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An interview with The Man

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Last Tuesday, between my late dinner and early bedtime, I was able to catch up with The Man, best known for being the head of The Establishment, and the developed world’s biggest employer. Millions of people work for The Man, and many complain about his managerial practices and his indifference to the plight of workers. I sat down with him to get his side of the story, and he was very candid.

David: You are an authority figure in all sorts of spheres: government, religion, culture, politics — but today we’re focusing specifically on business and work. A lot of people work for you, and you don’t have the best reputation. The thing people say most about you is that you “Keep them down.” Is that how you see it?

The Man: No, not at all. Nobody provides more jobs than I do. I think what they mean is that there are things about working for me that they don’t like. Working for me is voluntary.

DC: If it is ultimately voluntary for people to work for you, why do they do it?

TM: Well it’s the normal thing to do, and I give them money to do it. All of their friends work for me, their parents almost certainly did. Obviously if it was so horrible it wouldn’t be so popular. I guess when you begin to believe someone else controls your life you can stop worrying about it so much.

DC: You don’t take any responsibility for the condition of your employee’s lives? Work is a huge part of life.

TM: You’re touching a nerve here. Listen, I run a solid business, and I don’t think I’m going to run out of employees or customers any time soon, so I’ll spare you the company-spokesman runaround — no, I don’t take responsibility for the state of their lives and I don’t see why I should. Particularly when they don’t take much responsibility for their lives themselves.

Do you know how people with hoards of money get to have those hoards of money? They make some money, and then they don’t spend it all. They keep some each time it comes in, and they use it to make more come in next time. That’s how power is accumulated. Instead of accumulating power, most of my employees accumulate objects in their homes, or they just burn the money as it comes in, on booze and expensive sandwiches. What I see is people setting up their lives such that they become dependent on powerful people like me, which is exactly the opposite of how one ought to build wealth. That’s why I’m The Man and they work for The Man.

They’re free to do this. I pay a fair wage, in thousands of different areas of work, each of which they can take or leave. I find they don’t pick very good ones for themselves, but they just stay with it rather than starting over somewhere else. Then they get grumpy, and instead of finding a more personally appropriate way to earn a living, they stay on the payroll and go through the motions and try to “stick it to me” by stealing pens and playing rock music.

DC: Is rock music still subversive?

TM: Well no, not like it was in the fifties and sixties. Not because the music is tamer these days, it’s really not, but because the mainstream was just so perfect and obedient back then. One night of unchaperoned jukebox dancing and I could lose a young person’s earnestness and naivete forever. They start writing poetry and looking for meaning. It’s a businessman’s worst nightmare. Don’t even get me started on LSD.

DC: By the eighties the counterculture was definitely pretty tame. How did you eventually deal with rock and roll’s threat to The Establishment?

TM: I killed John Lennon. I bought MTV. And, thank God, Bob Dylan went and found Jesus. 

DC: You say many people “have learned” to see working for you as their only option. Aren’t you the one who teaches them that? It almost seems like you want them to feel stuck.

TM: *steeples hands* Okay… you know I’m a pragmatist. So are you. I do what works. Obviously I want people to keep working for me, so I want to make quitting look like an unattractive option. So I give them positive incentives to remain in positions that they are otherwise unhappy with. Benefits they don’t want to walk away from, and quite often more money than they need. Otherwise who would sell insurance, conduct phone surveys, and keep the dollar stores stocked? It’s hard to make people want to do that stuff, and I think I’ve done a great job of it. And of course, I don’t want people to be too downtrodden. People are always saying I want to crush everyone. I really don’t. I want people to be vital and productive. Homeless people are pretty useless to me. I want people to have amenities and spending money, but I want them to be predictable.

DC: So, you have tried to set up The System to serve you, at the expense of others.

TM: As we all would if we could, yes. The table slopes my way, it does. But in places like the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK — I think people really don’t take advantage of the freedoms they have. And they have a lot, way more freedoms than anyone has ever had in history, even with my “System” tilting things a bit. Yet many insist that I ruin their chances at living the life they want. Nonsense. You should have seen how my Dad ran things.

DC: You have employees everywhere, but the United States is probably your most profitable venture so far. What’s been your secret to success in the US?

TM: I love America. As much as I dislike the phrase “Perfect Storm”, it’s like all the right factors came together in one place. The big one is the hyper-normal level of consumerism and its relationship to self-esteem. I know you did a piece on that. [Here – Ed.] People in the US, more than anywhere else, respond to personal inadequacy by buying stuff or trying to get in a better position to buy stuff later. This is great, because buying stuff eventually creates disappointment, which creates more buying.

I also love its strange breed of future-focused happiness. Almost every young American thinks he’ll be rich at some point. Later is when life will be great. No matter what their salary, very few people think they make quite enough money now. So they’re willing to put up with “just ok” or even “not quite ok” for many years.

There is also, in the working world, this wonderful shaming of any hint of Bohemianism. Can you imagine an American taking a two-hour lunch, with wine, like they do in Europe? Nobody does it, nobody. Work is a virtue, no matter what the work is or what they produce. They are grateful for two weeks of vacation a year. Two weeks out of fifty-two! The culture does most of the work for me. Some people don’t even take those two weeks, because they’re afraid their colleagues will think they aren’t serious about working at all. Stopping to smell flowers is suspicious behavior there, unless you’re retired.

Despite that, there is a permeating sense of entitlement here, as if things should not only be good all the time, it should be easy to keep them good. Do you think the citizens of the world’s richest nation actually want fairness across the board? They think they’re getting the short end of the stick, can you believe that? If they only knew.

Mind if I smoke in here?

DC: Go for it. Did you contribute to the creation of this work-worshiping culture on purpose?

TM: Well, at this point it’s more than self-sustaining, but yeah, I do push for certain policies to secure its momentum. Now, I know this is a touchy subject for a Canadian like yourself, but for example, private health care is crucial to my business model. We’ve been fending off a universal system for decades. To keep the workforce in place, I need there to be a constant risk of financial catastrophe that can be mitigated by having a job. A Canadian or a Brit will always worry to some degree about getting sick or injured, simply because it’s unpleasant and debilitating. But to an American, health issues also threaten complete financial ruin — unless they have secured medical benefits somehow. I’m happy to help them do that, if they will just make a few widgets for me.

Oddly, there’s a lot of support for this system among the working classes, because many Americans have this wonderful fear of helping people who have not “earned” help. They do not distinguish it from communism. The idea of pure meritocracy is alive and well here, which means two good things for me: one, that people believe the more they suffer for their work, the more they are getting ahead, and two, that people believe those who end up at the bottom deserve to be at the bottom. So I end up with an especially hardworking population — compared to the rest of the world they have a particularly strong desire to get ahead, and a particularly grave fear of falling behind. Obviously safety nets of any kind do not benefit me. In other countries they take in old and unfortunate relatives as a matter of course. Family structures are bigger and more responsible for each other. I hate that.

DC: You keep saying “here” when you refer to the US. Where do you live?

TM: New York.

DC: In your experience, is Canada much different than the US?

TM: Canada doesn’t realize how American it is, but it’s still a rather toned-down version. There also is a slight embarrassment about openly seeking lots of money there. It’s seen as a bit crude. You can see this reticence when you cross the border. Vehicles get smaller, people hold their cash closer to their bodies when they count it out, there are far fewer billboards. This particular kind of shame doesn’t benefit me.

DC: Where is The Woman?

TM: There isn’t one. Wouldn’t things be different if I was a woman!

DC: Why did you make me work 55 hours a week all summer?

TM: I didn’t. You kept showing up.

DC: I have to keep showing up, I have bills to pay, and I get fired if I only show up most of the time. I worked so much I barely had time for writing, friendships, or any of the other things that are important to me.

TM: Those bills are the consequences of your choices, and it was you that let the “important” things slide. Every day, you chose what to do with your 24 hours, just like the rest of us. You did what you thought was smart. But you know you could have done better things with your time and money, yet you blame me for that. If you’re getting a shitty deal, find a better one. Save up some money and quit, then do something else. Don’t say I don’t give you options. And believe it or not, there are people who don’t work for me.

DC: Who doesn’t work for you?

TM: Well, independent small business owners mainly, and also a lot of artists and creative types. There are people who are unusually concerned with what they produce for a living, which means I can’t easily fit them into the positions I need filled. Most people are quite indifferent to what it is they are paid to produce, so long as they are paid enough. Look at everything around you. Somebody was paid to design, produce and distribute all of those objects, and I doubt it was a joyful act for many of them. There is a growing minority of people that I just can’t strike a deal with, because they don’t want to make what I want made.

DC: You have to admit that there are people who really have no practical way of removing themselves from your payroll.

TM: Sure, in any group of people there will be some who are, for whatever reason, at the bottom in terms of their options, over-committed and truly stuck. But the fact that some people are stuck has nothing to do with why the other 80 or 90 per cent continue to do work they don’t like and then complain about it. You are not at the bottom and I doubt many of your readers are, but many people act as though they continue to work for me just because some people apparently have no other choice, like they’re some kind of martyr. They’re just making excuses for staying close to the nest. And hey, why should I be the one to talk some sense into them?

DC: And I guess some people actually do like working for you.

TM: Yes, let’s not forget that. But by the way they talk about me, I think there are more people who say they do than really do. They should be more honest.


Photo by David Cain

Need help focusing?

The big productivity books are written by people who don't especially struggle with productivity.

The rest of us find other ways. I shared mine in this post.

Yitzhak September 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm

David, I think the contrast between this post and your standard articles has made it more clear to me, but something that I really like about your writing is your ability to discuss essential life questions head-on. Many of the issues you discuss are generally relegated to works of fiction or other more abstract mediums of expression, but your ability to confront your feelings and thoughts, directly, truly is remarkable.

I can only speak for myself, but I know I have been able to learn a lot from your “direct” writing. Keep up the great work!

David September 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

Thanks Yitzhak, this was fun to do.

anonymous coward September 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I like the different style of this article! And I like the content but would like to mention that not all europeans are wine-sipping and in fact the level of laidbackness waries quite a lot depending on the country, and the economic situation also varies. Lets take Spain for example, are they having problems because they are “enjoying life” more than Germans? Or not? I am not the person to answer that, but I would like to read some elaborations of that fact…

The Man September 3, 2013 at 10:19 am

Listen, as you scale up a business to the heights I have, it begins to make sense to generalize. Europe is more wine-sippy than America. That is as much a fact as any. I am aware there are differences between different countries. Those too are generalizations but that doesn’t make them untrue. Just the same, there are differences between continents.

I think part of Spain’s economic problems may have been from drinking too much wine, yes. If they worked through lunch I don’t think things would be quite as bad.

LizinOregon September 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Here is a good chart that compares the number of hours worked by the average German worker versus other European countries based on OECD data. (hint: the hard-working German is a myth)


The Man September 3, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Oh, those Koreans!

Petra September 4, 2013 at 12:11 am

I’m Dutch. Apparently we are very lazy. Or maybe just more efficient?

Tony Khuon | Agile Lifestyle September 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm

This was a fantastic premise excellently executed. I wish I had thought of it!

One thought I had reading The Man’s answer about SBO’s and artists … creatives often become co-opted by The Man. Art becomes logos, speech becomes branding. It’s difficult to break free when The Man has so many advantages.

But things that are worth doing are rarely easy. Thanks for the post.

Jardley September 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm

It’s true and working for art directors or companies even while doing what you love, they can become the man. I’ve got a freelance animator friend who even though he chose this path and in this society, freelancing is thought of a self-businesss where you break away from traditional 9-5, he specifically does it because he says “it pays the bills” and that he doesn’t really have time for his personal projects.

So even in the context of an artist it still seems we’re working for someone, creating work for someone unless you create something self-initiated that others believe in and want to buy.

matt September 3, 2013 at 9:28 am

It’s absolutely true that artists still need to eat and make SOME money. Since that is the case, they need to seek out clients and do work for others. It’s still a very different thing to be freelancing in a field you love and doing paid gigs for others versus working for The Man.

The Sistine Chapel was a commission.
Ansel Adams did commercial photography.

Some artists are fortunate enough to be discovered during their lifetime. They’re able to exclusively do their work, on their terms.

For the rest of us, I think the takeaway is that if we control our consumerism and challenge common cultural assumptions, we can put ourselves in a position to not need a “secure” job making widgets for The Man. Personally, I consider that a victory in the game of making my own destiny.

David September 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

Oh definitely, art does not pay bills. Providing value to others is what pays bills, for employees and SBOs alike. Everyone has to find some form of value to create, and find people who will pay for it.

David September 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

One trap many self-employed say they fell into is that in the process of creating their own business, they created a new job for themselves, often with lower pay and more demands than their old one. Even if they have employees, the whole thing falls apart without their constant presence. There’s a fantastic book about this called “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. It’s thesis is that a successful business is a system that would work independently of the specific individuals doing it. This is what franchises like McDonalds have done, and Gerber encourages entrepreneurs to think like they were creating a franchise to be implemented in multiple places by different people, even if they never intend to expand like that, because it staves off the threat of creating a new job for oneself.

The Man September 3, 2013 at 10:29 am

> One thought I had reading The Man’s answer about SBO’s and artists … creatives often become co-opted by The Man. Art becomes logos, speech becomes branding. It’s difficult to break free when The Man has so many advantages.

You sound like one of my less-successful competitors. I think what you’re really saying is that you believe I can give you a better deal than you could get for yourself. And I think you’re right. It is certainly true for most people.

Garrett September 2, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Many, *many* people (though probably not many – if any – readers of this blog, as “The Man” stated) are spending all they have, because all they have is barely enough to survive. What few luxuries they have (which could have been bought used or given to them for all anyone knows) are not what’s keeping them from overcoming structural oppression or the fact that some members of society are overprivileged on account of being members of the historically dominant group.

Of course, “The Man” doesn’t actually exist. As David eloquently stated in response to another of his articles, “Even though we created it, civilization is not something we designed — it’s more of a huge aggregation of deliberate advancements, which create unpredictable changes to our environment on a very frequent basis. In the last…twenty years, technology has completely changed the environment in which a western human lives, putting our long-honed genetic and cultural tendencies even more out of synch with their environment than they ever were. Economists and other scientists spend their entire lives trying to make sense of it all. We did create it, but not on purpose, so we can’t possibly know the best way to handle it. It’s a byproduct, or rather an infinite feedback loop of byproducts — not an invention.”

Not an invention, and not a product of “The Man.”

The Man September 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

Bleh… whoever you are, people live on less. Even low-class Americans are awash in luxuries. They’re just so used to them they don’t think of them as luxuries any more. As for me, I wanted better luxuries than TV and convenience food. Now I sell TV and convenience food.

But you’re right, I didn’t design the whole system, I just adapted it where I could. It’s mostly created by the gravity of human nature, and it’s still changing. People generally do what is easiest, not best. I think I am less like that than the typical working stiff, and so I have done better.

Josee September 2, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Excellent and timely article for me. We’re in the process of downsizing our lives to have more money and time to spend with our children. Very few of us are actually stuck with the way things are; we just think we’re stuck. every decision we make has consequences; we have to own up to our choices.

Matt September 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Loved the format, reminded me of Outwitting the Devil. Thanks for a new take on The Man.

Jardley September 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I’ve been a long time reader but have commented few and far between, I want to be a much more regular commenter. I really enjoyed the format, I think I’ve got some stuff to mull over to articulate but wanted to say that at the beginning I was getting ready to disagree with The Man because his remarks about people having the ability to just up and leave the job if they didn’t like it sounded like this was really a message to a young adult than to a person with a family to feed, and so it didn’t mesh with my real life experience of knowing that my mother stays where she works because of her pension and it’d being hard to find a job quickly, or because all her bills don’t allow her to save anything up, but once The Man acknowledged that he creates “benefits” to keep people working for him, it didn’t sound so out of touch. And at the end I realized, it’s sometimes beliefs and old thinking that keeps a person where they are. The belief you don’t have the skills to pursue something different, or the fear you won’t find a job or even having the motivation or openness to look for different routes that would cut down your lifestyle expenses to be able to save up because your mind is so entrenched in believing the mainstream, and the popular is the safe way.

David September 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

The transition to a better career or self-employment is easier for people with fewer commitments, of course. But so what if it takes five years? The whole point is to improve your day-to-day existence over the course of your lifetime. Kids or debt should not ruin a person’s chances of being able to find a living that does not make them miserable. One thing that does ruin a person’s chances is resignation. I think career resignation is one of The Man’s most powerful tools.

The Man September 3, 2013 at 11:10 am

What you call resignation I call dedication. Deep inside I’m sure they love their jobs.

Tom D September 3, 2013 at 12:09 am

I like this article a lot.
It strikes of a discussion with the devil.
Did you have Rupert Murdoch in your mind’s eye while you were writing?
Anyway, it is a good reflection of what you say in other articles, especially the one where you offer advice to your 18yo self.

theFIREstarter September 13, 2013 at 3:54 am

Funny you should say that as I work for one of Murdoch’s many companies and it is very much set up in this way (like any other modern large corporation I guess).

I love it when you get your quarterly email from “The Man” boasting of record operation profits, usually shortly followed by another email stating that pay rises will be below inflation for the 4th year in a row due to the bad economy… Hah!

To The Man – I am making my choice and getting out! Hasta la vista, el hombre!

Robb Hillman September 3, 2013 at 3:17 am

A powerful article, thanks. I spent quite a few years not having to work for The Man, but in the last 6 or so decided some of those benefits were worth trying out. It has been a mixed bag since, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the money and have gotten a certain satisfaction with finally being a “normal” and productive member of society. But those early years of doing my own thing is becoming more and more alluring again. I’m glad I live in the US where I do have the luxury of making certain choices that allow me to save a large portion of my income to fund future adventures. I’m just glad I’m self-aware enough to know that it is, indeed, my choices that matter.

David September 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

My biggest discovery this year was discovering how much less I need than what I make at my job. I am happier than before and I live on about half what I lived on last year. I think a lot of Americans (and Canadians) have a lot of accustomed luxuries that feel like necessities, and which are taking up valuable budget room that could be used for sabbaticals or early retirement, or could allow one to take a lower paying job that makes them happier.

DiscoveredJoys September 3, 2013 at 4:03 am

A most excellent satire. I think there is an insidious attraction in ‘working for The Man’ – whether you like the job or not, whether you are producing life-saving widgets or cheap consumer trash, you can benefit from a sense of purpose. Now this sense of purpose may be superficial and belong to The Man, but it is often the only purpose in people’s lives. Which is sad.

In fairness I have to add that our complex societies can only ‘work’ with so many Buddhist monks, or so many ‘drop outs’ (pick you own choice of people not working for ‘The Man’). Which is also sad.

But we don’t have to accept the default choice. Which cheers me up.

David September 3, 2013 at 10:59 am

> In fairness I have to add that our complex societies can only ‘work’ with so many Buddhist monks, or so many ‘drop outs’ (pick you own choice of people not working for ‘The Man’). Which is also sad.

Well, by ‘work’ I presume you mean ‘work the way it currently works’. And not working for the man is not tantamount to dropping out. I am not against work, not at all. I am pro-business, but I think the bigger businesses get, the fewer people they benefit.

DiscoveredJoys September 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

No, ‘work’ as in function. The social benefits of specialised labour. 3.5 billion people live in cities which roughly means that they are dependent on others growing food. But also those other 3.5 billion people are dependent on city dwellers for manufactured goods and services.

Could 7 billion people exist based only on small businesses? I’m not sure we could at the moment, although we used to, and might yet be able to again in the future.

David September 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

If things begin to change, we adapt personally along with it, and when many people make personal adaptations, cultural norms change. Living in a city doesn’t prevent one from growing their own food, for example, it’s just uncommon right now. As it begins to make more and more sense, more and more people do it.

ET September 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I’m replying to David below.
How much food can realistically be produced in cities?
Lettuce in window boxes, bees on the roof, chickens in a vacant lot – but considering the population density it’s pretty insignificant.

Viv September 3, 2013 at 7:18 am

Brilliant article, Mr Raptitude!

Some great gritty truths in here that show up the two sides of the coin perfectly, but particularly that everyone does have a choice. EVERYONE. Whether or not that choice constitutes jumping out of the frying pan into the fire is a different matter.

And it always comes down to ‘Accept it or Change it’, don’t it?


Kate Elizabeth September 3, 2013 at 7:22 am

A novel way to make a valid point – we trade our time & efforts for money and even just acknowledging that can make us feel less ‘stuck’.
And we can always make a change – we just forget that we’ve been successful at making changes in the past.

It feels like a lifetime ago I worked in the ‘secure’ public service. Safe because I was caged in. I wished I could be satisfied with that life; because it seemed easier than swimming against the current – like being dissatisfied was making my own life difficult.
But it eventually motivated to do something about it….and I also rethought my relationship with stuff. Geez, that would piss off ‘The Man’ no end.

Ragnar September 3, 2013 at 7:50 am

Next time, do Ronald McDonald! Just kidding, great concept… the sort of thing I wish I had thought of. However I don’t see the social pressures of getting and keeping a “normal job” becoming smaller in the future. What is most common goes to the extent of “the grass is always greener on the other side”. They wish they didn’t have a job when they have one, and they wish they have one when they don’t.

People are clamoring to work for The Man in France, and other countries where the unemployment rates are high. Very few people try the alternative of starting out themselves, or even freelancing. Changing the collective mindset of a generation would be a tough task, but an honorable one.

David September 3, 2013 at 11:04 am

>However I don’t see the social pressures of getting and keeping a “normal job” becoming smaller in the future. What is most common goes to the extent of “the grass is always greener on the other side”. They wish they didn’t have a job when they have one, and they wish they have one when they don’t.

Do you not think that for any given person, different vocations will create different levels of happiness? I think the more we are removed from the value our workday produces in the world, the less happy we are. It follows that the bigger the business, the farther removed you are from the actual value of the product, and the less rewarding it is to do that work. There are certainly better and worse workdays to have, and there’s no reason to believe that the one we currently have is the best we can do, particularly if it makes us miserable.

Ragnar September 3, 2013 at 11:31 am

No I agree 100%. In my reply I did not mean to criticize your viewpoint, or even disagree with it. I was just stating my opinion on, well, public opinion. While I agree that there are lots of people who don’t like their jobs, who would likely enjoy another job more, and even perform better at said job, many tell themselves, or are told, that it’s unrealistic. Do I hope that changes? Yes. Do I believe that it will? Maybe not so much, at least not quickly.

That’s an interesting point about proximity to the value you produce. I was a salesperson, albeit rather briefly, and there you basically are a person that creates value directly. Some people get addicted to the feeling they get after a successful sale, others barely note it. In many other professions I imagine it can be difficult to perceive the value of what you do.

cj September 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

David! Very enjoyable and playful. As long as we continue to leave our habits and traditions unquestioned, TM will be in charge. We are all TM really, slaves to ourselves until we question everything and do away with what we dislike and keep what we do. Prioritizing simply in not too difficult when we are honest about what we want.

Kevin Cole September 3, 2013 at 8:09 am

This is such a unique look at the world of work. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone do this in interview format before. Beautiful idea David.

The American way of thinking is a bit crazy. I see it day in and day out, but it didn’t fully sink until I started learning about other cultures and talking to people from around the world. We are a nation that was built on hard-work and brute force. We may innovate more than other countries, but we’re also more discontented than other countries.

It crushes me a bit to see close friends and family buy into the advertising lies. To constantly be seeking is the norm. Whether it be a future-time or a future object, present day doesn’t exist.

I’ve battled these mindsets for a while now and have made some progress. I still constantly feel that a future time will be better than the present time, but I continue to march on. Thank you for another bombshell David.

Cherry Odelberg September 3, 2013 at 8:31 am

This is choice insight!

Insourcelife September 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

This was an entertaining read!

Kelly September 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

I get very frustrated with friends and family who consistently complain about how awful their jobs are. When my situation becomes unbearable, I quit or shift focus. I chose a profession where I can live comfortably working three days a week. I can’t afford to purchase a home or jet skis or extravagant luxuries but I save every month and I go on lots of trips and have the freedom to pursue creative endeavors. I have always believed that we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves. This article was interesting and funny in the way it conveyed that point. Great read!

The Man September 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hah! Without a jet-ski, life is not life.

Brian September 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

Thank you for writing! You remind me to pursue the important things even when it’s hard. I’m grateful for your blog.

Trish Scott September 3, 2013 at 11:07 am

In case anyone is wondering, when people tell you to “face reality” it is this guys reality they speak of.

Gotta admire your fortitude, David, for seeking the dude out and speaking with him as if he were human instead of reptilian. I always just try to stay out of his way.

Gotta hand it to him, he’s pretty much got this human nature thing nailed.

GREAT post!

The Man September 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

I am human! Think about that!

Trish Scott September 4, 2013 at 8:46 am

You are, but are your handlers. Think about that! ;)

Slavko Desik September 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

This format is perfect for discussing such important questions. I guess we all need some fiction in order to tap deeper into how we perceive things, how we blindly follow common assumptions and never stop the chase around the maypole.

And let’s build on top of that fiction- let’s say that The Man has slowly but unmistakably came in terms with this revolution in the way of doing work that matters. He seems quite helpless against this creative type; these people who have the kind of smarts that keep them up at night; these refuse-to-comply weirdos. As they keep spreading their culture, his shares are going to suffer. And how.

Enjoyed reading this a lot!

Roger September 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Very clever tone in TM, just barely on the angels side from dripping with cynicism. You covered the bases thoroughly, but you omitted a biggy: the significance of all media in our lives and how we are suffused with it to the point of being unconscious of it, even and especially what I’m doing right now.

The Man September 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Live in the woods then. People talk like the media is some evil thing. If I’m selling something, I’d like to tell you about it. You don’t have to buy it. People decide what they want to do with their dollars. If what they buy makes them unhappy they should think harder about what makes them happy.

Viv September 7, 2013 at 8:58 am


john board September 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

What I want to hear from the man is what we can do about his abuse of people who need work at any wage or even none What does he think about the truth that people are losing their freedom of choice through his inter-country trade alliances. This getting ahead and changing life to suit is fine and not to be argued with and it can reach to the biggest man who may start a huge farm for example where much is grown and shared with both the workers and the buying public. It seems to me the Man live in a mythology that denies the far reaching problem of give them more and make it easy so we will get more. Where does the earth come into play for indeed the Man is robbing it blind and has not concern for its real value.

The Man September 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Competition forces us to do what our competitors do. If our competitors are getting widgets made for seventeen cents because they get Bangladeshi orphans to do it, then clearly we are forced to use Bangladeshi orphans too. If there’s something flatly immoral about this then obviously everyday people would stop buying our widgets. It’s another example where the common person thinks I should be the one to change rather than he. I find that many of the people who buy our stuff are the same people that complain about our labor standards, but they’re not willing to pay what it costs to get an American to do it. Same goes for the earth. If people wanted us to be paying a carbon tax we’d be paying a carbon tax. But people want low, low prices more.

ET September 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm

This is so true.
We all want cheap and are willing to sell our children’s future to get it.

Ron September 4, 2013 at 4:26 am

Yep, its the tragedy of the commons. “They are shipping our jobs overseas”. And then in the next sentence – “Hey, did you see that great sale at Wall Mart”.

Well, bubs, “they” are not shipping your jobs overseas – YOU are.

How is that? ‘Cause you go straight for the lowest prices, don’t shop locally and buy local stuff. You vote with your dollars and most people are voting to, you guessed it, ship their own jobs overseas!

Not rocket science.

Andrey Lepekhin September 4, 2013 at 6:59 am

Since I’m from Russia and don’t know the slang very well I thought that this is a interview with real person ubiquitously known across Canada as ‘The Man’ :)
Great article, David!

Genevieve Hawkins September 4, 2013 at 9:29 am

Working for the man should be more appealing to singles, in a way. If you’re married (in theory) you move into one house and consolidate resources. Going out trying to impress the new girl with all your fancy stuff gets replaced by movie nights at home. Isolation (and the lure of sexuality) is good for consumerism!

Early Retirement Extreme September 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm


— The Man, Inc. —
“Turning citizens into recurring streams of revenue since 1899.”

Edith September 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I really like this post. It is very creative and has a lot of insight for your readers, but only for those with a certain income level. I liked the fact you mentioned health care the way you did, and personally, I think I have the freedom to choose you mention, so this article helped me consider my options more clearly. However, there are things worth considering and revising:

1. The Man does not provide jobs. It is a common misconception. In the end, companies do not create jobs. They’re not social service agencies. Consumer demand make companies possible, and companies hire people (fewer, if possible) to satisfy the demands consumers bring.

2. In all of the developed countries, since the 80’s, health care, pensions and social benefits in general have been sistematically attacked and dismanteled little by little. They have not reached, yet, the level of U.S., but that doesn’t mean they are not at risk of losing them. That is why I don’t like your “solution”. It is way too individualistic to think making your own small business work will free you from the rat race. Reality is, this mess is global, and without social effort and community cooperation we are s-c-r-e-w-e-d. Later I will explain why.

3. You can check the Gini coefficient worldwide and see inequality is growing. This is not an accident, or the result of the poor financial choices people make (only). The Man is not the indifferent guy just moving some strings to get a better deal, the way you portray it. I have studied about it, and the problem is deeper and darker. It is too much to write in this small space, but I do recommend you read “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”, and the author Zygmunt Bauman, just to name a few. To see why inequality is not good news, I recommend you read “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better”. Americans very rarely talk about inequality.

4. Finally, regarding your “solution”, take into account The Man is making the rules of the game, which means a lot of disadvantages for people starting their own business. You can see this by how many small businesses fail during their first year. But not only that, 1 in 6 Americans don’t know where their next meal is comming from, which means they probably can’t start their own business either. The working poor are more and more each day, and the middle class is shrinking. So, your percentage of only 10-20% of people stuck is unrealistic. I wish you could take that out and admit you really can’t say how many people are really stuck. It’s hard enough for the working poor, Why do Americans have to keep blaming them for where they are? That blaming only helps “The Man” and its reputation.

Gustavo September 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm

This is goood stuff.

The Man's Advocate September 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I don’t mind this article as a piece of entertainment but in terms of applying the message into reality I don’t really see how it works.

You say that everything around us was designed by someone who wasn’t overjoyed to do so. Well what if they hadn’t done it? Say goodbye to your toaster, computer, keyboard, mouse, fridge, car, house (someone built it), bed, pillows, mattress, toothbrush, shower, plumbing system, cereal, bread, milk, fruit, vegetables, McDonald’s, KFC, restaurants, roads, running water and many others. The people who produced them and continue to produce them may not be in eternal bliss producing them but without them your life would be a loss less comfortable, lengthy and enjoyable.

I’m keen for a discussion with anyone so comment away! :)

Edith September 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

In general terms, you’re right. However, there’s something called hedonic adaptation, which means we get used to the living conditions we’re in, good or bad, and they don’t affect our overall bliss after a while (unless it damages our health). We are not happier than people from fifty years ago. We have gotten used to all the stuff you mentioned. And if those things didn’t exist, we wouldn’t suffer because of it. I can even say the mass production is affecting us in more ways than it benefits us. Think about it: we are becoming obese because we drive instead of walking, and sit in front of a computer instead of moving around, and eating at KFC and drinking milk that tastes like painted water instead of a real healthy meal. We’ve lost touch with nature, we’re ruining nature, and our mission in life has been replaced by consumism. However, I do believe someone should keep fabricating tootbrushes, and maintaining the water supply. Those are really important.

Si September 5, 2013 at 9:16 am

I love the question and answer format of this post. It just makes it that little more interesting than standard posts.

You have got it absolutely right. However, I suspect that a lot of people will complain on reading this post because they are just too lazy and weak to accept responsibility for their own life.

I was once there myself but once you decide that you’ve had enough of being a slave and work for someone else, then you really start to see ways of getting out of it. But, like you point out, the key is not to blame anyone but yourself for whatever happens in your reality as you always have the power at any time to change that reality to what you want.

Max Coleman September 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

This is straight out of Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”! Great work.

As Marx famously said, ideology is the set of ideas imposed by the dominant class, and used to mask existing inequality. In capitalism, our ideology is the “myth of the meritocracy,” which claims that hard work (and thus social mobility) make inequality irrelevant.

Greg Blome September 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I like the setup of this. Very similar to Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill.

Adriano September 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

I lived a big part of my life in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest and richest city. The buying power is way higher than in rest of the country. As expected, the prices of everything are also way higher than the rest: rents, food, public transportation, etc. I have lost count of people I know who was used to have a very difficult life due to low income, when facing a higher paycheck start spending money on luxuries, and complaining about their jobs… that they not have not enough money.
The amount of money produced by the city for sure is enough to vanquish misery and bad living conditions, to provide high quality services and to make the city decent, but instead the people seem to value luxuries and vanity more than quality of life.

Jes September 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Outstanding post. The drive to get bigger, to grab a larger share of the pie, has resulted in systems and “The Men” become more and more removed from the people doing the work. Nobody is responsible… it’s ‘the system.’ And as you so rightly point out, we make the system. The last ten years, I was lucky enough to have a great job I loved. ‘The system’ (nobody was responsible, you understand) cut off a big chunk of funding and I was forced to retire earlier than I wanted, luckily only a couple of years earlier than I would have retired. Though I loved my job, retirement has come as a revelation. What a gift it is to have time and energy to devote to work that is mine. I do work I choose and I do it in the way I choose. No Man involved. Mine. Take that, Man.

Brenden September 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Great post. The insurance part struck me in the chest because that is my industry. Your post also made me realize that I am thinking things will be better later and I am just sticking it out for now. I have to work harder at enjoying life now instead of just working for the future.

John September 12, 2013 at 8:28 am

Creatively written! I enjoyed the part about buying goods and perpetuating a constant system of consumerism. I’m a huge fan of “every dollar is a vote.” If people want to buy goods and services that are obsolete, of course there will be someone there to fill that “need” for people. We can either choose to not buy useless crap, or encourage the system. The man will always exist. But we have a choice when it comes to how prevelant he is in our lives.

angelina September 15, 2013 at 3:39 am

as Mario answered I am inspired that anybody able to earn $9239 in one month on the computer. did you see this site link——–> http://www.jobs47.com
To find a mountain path all by oneself gives a greater feeling of strength than to take a path that is shown.

lentilman October 4, 2013 at 5:03 am

Great post. I read it last night and again this morning before I head out to work. I’ll spend today with the Man, then head home. I have a feeling I will read it again tonight!

Aditya Thakur October 21, 2013 at 6:03 am

“I killed John Lennon. I bought MTV. And, thank God, Bob Dylan went and found Jesus.” That’s pure gold!

Philippe October 30, 2013 at 6:05 am

Great article, but who is … The man? Is it like a science fiction power authority? I’m not a native english speaker..

David Cain October 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm

He is the symbol of oppression by more powerful people, in many contexts

Try UD’s take: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=the%20man

Bryan October 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Nice read! I especially agree with you that most people say they’re happy working for The Man, but really aren’t. A clear sign of that, in my opinion, is when they indulge in things and refuse to quit because it’s their escape from a crummy work situation.

I’m curious though, where in Canada are you from? I’m from Toronto and I usually make the argument that the people here are even worse than Americans. It’s probably just a major city thing though. People here boast about their accomplishments, drive around in BMW’s, judge based on financial status, etc. The reason I think we’re worse than Americans is because we’re under an illusion that we’re actually NOT like Americans and also that corruption here isn’t nearly as bad as in America (at least in the US, reports of corporate/gov’t corruption are easier to find than over here, where we’re left in the dark).

David Cain October 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

From Winnipeg here. Probably a lot less flashing of money here than in T.O.

Randy November 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Hi David…still catching up, article by article, on the brilliance that is David Cain. This interview was beyond entertaining and insightful! On to the next article…


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