Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness
By Miya Tokumitsu
Review by David Wineberg
In the mythical land of America, everyone can do what they love. Everyone is responsible for his/her own brand, and can pull themselves out of the muck by their own hair. No one has to work at tasks they hate. People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are familiar proof of it. Unfortunately, as Miya Tokumitsu explains, that doesn’t fly for the vast majority trying to eke at living where their labor is valued at zero or close to it. Our society has tuned this sort of DWYL happiness on its ear, enforcing a love for what you do, no matter how miserable it is and you are. In the context of passion, hours of work, salary and safety become crass. It’s a world where sleep is for wimps, everyone has to smile and be enthusiastic all the time (or be laid off), and wages are afterthoughts to the privilege of doing what you love. We have become a labor force that embraces its own exploitation, she says.
The whole ethos of internship, long hours at no pay, is a plague. At bottom, this no more than the politics of exclusion. Those in power don’t want competition. I first read about it 35 years ago, when a book came out detailing the near impossibility for the first medical student in Canada to graduate. Every time he passed the hurdles, they set up new ones. The thought of diluting the market with even one more doctor was too much for the medical fraternity teaching him. So today, where internships do not lead to career tracks. Adjunct professors can’t make a living and are excluded from tenure track. Writing book reviews of a quality higher than most professional reviewers – does not lead to job offers.
For Tokumitsu it is a matter of control. Keep workers expendable, make them grateful for the tiny crumbs they can gather, and so maintain control of them. Her book is very short, and of necessity, skims the surface, though she manages to cite studies and other authors. It could easily be a lecture at the Davos World Economic Forum, except they’d probably throw her out.
Do what you love is a whitebread, 1960s era myth.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.