Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Right or the Good?

I was driving in this morning after dropping off a short person for the last day of school before summer vacation and listening to Jack Johnson's song "Banana Pancakes" and couldn't help thinking of one of TheWife's soapbox issues -- the 40 hour work week. American culture is so infected with a combination of the Protestant work ethic and the idolization of capitalism (indeed, Weber argues that they cannot be separated) that we believe the right thing to do is to sacrifice the good life for the productive life that maximizes profits for shareholders. Living in a way that climbs the ladder is more important than living in a way that brings contentment and flourishing. "If you don't want to work here with only two weeks vacation a year, I'll find someone who will."

I'm lucky that my job comes with a great degree of flexibility, much more than many of my friends. Without it, I wouldn't be able to do things that give back to the community, like coaching little league or teaching at a local middle school. Without lighter summers, I wouldn't be able to spend as much time with my kids. But my job is far and away an exception.

Is it possible to do here what they do in Europe and build more humanity into our work schedule? Is telecommuting a step in the right direction or does is simply cause job-creep where now you cannot even relax and be at home when you are at home. With cell phones and e-mail are you always on the clock? Our suburban spread without mass transit makes commute times eat into our living time and increases our stress. Is there any chance that we'll rethink how we live and restructure it in a way that would let us make banana pancakes on a rainy Wednesday?