Work Conditions Us
In our everyday lives, we usually demarcate between our work time and our free time. We distinguish between the times we are busy, and those we are relaxed. Having thought in length about work and entertainment for a long time, I thought this demarcation was correct, until I read Adorno. If you look carefully, you will see that people, perhaps even yourself, act during their free time in the same way they do during their work time. Adorno points this out and notes that the reason for this is due to our work routine conditioning us so thoroughly, that we are not able to think or act beyond its conditioning. This phenomenon is what I set out to explore in this post.
Is There such a Thing As Free Time
Here is a generic description of a generic person’s life: man goes to work, is overloaded with extra duties, in weekends plays computer games and watches television. His free time is not a time when he can freely act and do what pleasures him; instead, his free time allows the exhaustion of the work routine to settle in. He is so busy during his work time that he doesn’t feel how tiring it is. As soon as he has free time, exhaustion hits him.
We Spend Most of our Free Time Recovering from Work
The above generic person, whose description fits us all, has been crippled by his work routine to the extent that he can do nothing but sit around feeling tired. What is the trouble with this? Well, for starters, this means, he never gets freedom from his work routine at any point in his life. It means, quite frankly, that there is no such a thing as ‘free time’. If a person lives life according to a certain pattern, he can not help but act from within such a pattern, and not without.
The Illusion of the Entertainment Industry
The mirroring of our work condition in our free time is startling. Almost none of us work with zest, given the outrageous workload and minimal pay. We do not experience real emotions of elation in the workplace. This is also true during our free time. Movies and music are the two main sources for our emotional input during our free time. Yet, in both these sources, the viewer is passive, not active.
Our Emotions are Artificially Induced
The emotions that movies and music elicit from us are shallow, superficial. They are not engendered within a real life situation, although they may remind us of some. The absence of real emotions in our zombie-like workplace can also be found in the entertainment industry. In the same way we automatically smile in happiness when we see our boss (or fake to smile), we smile in happiness when we see the hero, predictably, saving the day on screen.
The Illusion of Freedom of Choice
In the workplace, employees have very little say in how things are run, if not at all. Even though this is the case, employers like to pretend that what employees have to say can effect the running of the business, or organization. This is reminiscent of the great parody of democracy which we see regularly referred to as “consultation”.
We are Free to Do that which we are Made to Do
The same applies to television game shows. These game shows make us feel as though our votes determine the outcome as to who wins, and who loses. Yet, most people who vote, vote in an automatic manner, like automatons, following the patterns and tastes that the game shows have been programming their viewers to act by. The popularity of game shows comes from the oblivion of any real democratic choice, of any real personal freedom to choose.
Does Media affect People?
Conversations among employees follow a usual line of reasoning. If you listen carefully, you will see that people during their free time speak along well-paved routes. They use the same references randomly handpicked from trash culture, discuss what the media organizations call ‘news’, and rehash the arguments that they heard on the radio. People do not really discuss issues in depth. They simply exchange what they have been made to consume.
Our Relationships are Conditioned by the Entertainment Industry
The same applies to personal relationships. We cease to connect authentically with other people; rather, we just inhabit certain cardboard box characteristics and poses which we were conditioned to accept via the entertainment industry. We reproduce that which we idealise whilst watching it on screen, and yet seldom achieve it in reality. Today, with social media, the atrophy of interpersonal skills has reached its epitome.
By stating all the above, we surely haven’t reinvented the wheel and of what has been said is known to most people. But while we know this, we are too exhausted and demoralized to find alternative ways of spending our free time. This is just like the situation in which employees are aware that their bosses won’t improve the work environment; so, the employees, exhausted and demoralized, accept whatever boss says. Free time is the closest thing we have to real freedom; yet, upon closer scrutiny, we find that free time is a concept devoid of freedom. When we take whatever the news and entertainment industry feed us as ‘gospel’, our consent becomes manufactured and words such as ‘freedom’ are defined for us. This is perhaps when we should pause for a while and reflect as to the real meaning of freedom, and perhaps for once, organically experience it.