Karl Marx was one of the first dudes to describe the idea of alienated labour. This idea of alienation stemmed from what he saw as a problem with the emerging system of production in the burgeoning industrial revolution. He look at the factories of the day and saw that the only thing that an individual actually owned was the effort or work that he could put into making a product. Whereas before if a farmer milked a cow – the milk that he got would belong to him through his effort in getting it. Now since he was working for the multi-national dairy industry (he-he) all he had to show for his effort was the wage that his employer paid him for the effort he had expended in getting the milk. The worker then is alienated or disconnected from his labour/effort.
Alienation is something I think about a lot while I am walking on the treadmill. In some ways, the effort that I expend on that thing makes me very connected to the product of my labour. I see/feel my body getting thinner and more energetic. In another way I am completely alienated from the product of my labour. There is no actual product after an hour of walking and lifting weight –except for the sweat on my shirt (which would be there no matter what kind of work I would do).
I got to thinking that these two hours a day end up being a great place to think about work, weight loss and alienation. I realized one day that this same energy I spend everyday ‘getting fit’ could possibly be used to say…work on a house for someone who doesn’t have one. I could also be using that same effort to earn money for my family. All these things might still leave me alienated from the product of my labour but at least it would be something of value in this social context.
Instead, I have decided to spend 1.5 to 2 hours everyday shaping my body according to some arbitrary standard of body image that I am willingly subjecting myself to. What does that say about how we see our bodies? What does that say about society? What does that say about me?
Watch this – but be warned its not pretty and I’m not really all that proud of it!