Today I read the article ‘Work Isn’t the Opposite of Play’ by Ben Ross, and though I agreed with the premise, reasoning, and conclusion, I did take exception to the sentence “Further, I’d argue that to be really good at work you have to play at it.” My inference from this, rightly or wrongly, was of an embedded assumption for the necessity of work and the need to be “really good” at working through the utilisation of play. I was left with the question, has this blog post become effective propaganda for a prevailing paradigm of oppression? You may well consider that a quick escalation given Ben’s convivial writing; still, let me see if I can make my case in point by way of this invitation from The Flying Raccoon.
Straight off the bat, the implication that work is fatalistic is itself abandonment too far for me; which makes the creation of our own best tethers, i.e., “… to be really good at work you have to play…”, an insult to injury. Work, however it is conceived, is ultimately the objective reduction of the individual’s experience to that of mere participant. Regardless of whether work is economic or domestic, its execution is inherently exploitative. The fact some of us may be able to comfortably reconcile ourselves to being dominated by abstract deities, such as capital, is neither here nor there. Work obscures the potential of play and alienates a vast many across this planet from a confidence that only self-directed activity can bestow. We play in spite of work.
Many of us feel the ambivalence of work, and those who do not feel that ambivalence feel ambivalently towards those who do express that ambivalence. It is important to remember that, in contrast to full on play in employment, even the tiniest indulgence of the craic is privilege in the face of others’ experiences at work, e.g., the opportunities for play of the Sports Direct sales assistant in the UK compared to those of the Kenyan waste picker. Now, I’m not saying we should all sacrifice ourselves on the altar of other abstractions, such as guilt or humanity, at the expense of our own happiness, instead we should undermine the concept of work altogether, rather than acquiesce our play by transforming it to commodity that perpetuates work.
There is no transgression in finding enjoyment through play at work, though in recognition of that fortuity we needn’t restrict the play we find there to doing a good job. Why not the bad job? It seems perfectly logical, in light of work’s consumption of our time, our lives, and its obstruction to free play, to regard work as predominantly pernicious. The multitude of individuals, lacking the cohesive support for a more immediate re-appropriation of time, have only insurrection and direct action to playfully honour and dignify themselves. In this case, the slow down, the monkey-wrench, vandalism, and pilfering stand side-by-side with vocation apropos the therapeutic benefits of play within the context of work.
So, are blog posts and sentiments like Ben’s effective propaganda for a prevailing paradigm of oppression? I think so, though this is easily rectified. Let us try hard to not inflict prescription upon one another’s play. Let us each destroy that which destroys us. And as Ben concludes, let us play and thrive.
— a guest post by Liminal D —