He was so cheerful and jolly, so happy in his work, that he lifted our spirits. Intellectuals are apt to suppose that people who do relatively simple or routine work must be wretched and full of resentment at their lowly status, and when they express this view in public, by writing or in the media, they provoke and then stoke the very resentment that they suppose, falsely, must already exist. They project their own feelings onto others, and then tutor them to be more like themselves.

The archetypical routine work that intellectuals cite as the horrible fate awaiting those who do not succeed at school either because of their own or the school’s deficiencies is the checkout till in a supermarket. This is to the school failure—particularly female—what the prison cell is to the murderer. It is the sword of Damocles that hangs over those who have no skills. And yet I think that the work, which is surely destined to disappear in the near future because of new technology, is far from without its interest.

— Theodore Dalrymple, “Hotel Rooms in the Time of Corona


I am beginning to think that the activation of the masses—their readiness to work and strive—is a function of individual freedom. When the masses are more or less left to themselves, they turn to work as the most accessible means of providing their worth and usefulness. On the other hand, the ideal condition for the creativeness of the intellectual is apparently an aristocratic social order which appreciates his work and accords him rank and dignity. The intellectual does not want to be left alone, and this is perhaps the reason why he cannot leave others alone.

— Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront