Many Americans have gradually experienced a significant loss of income and with that a loss in quality of life over the last two decades. With that change has come an opportunity to readjust to life such that loses can be minimized. In effect, we have found that up to a point losses of income are not always translated into equivalent losses in quality of life.
In reality, many people, indeed many families, may have put in more hours each week than it was reasonable to work. In so doing, they lost their way. Whether you lived alone or with another who was also likely to be working, you had many household responsibilities (cleaning, repairs, shopping, childcare, etc…) that required your attention and time to a degree even if you paid someone else to do some or all of the work. In the end, work and household duties combined together with your need to prepare your own food or eat out. That left you with little time for personal issues other than sleep, hygiene and traveling to and from work. You had little time to talk to others, to interact socially or even , for that matter, to ask yourself about what you might do next in life, or what even your possibilities might be. Time to interact, talk and reflect with others either on the meaning of your life, theirs, or about existence generally may have been simply out of the question. In time, you lost significant social capital.
After years of this kind of non-existence, life becomes a trial even though you may be unaware of that. Nevertheless, one day you lose your job. you’ve become redundant. You are perhaps replaced by a machine–one with no name. The machine does not need to be paid, it makes no mistakes, needs no lights, doesn’t go to the bathroom, doesn’t have to breathe non-toxic air or do anything else that human workers need to do. Of course, it makes no labor demands, pays no union dues, but neither does it buy the products of its own labors. In the end , no one will be needed to do the work people used to do. Raw materials will be brought to the plant. They come in one entrance and leave by another as finished products. This may be the ultimate fate of the manufacturing sector here in America, but elsewhere also. Many service jobs will go the same way.
Computers, robotics and artificially intelligent devices will replace us. One does not know when–but soon I suspect. For now, though we are only gradually being replaced. Of course, we find other jobs. Usually we work for less money, and perhaps for fewer hours. Hopefully we will make money enough to survive.
This is a slow but unrelenting process. But, we are resourceful. Are we not? We save our cash for what only cash can buy. To do that we must do for ourselves everything we formerly paid someone to do for us. We may raise our own food, learn again how to preserve it, make or repair many things, trade chores with others, build many things for ourselves and for others who may be able to pay something for our products.
We’ll have to live more simply and restructure our homes to be more energy efficient. We’ll have to do many things. We’ll have to collaborate with others to rebuild some things together. We’ll need to collaborate effectively–and that means we’ll need to rebuild our social capital. We might even learn to like what we will be doing when this kind of life falls to many or most of us. The work will be hard, the hours will be long, but late in the evening when we measure the results of our efforts, we may not think this a bad way to live at all.