“Act as if You will be Fired Tomorrow” – the Impact of Capitalism on Family, Career, Society, and Trust

In the last few months I have been really busy. A lot of my work is mainly stakeholder management and project management. It can be very stressful but at the same time it can be rewarding because you produce something very tangible at the end.

The routine of work sometimes depresses me because it feels meaningless. The financial year is over, so I will need to prepare my tax return soon. This has its upsides because I get to see how much passive income I have received. Last year I made about A$20k in passive income, which works out to around A$1666 per month (US$1200 per month). (According to most digital nomads, passive income of US$1000 per month is enough to retire in Chiang Mai.) However, I don’t feel that US$1k per month is enough. Now that I have reached this milestone, I feel more secure in my job because, if I were fired the next day, I could simply fly to Chiang Mai and retire. Approximately two years into my job, there was a large restructure of the organisation. I saw colleagues being fired and legally abused. This experience taught me at an early age that the job you have (even a government job) is precarious and not secure. It was devastating seeing colleagues with family responsibilities and large mortgages being fired. In my opinion, this experience, coupled with witnessing the divorce of my parents, have shaped me greatly. These were hard moments but I got through these moments stronger, and thankfully none of these incidents affected me. They affected others, but because I witnessed these incidents, I was able to learn from them. The key lesson is the importance of acting as if you will be fired the next day. Whenever I walk into the office, I act as if I will be fired. I do not take my job for granted. I structure my life as if I will be fired and live accordingly. If I am not fired and make money, that’s a bonus. 

Marriage and career are similar in that, if you don’t handle them correctly, you will be in a position of dependency. My mother is a traditional woman. She cooked and cleaned and tended to the household. She was loyal. However, my father cheated on her. Many people ask me what I think about the incident and what I will do, almost expecting me to disown or become angry at my father. But I was too numb to really do anything. When I really think about, even though my father cheated with another woman, I begin to realise that my mother shares some blame because she made herself dependent on my father. She thought she was doing the right thing. Traditionalism seems like a good idea. Most people, when they are unsure of what to do, do what has always been done, which is the allure of conservatism. It provides an easy default answer. The problem is that what has been done in the past does not always work, especially when the world today is very different to the world centuries ago. Today we live in a highly capitalist individualistic society. As Margeret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

quote-there-is-no-such-thing-as-society-there-are-individual-men-and-women-and-there-are-families-margaret-thatcher-29-25-01

However, Ms Thatcher was wrong. The quote should be: “There is no such thing as society or family: there are individual men and women.” Society is just an aggregation of individuals, and so is a family. A family is simply a mini-society. Thatcher was a political conservative and as such felt compelled to accept capitalist ideology without understanding that capitalism and traditional family values are incompatible. Under a capitalist system, it is each man for himself, and family is an expense and liability. This explains why, as countries become more and more economically developed, family structure changes from extended family to nuclear family and now the nuclear family is breaking up into pure individualism. Under pure communism, the community, country, or people is the family. The nation is the family. However, as market capitalism is introduced, this family breaks down gradually. The next phase of capitalism will be technocapitalism, which will make the world far more individualistic. Whenever I see families, the children are on their smartphones, disengaged. In fact, often the parents are on their smartphones as well. Everyone has separate lives. Everyone is an individual, and this individualism is enhanced by technology.

So while family was important in the past, those days are over, and we must adapt to the changing times. The same applies to career. In the past, it was normal to have a job for life, but such an idea goes against free market capitalism because businesses should have the freedom to hire talent that benefits them, and so under pure capitalism you should only be hired insofar as you are profitable and if you grow older and your productivity deteriorates, the ideology of capitalism would state that you should be fired unless your experience and wisdom compensates sufficiently. More rights for businesses to fire workers as well as more private sector and contestability principles being applied to government jobs has made jobs more precarious over time. The idea of an employer being almost like a family is starting to diminish under the weight of individualism.

As such, the best approach is not to be suckered by the delusion of the sacredness of collectivist fantasies such as family, nation, or organisation. You are just an individual. You are expendable. You may be divorced, fired, or betrayed at any moment. You must expect that and you must prepare for it.

The solution is as follows:

  1. live a minimalist lifestyle in opposition to consumerism
  2. minimise all obligations, not just financial obligation (e.g. debt) but also non-financial obligation (e.g. social norms, obligations to family and friends, etc)
  3. diversify your investment portfolio
  4. live off passive income.

Ultimately, it comes down to trust or lack of trust in others. These recommendations address the risk of trusting in others. If you live a minimalist lifestyle, your distrust is in business whom you believe will try to profit off your impulsive desires. If you minimise debt, you do not trust that your the source of income to pay the debt will continue forever. If you keep people at arms distance, you do so because because you recognise that anyone can betray you at any moment for their personal gain. You diversify your investments because you cannot trust any one investment to perform well. You live off passive income because you cannot trust your job to provide for you, and you cannot trust your body to always be young and agile enough to provide value to an employer.

In an individualistic world, the only person you can trust is yourself, so you structure your life so that you never need to trust anyone.

Rational Misanthropy

It’s a Saturday morning now. I woke up at nine, drank a protein shake, and prepared a cup of tea. I’m writing this now on my laptop in a small room at the back of the house (see Why I Still Live with My Mother). I feel comfortable now but mainly because I am by myself. I’ve learned over time that not only am I an introvert who has difficulty being with other people but I am also a misanthrope who dislikes humanity. Google defines a misanthrope as “a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.”

Especially since I’ve gone mostly vegan I’ve just noticed that people are really cruel and evil, and this applies to just about everyone, even family members and friends. I pretty much limit my human interaction to the minimum nowadays. Rather than try to get along with others and improve my interpersonal skills, I’ve simply given up on people.

I know these are extreme thoughts, but I’ve had these thoughts for a long time. I keep thinking about this too often, and there’s nothing I can do about it. One option is to conform to society, that is, I can just be “normal,” be like everyone else and eat meat, get married, go into debt to buy a luxury car, and so forth, but this cannot be the answer. If I do what other people want me to do, I’m not doing what I want, and I can never be happy following the path other people have laid for me. The only solution then is to do the opposite. Rather than conform and go into society, I become a nonconformist and get out of the society.

I have recently purchased a book on Kindle called Gorilla Mindset, which I hope can help me with how I think about things in my life. Rather than be filled with negativity, I can replace negative thoughts with better thoughts, but I don’t want to replace negative thoughts with wildly optimistic thoughts either because this can be harmful. Rather, I should simply have factual thoughts.

I currently live off dividends, so strictly speaking I don’t need to work, so I don’t need to go to work and be exposed to annoying people. But my dividends are not that high, and I feel like I should be able to earn an online income before I go off and become a digital nomad.

When I’m a digital nomad, I imagine I will be a freelancer. I will base myself in Australia and I will be an Australian for tax purposes, but I will fly to other places for long periods of time, say, three months. This means I don’t need to worry too much about applying for long-term visas. My aim is pretty much to get away from people and do my own thing, and I think travelling achieves this. I can stay at home with my mother, but if she annoys me or if my friends or relatives here keep bothering me, I can just try off to Chiang Mai where I can be by myself.

When I am a digital nomad, I will pretty much be semi-retired. I will have enough dividends to support myself and live a luxurious lifestyle, but I will keep myself busy I will do freelance work via, say, Upwork. I am not too picky about what kind of remote work I do so long as it is remote and allows me to work by myself. Freelance work requires you to deal with clients, so of course that might be difficult, but at least I get to pick the clients I work with. If there is a skill I don’t have, I can easily learn it online.

I have no idea what the pay will be like. It might be lower, but it won’t matter that much because I will already have dividend income I can live off. This is just something I can do to keep myself busy.

The digital nomad dream within me has been strong at times, and there are times when the dream dies. For example, when I went to Bali by myself a few months ago I realized how uncomfortable and lonely it was being there. I have also felt more comfortable in my job lately because I have changed teams and I am working among better coworkers. But there are times when I am around very difficult people at work and it bothers me so much that the digital nomad dream is rekindled.

A few days ago, I met up with some old colleagues who now work in a different areas in the organisation. I mostly don’t see them much, but every now and then when I’m in the lifts, I bump into them, so I meet up with them every few months. I cannot be rude to these people because they technically work in the same organisation as me, but they are often rude to me, so I am thinking of deliberately being rude to them so they start to hate me and get away from me. This is what I hate about work. You have to be so fake. You cannot offend the wrong person and you cannot burn bridges with people, even those people you really don’t like.

I am also tired of friends and relatives who try to get me to marry. I am a male in my early thirties now. Everyone tells me to get married. They will me that a man in his early thirties should not be single and that they are happy to “set me up.” Many people say that this is how Asian culture is so I should just go along with it to appease my parents. But I feel like I should not do that! I should do what I want to do. I am quite tired of tolerating this nonsense. I feel like I need to rebel now. I need to muster enough courage to go on massive MGTOW rants at weddings so that people will get the message and leave me in peace.

Something else I hate about work is how everyone always brags about how important they are. There is so much namedropping and humblebrags. Then there’s all the gossip. Everyone gossips as if they’re in high school. Often when I go have lunch with people or go on a coffee run with them, they’re gossiping about this person or that person. I just find it annoying. I hate the 9 to 5 but I endure it because I need to increase my dividend income.