"Touch that thing again and you're gonna need surgery to remove it from..."
Okay, can I talk? What I'm about to say might offend my business connects but it's been on my mind for months now and had to be said. I'm sure they'll understand.
The most evil invention over the last century is the BlackBerry, or 'CrackBerry' as I prefer to call it. Granted, nuclear weapons, the Uzi 9mm machine gun and mustard gas are also unpleasant innovations, but I think more damage will be done to society from this seemingly innocuous device than all those put together. Well, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration...
Why would I want to see work-related nonsense sent to my office email address no matter where I was in the world? I can think of a few things worse. I point blank refuse to be issued with such an insidious invention. What makes the sininster device even more irritating is the effect it has on people's behaviour. They spend every waking minute checking and responding to emails on their BlackBerry. I once snapped at someone that I was doing my damndest to interest the bored-looking guy: "Touch that thing again and you're gonna need surgery to remove it from your backside!"
The question is: what drives people to spend every waking hour undertaking some pointless work bullsh*t when life is too short, it's not a dress rehearsal and, most crucially, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow. As far as I am aware, no one on their deathbed ever said that they wished they'd worked harder. Infact, they generally say they wished they'd made love to more women or something equally life affirming. I distinctly remember poet laureate Sir John Betjeman saying 'not enough sex' was his major regret to a bemused interviewer in some TV advert.
I have compiled a list of seven reasons that could possibly explain this bizzare workaholic behaviour - which I dubbed 'The Seven Habbits of Highly Defective People':
1. Insecurity: I once had a serious drinking session with a very rich man and asked this reasonably self-aware man why he bothered working his butt off taking into account our fast-approaching and inevitable doom. He took one sip of his thirty-pound-a-shot single malt whisky, looked me straight in the eye, and morosely said, barely holding back the tears, 'My mum loved my brother more than me.' His longstanding wish to seek his parents' approval had made him throw his life away and he knew it.
2. Competitiveness: This drive, of course, goes hand in hand with insecurity. I know a partner at a major London-based hedge fund who has been earning perhaps ten to twenty million a year for nearly a decade. He is not particularly extravagant and has long ceased caring about the money. He simply wants the market (i.e. his competitors) to acknowledge his brilliance and works his butt off producing outstanding results year in, year out.
3. Upbringing: The protestant work ethic that the sociologist Max Webber identified over a hundred years ago is alive and well today. There are also different variants of it with some extremely diligent second-generation immigrant kids beggining to make their mark. People who are still in the thrall of their parents' pressure to succeed may not know exactly why their lives are spent in the office but, as far as I can see, it's a cleverly designed guilt-trip based on a 'you don't know how lucky you are' kind of vibe.
4. Denying life: Most poeple should have realised by their twenties that life as, Thomas Hobbs so eloquently put it back in the seventeenth century, is 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'. While things may have become a little more pleasant since the days of the Great Plague and the Fire of London life is, arguably, still a pretty complicated messy affair. One way to escape this chaotic absurdity and have some control, especially for us men who always have something of the autistic about us, is to throw oneself headlong into an obssession of some kind. Being a workaholic is just like being a junkie or a pisshead except work, rather than booze or drugs, is used to numb the pain generated by the ever-present knowledge that we will soon be food for the worms. As the surprisingly short-lived French poet Baudelaire wrote:
One should always be drunk. That's all that matters; that's our imperative need. So as not to feel Time's horrible burden - one which breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without cease. But with what? With wine, poetry, or virtue as you choose. But get drunk.
5. Fear: The fear of losing your job becomes especially profound once you have got used to a particular lifestyle and the status that inevitably comes with it. Massive mortgages, high maintenance wives (and ex-wives) and expensive school fees can all lead you to overextending yourself and making you a slave to the rat race. Money can also protect you from the scary aspects of life on this planet. Life is a sh*t sandwich. The more bread you got, the less sh*t you eat.
6. Greed: Sometimes it's simply the love of the dollar that explains it all. How much cash can you comfortably retire on? In my estimation, in Britain today, one would need 5 million pounds (taking into account: inflation, asset value flactuations, interest rates etc). I see many people surpass that figure over time and begin inventing new, higher targets. The gold-diggers have become ever choosier as Londoners' wealth grows and constant stories of an influx of new Russian money which has driven up property prices and everything else with it. This drives us to seek more and more cash. Pathetic.
7. The family: No,I don't mean working for the benefit of the family. Oh no, I'm talking about the thousands of men who find family life such a chore that anything, including staying at the office at God-awful hours reading emails or talking gibberish to other uninterested workaholics, is preferable. Dreadful wives, who are already resentful of the fact that they never see their husbands, and irritating spoiled children can be a big incentive to stay at work. Indeed work can be used to punish them because it's hard to complain when it's the long hours that paid for their eight-bedroom pad. I once overheard a man refer to his long hours in the office as 'his time off', which struck me as utter madness. Men in their forties on their first divorce are also incentivised to work because it's more pleasant than eating another takeaway pizza in a cold, desolate flat watching TV on their own.
I still don't know which malicious no-life tosser invented the addictive 'CrackBerry' but if I ever catch him, the pasting he's going to receive will make him think that a brain tumor was a birthday present. By 2004, every white-collar worker had one of these horrific inventions and because they acted as a mobile phone too, most of them carried it everywhere with them at all times. The sheer evil genius of this means that no matter where you are, you recieve work-related emails continually. Hence, holidays are rarely truly relaxing as we neglect life-affirming things like spending quality time with loved ones to focus on wearisome work-related horsesh*t. I believe that this dreadful invention will cause more divorces and neglected childhoods than any other recent technical innovation.