It’s like a factory conveyor belt. School, college, job. Many are not happy with their lot and argue that they don’t want to spend their life this way. Most of our time is spent at work or asleep. Isn’t it obvious we should spend our time doing what we want, not what is expected by society and by others? Period.

The counter argument is equally convincing. The world, whether we like it or not, is run on expectation. In order to do anything, simply survive, money is necessary. Unless we turn criminal the best way to secure money is through work. Add to that the social responsibility implicit in the human condition (i.e we take so we must give) then the argument becomes stronger. Not only a practical one but a moral one. And as such is a difficult one to counter without accusations of selfishness or unearned profiteering. (Only the profit isn’t about money.)

These thoughts are much in my mind at the moment as I watch my son struggle with choices that might, or might not, determine which way his life heads. Many would say ‘as long as he is happy does it really matter?’ Daring to encourage sharp intakes of breath I am not so sure myself. I place much store in the idea that man is a social animal. And although it’s not such a popular idea I think life without social contribution (often found through work, but not always) means that ‘happy’ just becomes one of the many masks we wear.

The structure we live in had its seeds sown in the Industrial Revolution: a system which produced different tiers of work; those, through whatever means, class or luck, who became employers and those employed. Our social structure, particularly our education systems, concern social reproduction. This has become problematic today because we inform our kids that education is the key and it isn’t. Once they leave school, or college, they are then faced with disillusion. And then it becomes clear that the choices we promised them are not really choices at all: they are simply different places on the same conveyor belt. There are paths other than work. Some of the most content people you meet are those with different lifestyles, who have made different choices.

So should we then step of the conveyor belt? Go it alone? Do our own thing? No one can tell you the answer to that and if anyone tries then don’t listen to them. There are so many different arguments for and against and all of them can be made to sound reasonable. Whatever you do choose to do the sun will still rise and set. Only experience will let you conclude what is best. Unless you try you’ll never know.

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