“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness. When a man is reduced to his function he is placed in a servile, alienated condition.”
—Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
“Get a Job” is a dismissive retort. Even moreso in the past. People protest, and this is what they heard directed at them. That bon mot was supposed to be conclusive and final. When you are working, you have neither the time, energy, or freedom for other things. The cries of a slave are ignored.
Doo wop songs were all fun. The Silhouettes in 1957-8 had a great one, “Get a Job”; but the lyrics were about unemployment and how it ruined domestic peace.
And when I go back to the houseBruce Hornsby in 1986 had the much sadder and political song “The Way It Is”.
I hear the woman's mouth
Preaching and a-crying
Tell me that I'm lying
About a job
That I never could find
Standing in line marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
'Cause they can't buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor ladies' eyes
Just for fun he says, “Get a job”