Uncommon Sense

March 28, 2021

What People Really Want

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:13 am
Tags: , ,

I have read recently more than a few articles about how one can transform themselves from being a “wage slave” into a free person who doesn’t have to “go to work” or “attend a meeting” or “do this or that task.” In such articles there seem to be these extremes and little in between. Wage slaves work in a cubicle and have no control over their tasks or schedules. Their “bosses” seem to be either assholes or tyrants or both. At the other end of this spectrum are those with “eff you money” who do what they want when they want. While I do not doubt these extremes exist, I tend to think that there are many other states between them that are desirable.

In my case, I followed Joseph Campbell’s advice and “followed my bliss.” Without a lot of calculation involved, I became a college teacher. In this job, I did have a schedule I had to follow; I was assigned classrooms and times and courses and students to teach, but I had some say into what those were. Inside my classroom, I had objectives to meet, but how I went about my business was largely up to me. Yes, I was evaluated by managers and peers fairly regularly but the processes involved were mostly reasonable, and I had some input on those processes, too. In short, I had a fair amount of autonomy in my work. As it turns out this is very high on the list of desirable attributes for people’s work situations.

People want to feel as if they have some control over their lives, even while being willing to surrender some of that autonomy to the others in a work group. The middle ground between those who are wage slaves, who have no autonomy, and those who have “eff you money,” are all of us who have a little bit of both.

This is what I see is the major axis of our culture: deciding what we have individual responsibility to do and what we have collective responsibility to do. Any sentient social species would have the same axes of decisions.

In our past, people wanting total autonomy could leave any group and live a solitary life as a hermit or backwoodsman or what have you. Those who needed to have a structure to anchor their existence could join a military cadre or religious order that proscribed all of their actions. I suspect that most people want something in between: some structural support, so that some responsibilities could be offloaded to the group and some autonomy, so we could have “our way” from time to time.

It is interesting that American politics has this constant tension between these two states. We still are frequently debating whether, for example, healthcare is a collective or individual responsibility. We have decided that national defense is a collective responsibility and our religious practices are an individual responsibility. But, curiously, the debates over the unresolved issues are not framed as “individual responsibility vs. collective responsibility.” They are framed with hidden stereotypes instead. Those who favor collective responsibility for healthcare are characterized as “big government advocates” or “socialists.” Those who favor individual responsibility for healthcare are characterized as “rugged individualists” or “small government zealots.” Our course, embedded in such issues are party politics, racism, classism, and many other things, but I argue that we should be arguing from questions such as “are we all better off with healthcare, for example, as a collective responsibility or an individual responsibility?” This gets us to cost benefit-analyses and a cleaner decision, which is why the politicians avoid it, as they are representatives of their rich constituents first and foremost (and rich non-constituents, too—Why do we allow people from out of state to donate money to US senatorial elections? What has that election to do with those people? I have written about this at length, so back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .)

I just saw a quote that said “If you think you are too small to have an effect, try sleeping with a mosquito.” So, as “little people” we can use the language of “collective vs. individual responsibility” and ask questions addressing the costs and benefits of either and inject that into our discourse. Maybe it will irritate our current debaters enough to scratch our itch.

All we want is a little autonomy and we are willing in sacrifice some of ours to the good of us all. Now go throw open your window and shout “I am mad as hell and won’t take it anymore!”


  1. In defense of the “wage slaves” – everyone cannot possibly live as a backwoodsman, as even they can’t provide – tools, certain foods, spices, clothes, medicine, etc.. So either these still have to be made by industries with labor by the “wage slaves”, or, possibly, if no one is employed by anyone else and maybe at best people specialize in their trades and trade with each other – we’d be back into early Iron Age level of development.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by List of X — March 28, 2021 @ 7:15 pm | Reply

    • I used to laugh at a “reality” TGV show that featured a homesteading, making our own way family in Alaska. The ads featured statements like “living off of the land” and self-sufficient. The family pose for the splash screen showed all of them wearing flannel shorts, denim jeans, leather booths, with modern rifles over their shoulders, etc. Gee I wonder where they get their stuff? The Levis Tree? The Rifle Bushes?

      On Sun, Mar 28, 2021 at 7:15 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 28, 2021 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

      • Of course there is also the fact that almost all of those “survivor” type shows are blatantly fraudulent. But your other point is well taken, even these prepper/survivalist types seem to forget that all of the goodies they’re hoarding for a SHTF (sh*t hits the fan) event are going to eventually wear out, break, get used, up, etc., and then what are they going to do? I know some of those types of people and I fear I occasionally can’t resist the temptation to point out how ridiculous some of the things they do really are. All that food and water they’ve stockpiled, the guns and the ammo and all the rest… Sooner rather than later the food is going to run out. Their ammunition is going to run out or go bad. The guns are going to break. And now there is no source for more food, nor for parts for their gadgets, no new filters for their water purifiers. They have neither the skills nor the real tools necessary to survive without being backed up by modern manufacturing and agriculture.

        Liked by 3 people

        Comment by grouchyfarmer — March 28, 2021 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

        • But … but … but … They. Are. Prepared. Right? Right?

          Liked by 3 people

          Comment by Nan — March 29, 2021 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

        • I think the plan is to use their guns to keep obtaining new supplies.

          Liked by 3 people

          Comment by List of X — March 29, 2021 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

        • Well they’re prepared for something, but what, exactly? If the disruptions are minor and only last a few days they’ll be fine, but for anything longer than that? I seriously doubt it.

          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by grouchyfarmer — March 29, 2021 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

  2. “Why do we allow people from out of state to donate money to US senatorial elections? What has that election to do with those people?” Yes! There should be one simple rule for donations to political campaigns: Only individual voters who actually live in the district the district in question can make any kind of financial contribution to a candidate. Those politicians are supposed to be representing the persons in their district. Period.

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — March 28, 2021 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • I wrote a long post delineating my plan that is based upon a simple system. You are only allowed to donate money to a candidate or issue that affects you. So, you must have a legal residence in a state to donate to a senatorial campaign, etc. Corporations, if they are to be considered to be like people, will have the same restriction. Their “legal residence” will be determined by the location of their corporate offices. Of course, we all have free speech rights and can donate our individual labor to our hearts content, but no more “out-of-state money flooding it to contest a ballot initiative, for example.

      On Sun, Mar 28, 2021 at 10:55 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 3 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 29, 2021 @ 8:02 am | Reply

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