In In the Name of Love, Miya Tokumitsu takes apart the mantra, “do what you love, love what you do”. Being fortunate enough to enjoy what I do at work for the most part, I was in thrall to this aphorism until it was pointed out to me a few years ago how implausible this was for most people. Miya says,
DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.
During my exploration of feminism, I’d come across the idea of privilege, and reflected on my position therein. High up the pecking-order by default and chance. Considering DWYL in that light, its dark side becomes clear.
Speaking of Steve Jobs exhortation to new graduates to find what they love, Miya states,
Think of the great variety of work that allowed Jobs to spend even one day as CEO. His food harvested from fields, then transported across great distances. His company’s goods assembled, packaged, shipped. Apple advertisements scripted, cast, filmed. Lawsuits processed. Office wastebaskets emptied and ink cartridges filled.
Miya then goes on to skewer that making work into non-work allows for exploitation even of those nominally doing “work they love”.
This reminded me of the fact that I do try to consider my work from the viewpoint of exchanging my labor for money, even while I enjoy it. It also serves to remind me of why I must do the boring parts too. Suggesting simple bonuses over company outings makes me feel curmudgeonly, but it helps keep the relationship between employer and employee straight.
But, really, that’s by-the-by. It’s those not given the opportunity to join this club who suffer most:
If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves, what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.
Certainly, go and read the whole thing.