Prompt 080: The Two-Day Workweek
80. How would your life be different if there were five days off work and school and only two days with set obligations? Would this be a better or worse world to live in and why?
So, this prompt is obviously fueled by the dominant culture's "workaday world" aesthetic: if you don't have a regular job, if you don't do your 40 plus hours each week, you're either a teenager, a lazy bastard, a mythical "welfare queen" cranking out "cracker spawn" (in the immortal words of Bill Hicks), or the rich elite who are too good to work like the rest of us schlubs anyway. It automatically assumes that the reader is conditioned to feel useless or as a layabout unless they have so-called full-time work.
In the time of COVID-19, of course, this doesn't compute. Jobs were destroyed when states closed down, and those jobs won't return. There is "work sharing," where two (or more) formerly full-time employees split a full work week between them, so that they have some sort of income instead of none at all.
A full-time job just isn't possible for most people right now. Close to a third of the Failed States of America is out of work when it needs to put food on the table. Do you think they like having a five-day weekend? Don't you think they'd appreciate two days of work a week?
It's almost amusing to note that, prior to civilization, prior to landowners, prior to colonization, there happened to be large swathes of North America where those residing in it had tremendous amounts of leisure time: no work, no school. They didn't have debt. Instead, they had loyalty to a tribe. Life in that epoch was punctuated with violence or food gathering/cultivation, separated by long stretches of idle time.
I don't intend to romanticize it, but from where I'm currently situated, I think life that is nasty, brutish, and short is preferable to a long, stressed-out, debt-riddled, bitter existence. To hypothesize this, however, is to romantically pine for a time where I never would have been, a time when my parents (my ancestors, really) never would have met. It's to yearn for a time that never existed.
The Japanese term for this is "mono no aware," where you lament that something you never knew, or that never even existed, is gone. I first became aware of this term personally when I discovered "retrowave" music. It's a contemporary genre of instrumental music that emulates the synth-heavy sound of the 80's, made 40 years later.
Also along with this is the notion that we are here much, much less than we are not. "Out, out brief candle." It's said that the time that one is alive is, logically, less to an exponential degree than the time when they are not alive: either before they are born, or after they have passed on. If we go even further in this vein, we are conscious an unfathomably smaller amount of time than we are not conscious. Sleep is, for all intents and purposes, a non-conscious period, and most of us humans are asleep at least half as long as we are awake: in any given 24 hour period we're awake 16 hours, asleep 8. Before our birth, we can be considered as non-conscious, as well as afterward. So if considered in such a way, consciousness is incredibly brief.
Back to the original question. Let's consider these two days a week like we would consider our consciousness. If we were conscious only two parts out of every seven of our life, would we want it to be spent slaving away at day jobs, attempting to erase debts, managing the feeding and care of our children? No, of course not. If we could flip it, and cram all that debt-erasure, servitude, boredom, monotony, and other slag of conscious existence into just two days out of seven... Hell yeah, that would be fantastic!
Any reasonable person would want that. There would be no reason to go back to the five-day workweek. Anyone who has attained that kind of existence - able to cram their five-day workweek into a mere two days, would fight like hell to keep it that way. All efforts in those two days would be to keep the train rollin' just like that for as long as possible.
There could be an argument that supposes that some folks live like this already. Do you know who has managed to craft this kind of existence for themselves? I'll give you a hint: it ain't the rank and file working class schlubs like you and me.