I remember truly waking up to the preposterous concept that is the grind when I was idly browsing Twitter one evening. It’s a term I knew, but one I never thought more deeply about. Khloe Kardashian (sorry, I’m talking about the Kardashians again, it won’t last long, I promise!) had been tweeted by a follower saying that she’d picked up three extra shifts at her job, in order to afford a pair of Khloe’s Good American jeans. The woman tweeted this to Khloe not out of annoyance that the jeans were so expensive, but to show her how much she wanted the jeans, that she was prepared to work hard to get them — she was a loyal fan. Khloe’s response was something along the lines of, ‘Aww, that’s so cool/sweet/awesome!’ I don’t really remember exactly, but that was the tone. I was furious. What a concept, eh? An average working person picks up THREE extra shifts, which, let’s say, is about twenty four hours of work, to afford a pair of jeans that a multi-millionaire influencer is selling at £147.26. A fan of Khloe, this woman wanted to own a pair of Good Americans, made by her favourite influencer. And Khloe thought it was cute. How cute, yes. Cute indeed. I think it’s super cute when we’re sold the lie that working intense and long hours in a job you don’t enjoy, in order to afford things that will not improve your quality of life, is a good idea. Because if you wanna live lavish, you gotta demean yourself, girl. It’s all about the grind, baby.
Let me be clear — this isn’t that girl’s problem. It’s Khloe’s problem, or in a larger sense, it is the system’s problem. Consumers aren’t to blame for this cycle of work-buy-work-buy-work. It’s in our entire way of life, of existing. This isn’t the only example of our system’s consumerist exploitation. Take food, for instance. Western nations are worried about obesity and diabetes, and ask us, the consumers, to be more conscious, to eat less sugar, to work out. Zoom out on this issue, and you’ll realise this isn’t simple at all; big businesses have made certain foods accessible to everyone, and those foods are the ones that are bad for you. Processed food that is full of sugar, fat and chemicals is easy to access, cheap, and addictive. Food companies make it addictive so that people will continue to buy the food and eat it. Yet somehow, the consumer is the one who must work to avoid the grasp of sugary food. The same goes for older people who whinge about youngsters using their phones constantly — hellloooo? Smartphones. Are. Addictive. They are designed with your brain in mind, so that you can’t put them down, because you’re getting that dopamine and your brain loves it. Have you never noticed how quiet a screaming child goes when you hand them an iPad full of games? Of course there’s always choice, I’m not suggesting we are all hopelessly programmed and unable to make decisions for ourselves. Yet the idea that the consumer is at fault for buying too much food, clothes, or shoes, or phones, or makeup, or whatever that product might be, is ludicrous. What’s worse, we’re encouraged to do it. We’re encouraged to live this way even by those with the best intentions. Taylor Swift, whose fan base is young, I mean, really, really young, released a line of clothing alongside her album Lover, with Stella McCartney. The bomber jacket in this line costs $1,995. Explain to me, someone, how that can possibly nurture anything but young people exhausting themselves to try to afford this ridiculous price tag?
Work is hard, and work is long. Work is a concept that entails a person providing physical labour in return for a reward, usually money. Everyone needs money, so everyone must work. I don’t take issue with the concept of work in a theoretical sense. I’m prepared to work for the things and people I love and care about. I will work hard to protect the environment, to protect the equality of people, to protect animals and those I love. I’m prepared to pay my taxes, to contribute to society, and do everything that work is meant to represent. Except work doesn’t represent those things, at least not any more. Capitalism has been pushed to its brink, and the system doesn’t work. Don’t even try to tell me that it does. It fucking doesn’t. If you think it does, it’s because it benefits you and you thrive on it. That don’t mean it works, sweetie. That’s another essay for another time. The language we have formed around work, in particular work that pays little and demands a lot of energy, worships this concept – the concept of the grind. Think, for a moment, about how many days you have spent working, simply waiting for the day to be over. This fills me with fear and sadness, to be honest. As one person tweeted the other day, (credit to them, linked below), ‘One of the most depressing things about capitalism is being happy when a day goes by fast. Like a good day so often is just when work feels like it ended quick. Life is only so long. I want to cherish every minute with my friends and family.’
When work exhausts you to the point where you have less energy to live the life for which you participate in the work, it is no longer part of a system that operates well. The grind isn’t cool, but they want us to believe that it is. If you work for years in a demeaning, underpaid and exhausting job, and eventually break away from this cycle, you’re one of the lucky ones, and likely you’ll be hailed for grinding your way to the top. If you do so, I’m happy for you. Like I say, this isn’t about you, this isn’t about any of us. It’s about those who make us work too much, a system by which people live and die and suffer. Truth is, most people grind for the sake of grinding, and continue to do so, to work for the system, to be robbed of their happiness and freedom by the system, and so on, until they die. The grind ain’t cute, and don’t let anyone, anyone convince you that you’re lazy, or unrealistic, or stupid because you don’t want to work constantly and shape your life, your real, precious, vibrant, incredible soulful life around punching a damn clock.