The Rat Race.


“I don’t want to join the rat race.
Not be enslaved by machines,
bureaucracies, boredom, ugliness.
I don’t want to be a moron, robot, commuter.
I don’t want to become a fragment of a person.

I want to do my own thing.
I want to live (relatively simply).
I want to deal with people, not with masks.
People matter. Nature matters.
Beauty matters. Wholeness matters.
I want to be able to care.”

~ E. F. Schumacher in Small Is Beautiful.

I have a young friend Pravin with all the right qualifications to get good employment in modern India, who has in fact got a well paying job, except that he has to live in Mumbai. He is prolific with his twitter tweets and facebook posts and also a dedicated blogger. He is a delightful person to know and I consider myself fortunate to have him in my life.

He however has a problem that almost all young people in our work force have. A sense of helplessness, living a life of no purpose. Commuting and the repetitive nature of his work is frustrating, but he is stuck.

This is not an unusual scenario anywhere in the world and I am sure that all my readers will know some one or the other in a similar situation.

To cheer him up, I thought that I should post this. I anticipate his response to be, “You can afford to be like Schumacher, after having lived your life and when you are in your retirement. It is different for us younger people in the work force today. Things were different in your days.”

To that, I would like to inform my young friend that no, things were not different and my generation also had very frustrating times, but that is likely to fall on deaf years. So, to at least get him to have a good laugh, let me add this little forward that I received from another young friend who is in a different kind of trouble.

This entry was posted in Friendship, Humor, People, Philosophy, Sociology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to The Rat Race.

  1. KRD Pravin says:

    Dear Uncleji,

    Is it me? A prolific twitter, occasional facebooker and also a blogger 😉

    I am also a bad example, my classmates cursed me for rejecting a 4X job (than the one I joined)… and for this and for that and for being a teetotaler (for Nandu uncleji) and non-smoker (for you) and being veg (even after by mistake eating Beef in Singapore) and what not I dont know.

    See the kind of publicity people want “if my name were there instead of just a ‘young friend’ with all qualifications” this is called publicity hunger. You know the decease of Mumbai to be on some page (read page 3) etc thats quite contagious.

    Yes uncleji things wont change, may be goals will change generation after generation. Earlier people used to run with unsatisfied life for survival, now running for survival+better recognition.

    I still maintain – the last run would remain to be salvation, but it is achieved when one stops running! Irony.

    Thank you so much uncleji for sharing the Schumacher poem and a Bad example quote.

    Take care

    • But of course it is you Pravin. You are the only Pravin I know who says that he is running to stay in the same place. And now, though this is not quite Page 3, you are famous too. And, since I am in the BG mood, here goes the famous verse.

      कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
      मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि। 2.47

      “You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty.”

      And no, you are not a bad example. At least not as yet.

  2. Nandu Pillai says:

    You are in a “rat race” only if you think so . If you really are fed up you should leave so that some other unfortunate unemployed / misemployed / underemployed ( growing number by the day ) can make a living . You can jump off the train but be careful to choose the right station !

    • Who but a rat who jumped will address such a comment to another rat who jumped?

      • Nandu Pillai says:

        One’s ultimate “life goal” should first be well defined as far as possible . Jobs are only a route for reaching that goal . Gone are the old days of “loyalty of employee to organisation and vice versa or jobs for life” ( even in Japan ) . Sometimes one my have to even move sideways or down, or ot , to finally move up . Timing and judgement are crucial . A persons “asset value” is a matter of perception by the organisation and does change ! Companies/Businesses go though phases of recruitment and pink-slipping and often even track past employees with a view to re-inducting them at the appropriate time ! Like Shakespeare said ” There is tide in the affairs of men which if taken at the flood leads on to fortune !” Good luck to Pravin – the very fact that he is seized of the issue is a very good sign !

  3. Mike says:

    I agree with Schumacher’s sentiment. Unfortunately, for all too many, it’s not an option. (For the most part, I lucked out, though.)
    Mike recently posted..Strength of the Maker.

    • It seems to me you worked hard and made some wise choices, Mike. Didn’t you overcome some early conditioning?
      Cheerful Monk recently posted..Time For New Drivers?

      • Mike says:

        Jean, I made some choices that turned out very fortunate. Even though there was some significant disadvantages during my youth, my “conditioning,” aimed me towards university. Unfortunately, that’s where I was not successful — didn’t even finish the first year. However, that “conditioning” helped prepare me for the career path that I did have.

        For the most part, I wasn’t in the rat race because, for most of my working life before retirement, I enjoyed what I was doing and, during the last 23 years of it, as an instructor I had a lot of opportunities to be creative. Towards the end, when stuck in very trying situations, I still enjoyed the underlying work. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to go back as a contractor on occasion and do the part of the job that I enjoyed.

        As an aside, in the late 80s and early 90s, I was able to go back to University and finish a degree.
        Mike recently posted..Forestville.

    • I know your story Mike. Like me, you can also say with absolute honesty that you never worked!

      • Mike says:


        I had enough labor out in the hot Texas sun to know that I wanted something else. Laying plywood decking on roofs, putting up creosote under-siding on new apartments, chipping excess material off of huge concrete water pipes — all in my late teens. The last one was really hot! Renovating old oilfield piping, removing the old tar backed coating, which included placing a big propane torch (flamethrower) on the end to loosen it up. Lost that job after the site was flooded by a hurricane in 71. My next employment was the U.S. Navy.
        Mike recently posted..Forestville.

  4. tammyj says:

    i read today about so many leaving their ‘regular’ jobs to work for themselves somehow on the internet. and i honor that. but as a young widow re~entering the work force with no particular profession other than clerical . . . i always felt so grateful to just have a job!
    though the 25 years of living in a cubicle and commuting 30 minutes each way per day . . . well. it does take its toll. your health eventually tells you that. but what if i hadn’t ‘stuck it out.’ if i’d left when i hated it?
    i wouldn’t have a retirement income right now. and right now … i don’t think i could work an 8 hour a day job anymore. i’m not strong enough now. too many health problems. so…. sometimes there is something to be said for staying on the ‘rat’s wheel’ i guess. if i hadn’t a retirement income i would be living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere.
    i don’t know the answer. perhaps the ‘lack’ in me is what kept me in the rat race. the ‘regular’ rat race i mean. a drone.
    but like pravin… i thank you for the quote from one of my favorite people e f Schumacher! he’s wonderful. always. a voice in the wilderness of a society that thinks TOO MUCH is never enough.
    and ps… i’m glad pravin is famous now uncleji. i’ve read his comments here many times before and have always been impressed by his young common sense and wisdom! and he has a beautiful profile!
    tammyj recently posted..lazy or what?

    • Such musings are precisely the ammunition that fired up my post on Pravin. He is young enough and marketable enough to be able to find something better. Yes, he is a handsome lad indeed. He is also a very likeable and earnest young fellow who is ever ready with a smile.

  5. Ursula says:

    How Seventies, Ramana: Small is beautiful. My son currently reading it whilst putting his bum on a not so comfortable seat every day. Without fail.

    I hear Tammy’s sentiment, and I agree with Nandu’s observation.

    Sometimes it’s just good to eat. Dreams will keep.

    Ursula recently posted..Blank

    • Now that I am in my seventies, the old seventies seem very attractive to me Ursula. Those were, at least in my life were days of innocence and joy with minimum “things” in our lives with Ranjan a toddler to add to our sense of happiness. I would not mind revisiting those days again.

  6. Pravin,
    Try reading about Jon Morrow, who’s a spectacular success in spite of a debilitating disease:

    I read about him in Be a Free-Range Human by Marianne Cantwell. Highly recommended for someone like you.

  7. Looney says:

    An active rat is a happy rat.
    Looney recently posted..Sunda Kelapa Continued

  8. It does take imagination, courage, and hard work. Do you know what’s really important to you? Are you willing to pay the price?
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Time For New Drivers?

  9. nick says:

    I guess we’ve all had the experience of at least one really dismal, unfulfilling job that we were desperate to leave. I hope Pravin finds something more rewarding very soon.
    nick recently posted..Thoroughly decent

  10. Rummuser,
    Is Ranjan in a rat race? If not, how did he do it? Maybe Pravin should be talking to him.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Time For New Drivers?

    • No. Ranjan and Pravin are two entirely different types. Ranjan had many advantages that Pravin did not and still does not have. They are both great risk takers and for Ranjan it has paid off whereas it is yet to in the case of Pravin. Pravin’s time is not too far off. I have my money riding on him.

  11. shackman says:

    I agree with Nandu – quit the job. I suspect everything else I’m thinking would seem too harsh so I’ll just leave it at that.

  12. Keith says:

    Excellent post Ramana. I like the quote very much.

  13. bikehikebabe says:

    I don’t have a job but I create my own rat race here at home.

  14. Max Coutinho says:

    Hi Rummy,

    Tell Pravin that things aren’t that different today. We all have less great moments in life (it is part of the process) but we can decide to end the bad phase and move on until we feel satisfied. Take risks, don’t be afraid of sacrificing whatever in pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. I am young too and I learn from the experiences of those who came before me – that is why I know that it’s not that different.

    Superb post, Rummy. Thank you.

    Max Coutinho recently posted..Maxiavelli: CNN International’s Gradual Decadence

    • Ursula says:

      Max, good advice and bad advice you give: We can indeed, within limits, “end the bad phase”. You say you are young. How young? You are in favour of “sacrificing WHATEVER in pursuit of happiness and fulfillment”. Let’s hope, for your sake, that those you depend on don’t subscribe to your notion – should you depend on anyone. And I pity those dependent on you.

      Ursula recently posted..Vigilence

      • Max Coutinho says:

        Ursula, thanks. How young am I? Given the fact that the 30’s are the new 20’s, I’d say young enough. Ah, the codex of words: “whatever” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Your notion of “whatever” may differ from mine (based on our life experiences) – this being said, Pravin would have to find out what his “whatever” is. Cheers
        Max Coutinho recently posted..Maxiavelli: CNN International’s Gradual Decadence

  15. Max Coutinho says:

    Ursula, now you got me wishing you were your father: I love a good challenge :). Cheers
    Max Coutinho recently posted..Maxiavelli: CNN International’s Gradual Decadence

  16. That’s funny and yet so true. I’ve always told people to watch my life and they’ll learn how to be better whether by doing what I do or not doing what I do. lol Still, I know his feeling because I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Blogging For The Right Reasons

  17. Peter Lee says:

    Ha ha ! Rat race. Even the whole world is participating in this rat race. It is upto you whether you enjoy it or ruin it.

  18. Love both the poem and the photo. I sent a card to my friend once with the same sentiment, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning!”
    Talk to Me…I’m Your Mother recently posted..My Dream, Your Dream

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