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.

39 thoughts on “The Rat Race.”

  1. 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

    1. 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. 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 !

      1. 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 !

      1. 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.

      1. 🙂

        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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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.

  4. 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

    1. 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.

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