A productive effort against productivity


We know not why the world works the way it does, we know not who we carry these bricks for, we know not why is there is no comfort in solitude, we know not if there is a meaning to the meaning of life. And yet unaware of philosophy and purpose our lives share a singular purpose, the pursuit of productivity.

It is the need to be productive that compels us to get out of bed in the morning for it is the only metric to measure life now. Life is no longer a chain of estranged events where beauty and tragedy exist simultaneously, it is no longer poetic, it may never have been free but it was never breathless. Life, now instead is the need to productive at all hours at all stages in life, what we do defines us. What we do in a day, in an hour, what you do this very minute is considered who you are. So we study and work and live life on the borrowed time we get in the constance of agony, all to avoid worthlessness in our own eyes and the eyes of our peers.

But what is worth and am I worth something only when I am a productive member of an association of people, why isnt existence it’s own form of worth. I was told as a child there was once a war of ideology and one of them won and became king, destined to rule our minds till another worthy challenger emerges. The height of capialism ,Lenin said, was imperialism. My question is what is worse than the complete comodification of a person.

Was Lenin being productive when he said it, did he write his books and papers in an effort for his life to amount to something or just to bring change. Did he too not sleep at the thought of a life wasted? Lenin thought he’d seen the enemy at its worst when one nation enslaved another but there was still time in the time of true enslavement. The self worth of an entire race is tied to what they do, not who they are and if you fail to see the difference you should have no doubt they won.

The underlying fabric of world ideology is passed generation to generation wrapping even those busy being born. The sick don’t heal now, the broken dont mend now, the innocence of childhood is rushed out so that youth can arrive before it’s day. The example is set even for those with disabilities to rise above, to claim their place in society and in the pursuit of productivity. So that they too feel the validation that we do, the only validation we’ve been wired to feel. It is a paradox to seek validation from being productive for it leads to the birth of most unproductive, the depressed, the anxious. Those that stop, wonder one day sooner or later in life that life has no other meaning but the exploits of life. The feeling of being lost, not knowing where you came from or what you were doing before this day is so stark and so clear that it has the power to cause a crisis in life, midlife, early life but surely somewhere in life.

If someone has ever said to you that this is how the world works, let me assure you that they were wrong . For we, the third world have experienced time differently. It was a while before this life washed up on our shores. The times of our fathers were different, they are unrecognizable to us. Why there is a calm in the air in those stories, why they didn’t kill themselves out of the guilt of unemployment in their 20s, why was life never about one exam or one job, why they didn’t dull their senses to feel lesser and lesser everyday, how did they actually feel happiness are not things we are destined to understand. But the very thought of less productive lives shouldn’t seem as anarchist as it does.

Someone very pertinently remarked,”state is individual writ large.” So it makes sense that in a world where people chase productivity for validation while the cracks in life widen, that the state chase the same at the cost of inequality and destitution. Until together man and his state make the world unhabitable for him on every front.

I don’t propose the end of capitalism here, nor is this a plea for the ushering of a communist borderless society, nor am I from any other school that I may waver toward in the course of my work. I simply mean to ask you, should life really be this way?

If busywork is my destiny what God do I serve?

Shivendra Singh

This article is part of our Reflections from Lived Experience Series where we document folks who sit with experiences of the systems and wonder and help us deepen our intentional meanderings to access cracks in these systems. Thank you Shivendra for this reflective piece.