By Geo Ong
The opening title card of Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film reads:
‘Modern Times.’ A story of industry, of individual enterprise – humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.
We then see a shot of sheep being herded chaotically through the farm fences, which then dissolves into a shot of men in suits spilling chaotically out the exits of a subway station.
From there we see Chaplin, the Little Tramp, a factory worker on one of the assembly lines of the industrial revolution. It is plain (and hilarious) to see what Chaplin thought of America’s industrial age as it was going on, but what do Americans (or anyone from anywhere, for that matter) think of it now?
I’ve been thinking lately about the core concept of working, partly because I’ve been reading a lot of texts on the subject, and partly because I myself have been working more than I ever had prior.
Some Americans honour work. Some honour it blindly. Others look down on work. Others honour their own work and look down on the work of others. Others only look down on their own work. Some can’t work. Some choose not to work. Some won’t work a day in their lives. Those seem the only ones that think nothing of work at all.
Why do we work? You may ask yourself that and think, ‘Well, the answer is obvious.’ Though maybe you don’t even need me to tell you: everyone who works has their own reasons for working. The potential shocker is that these reasons are varying. Like Whitman, these reasons contain multitudes.
Why do you work? To support my family. To support myself. To save money. To make money. To pay bills. To pay debts. To buy a home. To avoid losing my home. To obtain my goals. To keep from losing my mind.
And don’t forget this one: Because I like what I do.
Just like we all have different jobs, we all have different reasons for working the jobs we work. And like our reasons for working, it is futile to lump the American attitude toward work into one claim.
In closing, I happily leave you with the words of another. Enjoy.