Neither tourism or sunblock: a few reflections on what longed-for vacations hide


Originally published in Spanish by Comunidad de Lucha (Chile) on Febr. 2nd 2018. The original text can be found here. It says in a clear and propagandistic way what Gilles Dauvé said in an long essay we recently translated here.

Vacations make up the most anticipated moments of the year for most of us who work to get-by in this society. It’s the time when we cast off the burden of work and its stressful competitiveness so that we may dive into our own interests, and to finally feel free to do what we want.

That’s right, vacations are always missed but this is always in contrast to the increasingly gray, monotonous and routine life that we carry on the rest of the year. Could it be said that our time off from work [free time] is really a time of freedom or are we simply replenishing ourselves to start anew the annual cycle of subjection to the wage? Who really benefits from these vacations?

What we first have to make clear is that vacations cannot be differentiated from labor time.

In 1987 the Japanese Ministry of Health legally recognized a phenomena known as Karoshi or “death due to excess work,” which is associated with a growth in mortality rates due to complications with excess work hours; this is how the work load became so brutal for Japanese workers that they commonly became victims of strokes or heart attacks. This is why in this Eastern country there was implemented a program of at least 10 vacation days per year, since for the the State workers’ lives only acquire any meaning in terms of their potential labor productivity and consumption.

In Chile a few weeks ago, a law was approved to increase annual vacation time to 20 days at the cost of removing some holidays from the rest of the year. All of this  wasvery well studied and calculated so as to gain in labor productivity through the year and gain in consumption during the holidays.

Where work exists, our authentic lived-time disappears because it becomes economy-time; it no longer belongs to us.

It is for this reason why we affirm that so-called “free time” does not exist, since is it only a projection of wage-labor. The time we live is regimented — more so than ever — by the logic of the market: productivity and consumption. Life revolves around working or satisfying the boredom created by work. To this end, capitalist society has built up a huge entertainment industry that makes everyday boredom another way of generating value, finding in the incessant need for rest and distraction another source of profit.

Vacations are integrated in such a way into the gearwork of capitalism that they allow the reduction of the physical fatigue caused by a year of work, at the same time as they foment frantic consumption for the tourism industry.

Nobody can go to Chiloé and not take a pic with the palafitos or go to Rapa Nui and not take a selfie with the Moai. Tourism takes on the task of highlighting the most media-ready, aesthetic or eccentric aspects of a place (sociocultural, geographical, urban, etc.), transforming each site into guided maps for consumption. Every time we visit a place we settle for traveling through the most “local” places, trying to spend our money on tourist attractions that they offer us as spectators.  Either “resting” in front of the T.V. set, going on a “paid” tour of the Torres del Paine [Chilean Nat’l Park], or going shopping with friends. The time we spend trying to have fun on vacation is always a time mediated by the purchase of some object or a service that we enjoy (housing accommodations, eating, walking, recreating, etc.) This “conversion into thing” of nature makes us spectators of an increasingly inevitable process in a world where everything is image and money. The superfluousness and banality of our “free” time is a reflection of a life without meaning, put for sale to the highest bidder who pays for our time.

Our critique is against the  capitalist logic of work / consumption that sustains an individualistic way of relating to ourselves and with nature.

If vacations are time — and as the old saying goes, “Time is money” — everything we do in them also links us to work. Every second counts, every trip to the bathroom is a cause for resentment from our bosses, every exchange of words with our co-workers becomes a crime against productivity. Where we work, our authentic lived-time disappears because it is economy-time; it does not belong to us. Life takes place elsewhere, or nowhere, because the rhythm of work takes over everything. In this way: could the holidays be any different?

It is not a question of being bitter and to no want to have fun, of course we enjoy passing the time with our loved ones and being able to go out and know the world. Our critique is against the capitalist logic of work/consumption that sustains an individualistic way of relating to ourselves and with nature. This logic has become a God whose worship does not cease to dictatorially repeat itself, to which we are obligated to venerate every time we go into or leave from work.

Once we have abolished work, vacations will have lost all meaning.

Proletarians of the world:

Let’s stop being proletarians!

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