When were we programmed, and by whom?

FRIDAY, 24 JUNE 2016

Since I am awake enough in the morning to register what is happening on the clock face, I think of work. I think of work when I eat breakfast, when I shower, when I brush my teeth and when I get dressed. I think of work when I’m travelling to a place where I work. After working at a particular place, I go home. Then I eat something, and then I work. When I watch TV, I am aware that I’m not working. When I lie down to take a nap, I think about how long I’m not going to work. When I open Wikipedia in my browser, or Twitter, or Reddit or Facebook, I think about the fact that I’m taking a break from work. On Saturday evening and the whole of Sunday the big thing is that I try not to work. I work when I make money, and I work when I am busy with long-term, ambitious writing projects that are most likely never going to make any money.

What I do when I work may differ from what you do when you work, but most adults accept this story that life revolves around work without thinking about it too much.

Our simple, often illiterate ancestors of five or more centuries ago only worked for a few months of the year. The rest of the time they did what they had to do to survive, they rested, and occasionally they enjoyed a little something of a life that only lasted on average about thirty or forty years.

This begs the question: Since when did we – the working masses – allow ourselves to be programmed with this thing that we have to work at least fifty weeks of the year, at least five days a week, at least eight hours per day?