人类已经勤劳到犯傻的程度了? – Are we simply working too much?

从小受到“劳动神圣”的教育。记得小学一年级的时候,有一个流行的表演唱。四个孩子分别扮演小熊、小狗、小兔和狐狸。狐狸挨个儿求那几位带他玩,可是他们就是不带他,因为他不爱劳动,是个懒惰的家伙。在我们幼小的心灵中,就这样种下了劳动神圣的种子。

   劳动神圣这一价值是阶级矛盾和阶级斗争的产物。自从社会走过原始共产主义的阶段,开始出现私有制和贫富分化,社会中人形成了两大阶级,一个阶级劳动,一个阶级不劳动。有闲阶级是社会上层;劳动阶级是社会下层。上层阶级中人生活轻松悠闲;下层阶级中人终身辛苦劳作,仅得温饱。上层人剥削下层人的劳动;下层人供养上层人。社会的不平感日益深重,直到爆发阶级斗争,上层人被推翻,风光不再,所有人都要劳动,不劳动者不得食。下层人扬眉吐气,劳动因此成为神圣的价值。中国1950年代工人农民翻身得解放,打倒了地主资本家。中国从一个阶级社会发展为人人都劳动的社会。这是中国几千年历史上第一次出现的新鲜事物,是社会的一个巨大进步。

   劳动神圣这一价值因此成为人类从阶级社会向无阶级社会进步的一个重要价值,一面旗帜,它把不劳动者彻底搞臭了,极端时,就连脑力劳动也被搞臭了,劳动被定义为狭义的体力劳动。从1950年代开始,知识分子都变成了“臭老九”,好像脑力劳动不算劳动,是被体力劳动者供养的,是社会的寄生虫,这是知识分子的原罪。直到文革结束,这个案才翻过来,知识分子被定义为“工人阶级的一部分”,脑力劳动被承认为广义的劳动。从赫拉巴尔的小说可以看到,所有的共产主义革命国家都经历过这样一个荒诞的阶段,书籍被大量销毁,知识分子被派去干体力劳动。当然,现在苏东和中国一样,全都为脑力劳动平反了。从极端回归到正常的理智后,劳动神圣的价值仍旧是正面的主流的价值观。

   除了否定脑力劳动之外,劳动神圣的价值走向极端和荒诞还表现为另一种形式,就是王小波提到的他母亲老家山东牟平青虎山村出现的一种情况:村里世世代代都有的一百多头负重的驴子全都不见了,过去由驴干的活儿改由人来干,比如往山上送粪,过去是驴子拉车送,他在青虎山插队时是人用独轮车送。这是劳动神圣的价值走向极端的一个后果:人们用人的劳动取代畜力、风力和机械力。当时盛传的一段佳话是永贵大叔跟驴比劲儿,结果是永贵大叔赢了驴子。

正如王尔德有次说的:人类已经勤劳到犯傻的程度了。人类社会科学技术的进步都是以机械力取代人力为目标的,由于这些智慧的发明,那些粗重的活儿由机器去干了,人可以去做轻松的活儿,或者干脆不用干活儿,只是高高兴兴地享受人生就行了。德国一位学者经统计论证得出的一个惊人结论是:当代德国维持人们基本需求的物质生产只用三分之一的人力资源就可以完成,有三分之二的人“从幼儿园的年纪就可以退休了”。这三分之二的人怎么办?劳动神圣怎么办?

我能想出来的解决方案是这样的(跟马克思对共产主义社会的设想很像):缩短每个人的劳动时间,因为我们不能只让三分之一的人干活,三分之二的人不干活,纯粹享受生活,所以我们把每个人的劳动时间缩短到原来的三分之一,这样就满足了社会不分阶级人人都劳动而又人人都不太累这两个条件,比如每人每天工作四个小时,剩下的时间可以做各类艺术休闲活动,画画,写诗,唱歌,跳舞,钓鱼,打麻将(尤其是中国人)。这样,劳动依然神圣,而人类也不会再勤劳到犯傻的程度了。

From my childhood, I learnt that ‘work is sacred’. I remember when I was in first grade, there was a popular singing play: four children respectively acted as the little bear, the little dog, the little bunny, and the little fox. The little fox exhorts the children to play with him one by one, but they ignore him, because he doesn’t like to work, he’s just a lazy guy. In our little minds, this is how the seeds of ‘sacred work’ were planted.

The idea that labor is sacred is a product of class contradictions and class struggle. Since society emerged from the stage of primitive communism, and since the appearance of private property and the division between rich and poor, society has been divided into two classes, those who work, and those who do not. The leisured classes are the upper level of society, the labouring classes are the lower level. People from the upper class live a relaxed life, while people in the lower class work hard only to get food and clothing. The upper class exploits the labour of the lower class, and the lower class support the upper class. The sense of social injustice grows increasingly stronger, until class struggle starts, the upper class is definitely overthrown, and everyone has to work, or those who don’t work can’t eat. People from the lower class are proud, and that is how labour becomes sacred. The Chinese workers and farmers were liberated in the 1950s, when they overthrew the landlords and capitalists. China evolved from a class society to a society where everyone works. This change was a first in China through thousands of years of history, and represented a major step forward for society.

The sacredness of work therefore became an important element in the progress of humanity from a class society to a classless society. Under this banner, it completely ruined the reputation of those who do not work – but taken to the extreme, it has even ruined the reputation of intellectual workers, and labour has come to be defined narrowly as manual work only. From the 1950s, intellectuals have been defined as belonging to the ‘ninth stinky category’, as if intellectual work was no work at all, and they were seen as living off the work of others, as social parasites – this is the original crime of intellectuals. The situation was only transformed after the end of the cultural revolution, when intellectuals were considered as ‘members of the working class’, and intellectual work was recognised as work. From the novels of Hrabal, we can see that all communist countries have gone through a similar absurd stage, when many books were destroyed, and intellectuals were sent to perform manual labour. Of course, 现在苏东和中国一样,全都为脑力劳动平反了。从极端回归到正常的理智后,but the sacred nature of work is still part of mainstream values.

Apart from denying the existence of intellectual labour, the belief in the sacredness of labour has another absurd and extreme manifestation: 就是王小波提到的他母亲老家山东牟平青虎山村出现的一种情况:村里世世代代都有的一百多头负重的驴子全都不见了,过去由驴干的活儿改由人来干,比如往山上送粪,过去是驴子拉车送,他在青虎山插队时是人用独轮车送。This is one of the consequences of taking the sacredness of labour to the extreme: people employ manual labour to replace animal labour, wind power and machines. 当时盛传的一段佳话是永贵大叔跟驴比劲儿,结果是永贵大叔赢了驴子。

Oscar Wilde once said: humanity works to a silly extent. The goal of human scientific and technological progress is to replace human labour with mechanic labour, and through the wisdom of these inventions, the hardest tasks can be performed by machines, so that people can just make a very easy living, or don’t need to make a living at all, and simply happily enjoy life. A German scholar drew a surprising conclusion from the study of statistical evidence: today’s Germany could produce enough to satisfy the basic needs of everyone by employing only one third of the workforce, and two thirds of people could ‘retire right after kindergarten’. But what about these two thirds of people? If labour is sacred, what about them?

The solution I can think about us as follows (and resemble the communist society as imagined by Marx): reduce labor time for everyone. Because we can’t just have one third of people work for their living and two third of people not working, simply enjoying life. So if we reduced everyone’s work-time to one third of the original, we would meet the two conditions for a classless society, that everyone is working, but nobody is too exhausted from work. For instance, everyone should work for four hours every day, and the rest of the time we could engage in all sorts of artistic and leisurely activities, such as painting, writing poetry, singing, dancing, fishing, playing majong (particularly Chines people). This way, labour would still be sacred, but people would no longer work to such a silly extent.

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