The Evolution of Work

Posted: October 19, 2017 in Sociology, Uncategorized
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The Evolution of Work

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I want to tell you a story. Call it a myth if you’d like. I know that work has not had a linear evolution. The stages in the history of work have been mixed up at times and gone backwards at others. What follows comes from my reading in cultural anthropology and history.

Long ago, when there were very few people, we were all hunter-gatherers. The men were the hunters because hunting had a high mortality rate. A tribe’s ability to replace it’s members depended on the number of women. Men were needed so the tribe could eat protein along with the fruit, vegetables, and mushrooms. Men were also good at fighting and killing other men. Some things never change.

Eventually, people got the bright idea of keeping some of the less dangerous animals captive and breeding them for their meat. That led to the complimentary idea that they could do the same with fruits and vegetables. And settled farming began. In the hard old days of hunter-gatherers, fights were over territory. The strongest tribes controlled the areas they passed through. With farming, a new use for strength appeared. A strong group could take from the farmers instead of doing the farming themselves.

If a strong group took everything from a group of farmers the farmers wouldn’t be able to eat and they’d either die off or go back to hunting and gathering. There’s nothing much to take from hunter-gatherers. It was in the best interest of the bandits/takers to make sure the farmers could survive.

Some bandits took so much that the farmers hired other groups of thugs to protect them in return for a smaller percentage of farm produce than the bandits wanted. This introduced workers being willing to cooperate with thieves in order to be protected from bigger thieves. You can already see an analogy with governments, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

Farming was followed by the rise of the city-state. The protectors needed housing and it was only natural that tradespeople who produced goods desired by either farmers or fighters would be safest if they were close to the fighters. Once the city-state was established in an area of the world, roaming bands of thieves were in trouble. Every attack on a farm community was a chance for the thieves to get wiped out and they had to keep taking those chances in order to keep eating.

City-states were full of fighters who didn’t have anything to do except train for fighting. What do you do if you’re the leader of a large group of fighting men who would like to see some action? Take over another city-state. Now we see how countries were formed.

During the times of the city-states, many different kinds of banners were used by the “protectors”. Cultural ethos, religion, even charismatic leaders might be behind the “higher standard of living” the protectors used as their reason for being. They became central to societies instead of the workers that were supporting them.

Once the city-state system was in place, it stayed in place for thousands of years. This was much less time than the hunter-gatherer system was in place but still longer than the system that came with the industrial revolution.

By the time of the renaissance (1400 – 1700) and industrial revolution (1800), working people didn’t even own the land they worked. It was the beginning of the end for farming as new methods of animal husbandry and horticulture meant that fewer and fewer farmers were needed for growing food. Workers could be put to other kinds of work. Life no longer needed to be just about working, eating, sleeping, and raising a family. There had already been workers doing non-farming jobs in the city-states; arts, trades, and services. Now factory work and education came into the picture.

People needed some education to be good at factory work. Even today, the main task of education is to prepare workers for factory work. You might be thinking factory work means plants manufacturing lumber, french fries, toasters, or cars. But, any job becomes factory work when it’s structured so that the worker is selling time in exchange for money.

Now I’ve skipped clean over corporations, which were around for a good hundred years before they really took off and became multi-national in the mid twentieth century. Some seem to think corporations are a great evil, but really they’re just extremely large businesses. We’ve had businesses in one form or another for thousands of years.

The problem people see with corporations is that there’s no way for the average person to start one and grow wealthy. No. Not going to happen, but small businesses are still around and still a path to wealth. And with the internet and our ever more connected world, freelancing can also be a path to wealth. That can be an even smaller business model – you alone.

I know my story hasn’t been 100% accurate. Plenty more could be added. I didn’t want to drone on for 10,000 words with every detail. My goal was to provide an entertaining overview of work through human history. I hope you enjoyed our time together.

Article by Ivan Izo.


Life's Many BalancesPhoto license

Any scroll through an internet news site will convince you there are many unbalanced people in the world. Some people become unbalanced through drugs or mental illness. Others became obsessed with the wrong things. How can we avoid falling into this tragic comedy of the damned? Become aware of the importance of balance.

There are many ways to balance your world. The concepts below come from psychology and philosophy. It doesn’t matter if you agree with their subjects. Learn instead to see how everything has an opposite and creating a balance will keep you out of trouble.

Each balance below starts with the philosophy behind it. This is followed by the psychology of balancing in our everyday experience. Most end with some practical application.

Good and Evil

Eastern philosophy emphasizes the Tao (Yin Yang) of good and evil. The good is creative and productive action. The evil is uncreative and destructive action.

The “secret” to a happy life is focusing on the positive and acting on it. All action leads to some negative reaction. We discover our weaknesses. Equipment breaks down. Others are not interested or oppose our actions. For an unhappy life, focus on the negative. Positive things still happen for the negative person. Work still comes with a paycheck. Positive people try to help. Lunch is still a good time.

A well balanced person prefers the positive and accepts the negative. When everything is going great, they prepare for problems that will come up later. When everything is falling apart, they remember that it will be good again. They focus on what’s working while doing damage control on the problem areas.

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What is Insanity?

Posted: July 9, 2017 in Psychology

What is InsanityPhoto license

There have been many definitions of insanity. It’s mainly a legal term for someone who is so disconnected from reality that they can’t understand the consequences of their actions for other people.

Getting Crazier

In psychology itself, clinical is used to indicate extreme cases. These are mental disorders that have gotten bad enough to have a negative effect on other people. As long as a person’s mental disorder only affects themselves, there’s no reason to force treatment.

There are several levels at which a person’s mental disorder may affect others. The least disturbing way is when they are unable to keep a job and become a financial burden to others. People at this level often find themselves on welfare, sometimes for life.

More severe are cases where the person’s mental problems manifest in the real world in ways that cause emotional distress for friends and relatives. Think of hoarders, for example.

The most extreme cases of mental disorder result in physical harm or death to others.
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Willpower and MotivationPhoto license

Willpower is doing whatever it takes to reach your long term goals. It is also avoiding what you should not do. It is both achievement and abstinence.

Self-discipline has been found to be a key factor in success. You can succeed without it, of course. Maybe you’ll luck out on a good job or have a nice lotto win. Joking and luck aside, you are more likely to achieve what you want when you have strong willpower.

Steps in using willpower:

1. Decide why you want to change, your motivation, and set clear goals.

2. Monitor your actions as you move toward those goals.

3. Exercise your willpower to keep on track.

Willpower is cognitive, not emotional. Don’t let your emotions take over. If you’re guided by what you feel like doing, you’ll go off track. What is your goal? What must you do to achieve it? It doesn’t matter how you feel about the task right now. It’s how you will feel when you succeed. Let logic win.

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A Motivated Killer

Posted: August 20, 2016 in Editorial

Toe-Cutter cover

Most of the articles here are about getting motivated and avoiding negativity. What if you lived in a world where the negatives never ended? I wrote a novella which I’m giving away for free that explores just that kind of life.

Vern grew up in violence and learned to fit in. He tries to look on the bright side and fight for those he sees as the good people. Can he fight evil without becoming evil himself?

If you think you might like a short walk on the dark side, the story is only 30,000 words. That’s about 80 pages in print.

There’s a link to download your free copy of Toe-Cutter on my book page.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Too Much EducationPhoto license

Are we getting too much education today or is it the same education as in the past drawn out over a longer period of time so that everyone passes?

My grandfather had a grade five education, started out with his own business, later went into government where he set up medicare for an entire province among other things, and eventually became a mayor.

My father had a high school diploma, went in for manual labor and factory work, and retired with a pension.

I have a university degree and will need to work until I die.

Untangling Education versus Pay

Part of the change over the generations described above is due to recessions or depressions appearing about every ten years. Those have kept wages down while raising the cost of living.

The result has been that more and more education is needed to get a job that just pays the bills. Thanks to student loans, it can be a long time before those better paying jobs make a difference in your bank account. Many choose to stop at high school and get by on minimum wage or enter the welfare system.

But that’s a separate problem. Let’s stick with the value of education.

We Were Taught More in the Past

In 1917, my then 12 year old grandmother moved to Canada from Scotland with her family. She had been in grade 9 studying calculus and algebra, among other subjects appropriate for the grade level.

When she enrolled in school in Canada she was told, “Grade 9 is too far ahead for a 12 year old. We’re putting you in grade 6.” She was disappointed to say the least. For the rest of her public education, she was at the top of her class and went on to take a one year teacher’s degree. When she went to work as a teacher, she could have been a principal but was passed over for a less qualified male teacher because, “It wouldn’t be right for a woman to be a man’s supervisor.” Yeah. It was a different world in a lot of ways.

That’s Just Scotland

Is it just Scotland? Did they start kids in school three years earlier than Canada? I think it was Europe versus North America. Maybe it still is.

Any readers from Europe who would like to comment on what grade, age, and year they found themselves studying calculus and algebra? Scottish comments could be especially revealing.

Location is not the point either. It’s how much education and how soon.

Triumph of the Unintelligent?

When I went to school in the 1960s and 70s, a 60% was required or you repeated the grade. I passed every grade with little effort. A pass was all the school and my parents demanded. Why this matters will make sense shortly.
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Your Perception Becomes Your Reality

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Between jobs, in another century it seems like now, I took the worst job ever for a few months; a min wage job washing dishes in a busy restaurant. The non-stop pace began the moment I arrived. There were no breaks. Demands came from all sides; bosses, cooks, waitresses. It was go, go, go the entire shift. Everyone feels free to yell at the dish-washer when their day isn’t going well. And the hours sucked. The best dish-washer only got 25 hours per week. At first, I got less than that. The job didn’t even cover my bills.

I hated it. Even though I have a strong work ethic, am a fast learner, and am physically fit, nothing was ever good enough or fast enough. Especially not fast enough. I became faster. I learned what the needs were going to be before anyone asked. I ignored my aching back, my sore hands and feet, until after work when I would rest up while sitting at my computer writing. After an hour or two of writing, I could stand long enough to take a shower and go to bed.

I loved it, in an odd sort of way. This is where perception and reality come into the picture.

I needed to have some kind of work while I searched for my next full time job. I had landed that position so it was in my best interests to make the best of it. I could think of it as unrewarding drudge work for grumpy bosses and co-workers. Or I could think of it as a challenge.

It was unrewarding financially because it wasn’t enough hours. That gave me more hours per week for writing.

It was drudge work because that was the job and it was only a temporary part-time job anyway. The drudge work would be gone in the near future when I found my next job.

The grumpy bosses and co-workers were just venting their stress. It had nothing to do with me. I couldn’t be washing plates, washing glasses, washing buckets, refilling the vegetables, refilling the pop, and lugging sacks of flour and sugar all at the same time. I did my best to keep all of those things covered but everything would continue to run out as meals were served. I cheerfully took care of whatever task someone was letting themselves get upset about.

I kept my own frustrations to myself. The problems would be resolved. The rush would pass. The shift would end. There was no need to yell at anyone. It only increased the tension. React with a positive attitude, even if you need to fake it, and everyone gets a little less stressed, even you.

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