I am Too Alone in the World

Tom read “I am Too Alone in the World” by Rainer Maria Rilke

To me, Rilke’s poem seemed to speak to the desire for some “fully authentic” life experience that many hope to achieve through creativity. I wonder how far back the anxiety that one isn’t living their life to its’ fullest or most real potential goes for our species. There’s a song by Gang of Four called “What we All Want”. The chorus is:

Could I be happy with something else?

I need something to fill my time

Could I be happy with someone else?

I need someone to fill my time

It appears that Rilke often felt that he could be happier with someone else (or without his children if I’m not confusing his story with that of another poet.)

In pre-agricultural societies, there was a very limited division of labor, largely determined by sex. With agriculture came many different jobs as humans began to work as specialized parts of an overall process which no one human could accomplish alone. Industrialization lead to a surplus of human resources. Each job is such a small part of the process that anyone can be trained to do it in a short amount of time and can be easily replaced by the ready supply of underemployed workers.

Machines took over assembly line jobs, creating more surplus labor. They are now moving into the service industry. Self check-out. Automated Help-Line. The primary argument fast food chains make for keeping their pay low is that if the raise the wage, their workers will be more expensive than automation, which is already possible

At my job, people tolerate a low wage, inadequate staffing, and broken equipment in exchange for flight benefits. At the Greensboro airport, people do the same work for minimum wage and no benefits. In Charlotte, we already have robots that assist in parking planes. Baggage delivery, my work area, has recently installed a computer in each TUG, which calculates the most efficient route faster than any of us could. It also updates gate changes in real time. It has taken all the mental work out of the job. This is the first step toward automation.

That being said, I’d rather be alive now than in the Paleolithic.