What Price Success?

 

What does it mean to be successful? From a biologists point of view it means to live long enough to successfully reproduce. For a species it means having enough members successfully reproduce so that the species continues. Similarly for a tribe, or herd, it means to have enough members to continue.

 

I have a cousin who runs his own business. It’s small. Often struggling. He could probably do better financially working retail. But he loves his work. He loves his work, he pays his bills, and he has enough for some of the fun things in life. Isn’t that success?

Oh – and he makes the world a little better, happier or more friendly – every day.

I understand his house is not up to par with what most folks think is necessary. (never seen it for myself) Does that matter? If it’s adequate for him and his spouse, isn’t it a success?

When I retired from my high pressure job I made a choice to live well within my means. My basic needs can be covered by my small pension. I have a part time job which provides me with food, clothing, entertainment. In this economy I chose to work part time so that someone who had a family to care for could have the full time job I might otherwise take.

Am I not successful?

I met a man through my work who gave up working. He gave up the constant struggle and pressure of working and is happier for it. I hope to speak with him again. I’d like to know more. I think he meant he had enough to provide for himself, and so he stopped trying to scramble up that ladder we call success.

We keep hearing about the death of the middle class. Maybe we should let it die. Corporations have power over us because we are scrambling to achieve a certain level of living that we have been trained to believe is success. And it is never ending. As soon as we get that house in the good neighborhood, the SUV and the golf clubs, we see something else that we “need”.

I recently read an article about Endicott Johnson, a CNY shoe factory. The owner felt that his workers should be well paid, have benefits and that he should contribute to the community. Interestingly the union was suspicious of this. The union felt these perks were intended to make the employee feel grateful and therefore indebted to the company.

I can tell you that a good job is its own shackle. If you hate the job, or the job becomes oppressive or abusive, it is difficult to leave because, where will you find another job that pays as well or has the same benefits.

Maybe we would be better off, emotionally and socially if we simply called their bluff. What if we were content with what our grandparents or great grandparents had. Do we really need more than a sturdy roof over our heads, a warm bed and a chair to sit in, enough food to keep us healthy, and the proverbial pot to piss in?

If we let go of the race, stop running the treadmill, “the man” won’t be able to Lord it over us anymore. Instead of going with our plate in our hand and begging for more bread, he’ll have to come to us and say “mow my lawn, polish my silver, please”. And if we aren’t stressing over that next car payment or getting the new xyz phone, we can think about it, consider it, and say yes – or no – depending on our needs or wants.

Certainly our clamoring for the good life has been detrimental in the long run. The quest for stuff has left us with huge garbage piles, chemical waste leaching into our water, traffic and bad air, and less time than we’d like with our family. The stress itself is killing us, and sending us stumbling after the pied piper of big pharma, big food etc.

As I made dinner last night my family eschewed the TV for the front porch. My granddaughter rode her scooter around the block and entertained some passing friends. Neighbors out walking their dogs stopped for a chat. And my daughter was able to squelch a particularly dangerous form of entertainment some youngsters have been subjecting the neighborhood to.

Seems like that is a better life than the one found in front of a 60″ TV with surround sound.