Need to Work

Does our need to work come from the way society is or is it an inner motivation?

In my previous article, I discussed my perspective on motivation and how I try not to worry about the motives behind decisions, as long as they’re invariably geared toward growth and helping people. To recap on the conclusion of this previous article: we, at least subconsciously, consider an abundance of motivational factors in any decision we make, even when we conceive our direction consciously, there is far more at work “behind the scenes” than we give credit to. So, I basically say disregard why you are motivated in your pursuits, attracted to ideals, or define purity in good intentions – simply exist to be happy and spread happiness and make decisions which help elevate those around you as well as yourself.

With that behind us, now, I would like to invite my readers to venture into this ‘why’ a little bit, for, as I had mentioned, it is fascinating to delve into our own psychology. The topic of reflection which I find to be an incredibly interesting portrayal of how motivation influences activity, and can be discussed in depth, is that of our society is based on a singular option: need to work in order to get what is necessary to live.

The underlying system in all of our society – not just where I am (in America), but globally, with a few exceptions, is to withhold the fundamental necessities of life and create a structure which demands labor for the release of these things. Obviously, this system is mandated by currency, and controlled by the appointed, and fluctuating, worth of said currency. This allows for what can only really be conceived as forced labor – we need to work in order to get money in order to buy food; if we grow the food, we need to work to pay for the land or sell the food we grow, to get the money to cover taxations. And in order to distribute the necessary foods, people are then paid to regulate the grocery stores, procure and package produce, or mass manufacture pre-packaged goods. Couriers then get paid to transport this product to the stores, and gas station attendants become necessary to fuel their vehicles. The machine of this consumer-based system is an efficient machine as long as the economy stays stable and people continue to purchase at a standard or above average rate, reducing generated scrap. Each stage of this is a created need based on a created need based on a created necessity from withholding access to the necessities (and niceties) of life.

Scott Santens, a BAS of Psychology, has become the frontrunner for a notion referred to as “Basic Income”. Scott poses this question in various formats as an advocate for a basic income: If we no longer force people to work to meet their basic needs, won’t they stop working?” This is an interesting question, and, I encourage you before reading further to answer it to yourself.

What is your first instinct? Would people not work if they didn’t need to work in order to survive?

Consider, too, that even homelessness requires an abundance of effort; in this society, where business owners poison food before putting it in the dumpster to prevent people from retrieving it, finding a meal can be very time-consuming and cumbersome work.

There are many schools of thought on the topic. Mr. Santens splits it into three potential choices in our “one option” world: work for others, work for ourselves, do zero work. In summary, Santens’ statement is that people who believe option 2 (work for ourselves) exists, they likely believe that the notion of “Basic Income” will simply invite option 3 (do zero work). Conversely, those who acknowledge that option 2 can’t possibly exist with the current societal standards associated with work and stature will realize that “Basic Income” is necessary in order to allow us to actually work for ourselves, and that psychological studies and research suggest that our lives would be significantly more enjoyable and beneficial to future generations if we are motivated by working toward goals we personally hold for ourselves. Why can’t option 2 exist? As Scott Santens states in his article, simply answer this question for yourself by asking these follow-ups, “Doesn’t this require some form of starting capital? What if none exists? What if the education doesn’t exist? What if there are barriers to entry? What if competition at the top actively prevents this? What’s the percentage of the population that actually has option 2 in practice and not just in theory?” This cyclically shows that those who can work for themselves must first work enough for others, and those who wish to do no work must first work for others.

The need to work for ourselves leads to self-actualization and progress

So how can we make a world in which working for ourselves happily and toward the progression of our race is a possibility? According to Santens, ideally, we provide just enough money to all people to have their food and shelter paid for – we stop preventing people from growing their own food and we encourage barter systems like the days of the old. Ideally, then, the currency provided to these people regardless of their labor could be used to stimulate the global economy more effectively, and wouldn’t be used as a means of entrapment, allowing for self-actualization in morality, creativity, and problem-solving. Referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this is the highest of the overall profitable motivational mindsets; but in order to focus on these motivations, one must first get past the basic structured needs of life: physiological, safety, love, and esteem.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Do you believe that providing money to everybody regardless of work, or ensuring food is available by not withholding it, or making housing and filtered water free would help to reduce the stress associated with survival in our world? Scott Santens and thousands of other people do believe this would help to allow for significantly better lives and progression of humanity as well as reducing violence and crime rates globally. Personally, and unfortunately, I do believe this is an idealistic perspective, and that as long as currency exists in any capacity, so will the things which go with it: greed, laziness, entitlement, etc.

With that said, though, and all things considered between this and the previous article pertaining to all forms of motivation, subconscious and otherwise, I don’t think that work would stop if money wasn’t necessary. To remove the necessity of money might influence 1 or 2 percent of our society to stop working and stop contributing to the progression of economy and society as a whole, but, generally, in my perspective, most people would continue to work and move forward.

One reason I believe this and something I’d like for my readers to reflect on in various aspects of their life is: we have learned to use being busy as a metric to measure stature. The more busy a person is, the higher their stature is and the more important of a person they must be, right? The more useful a member of society is, the more they are contributing, and therefore, simply being busy all of the time can be validating to even the least important of people. Aside from the obvious benefits of being busy, this validation is then translated into a personal achievement and something the busy individual can boost is their confidence and esteem (referencing, again, Maslow’s Hierarchy). Furthermore, in life I have found that one thing is frustrating over all else, and strive to prevent one thing from happening: stagnating in boredom.

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Nick Harding

Nick Harding

I'm an automation engineer who started out with just a drafting degree, but didn't want to stop learning. Ideally every day I find someone who needs help and do whatever I can to make their day. I enjoy expressing myself, whether it's through writing, story telling, singing or playing guitar; I love to teach others, as well as myself. My strongest drive is the interest in learning everything I can know, and speculating on topics that I can't. I know many people will react with the question, "an engineer with an open mind!?" Yes, I find it hard to disbelieve the things which we can see - since I am able to see energy, I am able to consider other potentials which are also deemed "non-scientific".