Sunday, October 2, 2011
A political post I made yesterday on Facebook suddenly, and kind of surprisingly to me, exploded into a debate between several friends that continues a day later. The specifics of the debate aren't terribly interesting, however a short exchange between my friend John and I seemed quite worthy of posting.
John: Our society seems to place a fundamental value on "productive" citizens. I think thorough internalization of that value is nearly universal.
Nathan: That's a totally interesting point. And one that people really ought to reflect on. What's productive mean? Is it our main mission in life?
The conversation rolled on from there into other issues, but I remain fascinated by this issue of productivity. Probably because it ties in with a lot of the other questions I've been having as repeat visitors over the past few years.
When I hear people speak about a strong need to be productive, I often wonder what's motivating it. Sometimes, I get the sense that they're trying to produce or achieve something in the world to make up for a poor sense of self esteem. If only I get that promotion or finish that project, then maybe I won't feel like such a loser. In other words, they basically think "I am only valuable in the world if I am doing X, Y, or Z."
Other times, it's fairly clear that productivity is tied to survival. The person is always running around, getting things done, because if they don't, they think the boss will fire them, or their children won't get fed and clothed, or a whole host of other things. Some of the fear driving this behavior is very real and accurate. However, odds are, some of the things they're "getting done to survive" aren't really needed.
I often wonder this: How much of our "need" to be productive is driven by external pressures that are more about making someone else rich and/or powerful, than about fulfilling some internal human desire?
If we structured our society differently, so that basic needs weren't an issue the way they are now, how might productivity look different? Would we even be talking about such a thing?
Are you driven by a need to be "productive"? If so, what is behind that drive?