“Get a job, sir!” That’s the advice given to Jeff “the Dude” Lebowski by another person named Lebowski, the Big Lebowski, a patently successful achiever who lives in a mansion filled with commendations and photos with important people like Nancy Reagan, when she was First Lady — of the United States, not California.
The Dude doesn’t say so, but everything about his lifestyle — unemployed, stoner, bowler — suggests that getting a job (with a boss and a time-clock) would contradict his core beliefs.
But what are the core beliefs of someone for whom getting a job is an act of civic responsibility and rugged individualism? Instead of being taught we all must take care of each other, from a young age most of us learn that we must take care of ourselves, and the main point of getting an education is not be educated but to be employable. Also, and somewhat parenthetically, we’re taught that we all must contribute to society, which some of us take to mean “carry your own weight” and others understand as “do something useful for the benefit of many.” Getting a job is the surest way to be seen as something other than ballast to be borne by better citizens.
What happens, though, when the job you do benefits almost no one but yourself and your confederates? When, say, you’re a professional gambler, or stock picker? A manufacturer of plastic flotsam? A seller of cigarettes?
What about when your job does daily harm to the planet, or to a race of humans, or to animals?
Is having a job really so great? Or is holding down a job just one of those things “you gotta do” because, you know, that’s just the way things are done?
The Dude — and a mob of poets, painters, and philosophers — seem to think not having a job is actually more like the ideal, and the more you avoid voluntary enslavement the freer your life. Someone, clearly, is missing the point.