Years ago I met a fascinating American named Bill. I mainly remember two things about Bill. The first: He joked that despite being an artist he would probably only find fame through pulling out a shotgun at a McDonald’s. I had recently purchased a tape recorder and was mock-interviewing him when he told the McDonald’s joke. I forgot about it until I listened to it again in my room some days later. Time Magazine was in front of me—the issue in which the Columbine killers cited Tarantino as their inspiration, and talked openly about how famous this would make them. I got the chills from the coincidence. But now I mostly marvel about those years when people still bought magazines, dictaphones had tapes in them, and you asked people for their email address in order to stay in touch.
The other thing I remember about Bill was his e-mail address: paidmydues @ some long since defunct email provider. It seemed too ordinary for such a colourful character—which made me realize that there was a lot more to his words than I’d first thought.
How do you pay your dues? Thorough hard graft and working your way up through the system? By doing your bit for society and paying your taxes? By voting and protesting and being a proper citizen, partaking in society and democracy the best you can?
That was probably the general idea, and in exchange you should get proper time to live your life and chase your dreams, with the remote yet realistic possibility of making that dream your job.
But then things started to go south, albeit in the most subtle of ways. Hard work was equated with money, and freedom with cash. And little by little, hard work paid less and less, and freedom became a meaningless word.
All of this means that we stopped paying our dues long ago, and have been paying their dues instead. You all know who they are: the politicians and businessmen who are rich enough and connected enough not to have to pay for what we pay for. You know, stuff like taxes and debts.
Bullshit jobs—and bullshit in general
We’re paying their dues over and over again, not just by paying their taxes and still seeing the welfare system slowly crumble, because they have made sure that our taxpaying money goes elsewhere.
Yet that can be changed. First, we’ll have to topple the government. But this time, we must make sure we don’t stop there. We have to make fundamental changes to society—changes that make the average working man free of debt, long working hours and bullshit jobs. Changes that make this a real democracy, where the citizens have more power than just one x on a ballot poll every four years, and aren’t too worn down by 40 hours weeks of drone work to use it.
The technology for all of this is already in place—and we have the riches too, if we only distribute them more equally. The adjustment won’t be painless, but we’re more ready for it than we assume—if we’re only given the chance.