ONE: Something doesn’t feel right. If you are 25 or older you probably feel that there’s something odd about how your life functions and you may or may not be able to put your finger on it. If you are 30 and older you definitely feel that something is seriously wrong, somewhere and it seems to boil down to one sentiment: you are barely coping. You feel like you are perpetually on the edge of a cliff, your toes peaking into the abyss. Or, you feel as though you have already fallen over the edge but managed to hold on with one hand digging into the sharp edge of the cliff, fingers clutching as your nails begin to separate from the skin. On the other hand, you are desperately holding to whatever it is you feel your life is worth as it dangles and sways in your ever-loosening grip.
A big part of why we find ourselves going “noh mahn” at odd hours of the night is the actual structure of “adulting”. Adulting, as we know it today, is a byproduct of the industrial revolution, which itself evolved from the farming era. What the former kept from the latter was the notion of brute strength as the driving force of economic life. This setup still prioritized men’s physical strength. Automation meant production and work life was regularized and set into a specific time schedule. In 1914 Henry Ford began paying his factory workers to double what the normal wages were. In September 1926 he essentially announced the 5-day workweek, which came after the 8hr, 9-5 workday. Most people think he did it for efficiency in his factories, but the “magic” lay not in the 5-day workweek, but in basically creating the weekend. “People who have more leisure must have more clothes,” he argued. “They eat a greater variety of food.
They require more transportation in vehicles.” Through higher wages and the weekend he didn’t give space for workers to be happier, he created consumerism. The catch was that the work hours and the 5-day workweek meant that, as the man was at work, the woman had to stay home and look after the home and raise the kids. And THAT fam, is where that something is not right feeling comes from. We live in that very industrial society that was not built for educated men and women who both want to pursue fulfilling careers and make tons of money. This is why women have had to endure the brunt of economic disempowerment. This is why women are constantly tired and single mothers are at their wit’s end. This is why so many men are so dysfunctional in the home. The system was built to allow men to have just enough money to keep buying things, to give them just enough rest to go back to work at the factory, and for women to work 24hrs at home. It was built for couples who marry at 25, have 2 kids by 30 (hence suburb houses have 3 bedrooms).
The world is essentially a machine that was neither built for fulfilment nor the making of wealth but the supposed path to these has been paved with consumerism. The education system itself was built around manufacturing factory workers who become consumers in an endless cycle. The rise of 4IR in some ways means fewer factories, that is partly why the education system is on the brink. Technology has taken out the factory but cranked the consumerism all the way up so the system is totally out of balance. Add to that our “history” and you understand why you can’t sleep at night.
Photography: Adrian MacDonalds
Writer: Vus Ngxande