards of 60 or 70 in the name of ‘getting the job done.’ Getting ahead is paramount and sacrifices will be made – family, friends, sleep, health, whatever – along the way.
I’m not sure where or when we will hit rock bottom, but too much of our western culture has perpetuated the work > consume > work > consume cycle. On this page you’ll find original posts and websites I come across with resources which raise the questions employees are seldom daring to ask for fear of losing all for which they have hitherto worked. Some researchers call it living simply, others downshifting. Whichever the term, the point is clear. The paradigm of wasteful consumerism is ripe for meaningful discussion on a large scale. Let’s start the conversation!