Defining the Worthwhile Task

Vivian Yongewa
2 min readNov 22, 2022

I have thoughts when it comes to what work has intrinsic worth.

I think of it in terms of the zombie apocalypse. If it happens tomorrow, does your job matter? Do people still want what you are offering?

That’s kind of drastic, I suppose, but we are still in the tail end of a pandemic. If I want to be a little less over the top and a little more historical, I could ask myself what people in the waning days of the Roman Empire needed. In the very beginning of the Middle Ages, around 550 CE, what did people really want and do?

The Basics

They needed shelter, food, and clothes, of course. I would argue that the minnesingers, jugglers, actors, and the like still had some work. Everyone needs to get their minds off their problems and chill with some entertainment. Or perhaps I’m trying to tell myself that the book I’m writing deserves to exist too.

Cleaning stuff: combs, towels, scrub brushes, and other paraphernalia associated with washing up were still necessary. Having a dirty body and house in the apocalypse won’t do.

Medicine and first aid stuff, of course, had to exist and be sold or made. Our own first aid kit would probably look a little different from theirs, but the category of goods would remain.

There was room for pretty things, though not as much as there were in Rome’s heyday. People want jeweled combs and spears to proclaim they are still the coolest ape in the troop, no matter the state of the world.

Making and selling these things can have a price point in an apocalypse.

Societal Needs

The long centuries between the high Middle Ages and the end of the Roman Empire still had societies. The infrastructure retracted some, but much remained or simply devolved into local hands.

Something similar could happen to us. In that situation, these could be some highlights:

Some jobs will remain specialized after society collapses. Delivery drivers, medical personnel, and some crafters, for instance, are jobs that either take up a lot of time or require too much education to be dumped on everyone.

Other services become DIY. Cooking, cleaning, construction, food production, defense and the like. People band together to make these things easier/doable, but we may be generalists in the future.

I suspect sales and recruiting becomes irrelevant or changes its appearance drastically. Brokering jobs, where people ‘help’ other people pick something, would be curtailed if not eliminated. I wonder what insurance would look like in a barter economy?

Anyway, it’s not like a job is worthless if you can’t use it in the zombie apocalypse, but its necessity is ephemeral, based on the social cache. Might put things in perspective as we approach Thanksgiving and wonder what the new year holds for us.



Vivian Yongewa

Writes for content farms and fun. Has an AU historical mystery series on Kindle.