Offbeat 12 August 2016
I worked for a local Internet Service Provider for a few years, updating their news. The idea was simple enough: everyone wants bad news with their morning coffee. The gig involved waking up every day at about 5 in the morning to stare into the abyss and find the most interesting horrors. That happened every day, come hell or high water, Christmas and New Year included.
To be fair, I made a point of trying to find the insights, point to the way ahead and give some depth to the news. Social media came along and put an end to that. But for the dogged survival of a couple of larger news outlets, the vast bulk of news is generally weird and senseless, a reflection of people’s wants.
People prefer conspiracy theories that, more often than not, have very little relationship to reality. For instance, one article that went around a couple of months ago, stated that the Bank of Namibia belongs to the Rothschilds. Donald Trump seems to be bringing weirdness into the mainstream as well, so perhaps there is some king of hope, if not for reason, then for mainstream news’ ability to report weirdness with a straight face.
The rest of social media news seems to be coy titillation, as in Buzzfeed’s items on porn stars and Snapchat dating profiles. Call that the social media equivalent of the page three girl. Then there is the endless flow of cute kittens, funny dogs and lately, a goat. The less said about cuteness, the better.
The point is that I worked without interruption for a couple of years. No day belonged to myself. Even if the day was not filled completely with work, there would be about a minimum of an hour or two of dutifull activity.
At one stage, I got so desparate for escape that I asked my partners to take over on Friday afternoons, so that I could go to the pub and avoid any work by going to the bar and reasonably refusing any telephonic requests by claiming that I had already had three beers, and couldn’t be held responsible for the results.
In one of the early columns in this series, I wrote about my detestation of Friday revellers. When I wrote that I seem to remember talking about how the longing for Friday seemed to negate the joy of meaningful occupation, represented by Monday mornings. To be fair to myself, I really did enjoy work at the time. Aside from the adrenalin of trying to earn, there was a fulfillment that I couldn’t get elsewhere in a way that was meaningful to me. It’s nice to know that you are making a meaningful contribution
Now I find myself changing. When the website updates came to an end in March, I wondered how it would change me. I expected there to be a hole that wanted filling. I found more work to do. Patterns of behaviour cling like chewing gum on the pavement. It’s taken a while for the change to emerge. I am beginning to love weekend laziness, and dislike Mondays.
In some ways I became dulled to everything that I did. It felt mindless towards the end, just a dull repetition of bad news, with no differentiation between an ugly story emerging from the Middle East and another ugly story coming out of Africa.
My weekends are unformed now. I can choose between cooking and eating, reading, playing a game or sleeping, without the knowledge that I have to interrupt something to do work.
One of the joys I have discovered is turning off the computer. If left unchecked, the computer can dominate everything. As much as it is a lifestyle accessory, turning it on turns the mind to productivity. In my irrational way of thinking, the idea of being unproductive was heresy.There are times now when I can’t see the purpose of productivity. It feels like there is no particular conclusion to it, just the exercise of treading water to keep up with needs. On the other hand, the punctuation of weekends may lead to the idea that I have to get things done within the five other days.
Humanity is being trained to work incessantly. I am not the only one who has experienced it. Somewhere there has to be a cut-off. Mondays should be the beginning of the week.