Mar 012013

Chris finishes off an involved piece on the internecine battles over Labour’s fiscal dilemmas with the following, almost off-hand, remark:

[...] The challenge for fiscal conservatives, then, is how to combine fiscal austerity with job creation?

Which brings me to ask a fairly obvious question, though not one I hear asked too much these days.

At least not in the limited circles I move.

What is the point of jobs in the first place?  What, indeed, is the point of all those job creation programmes?  If we believe that the main objective of jobs and employment is to share out the world’s wealth – in some reasonably sustainable way or other which allows the grandest number of people as possible to deal with and survive the buffetings of life’s unpredictable ups and downs – are we really saying that the current system of jobs is truly doing the best we can engineer, in a century where our predictive algorithmic powers become more and more sophisticated and accurate as time goes by?

I don’t think it is.  In fact, I think the random nature of the system – where millions of well-paid posts the world over remain unclaimed for months, maybe years, on end, and where billions of poorly-paid people struggle during entire lifetimes to make ends meet – is highly unsatisfactory all round.  Apart from anything else, it’s simply inefficient.  Using any measure out there, it’s economically inefficient.

Has anyone asked the question, then, whether there mightn’t be a better way to share out all this wealth than the one which has ended up attaching itself to the fetish of work?

I’m sure someone has.  I’m sure, in other stratospheres, this question is making clever people think.  But I do wonder, from way down here, amongst the dirty dirty, if it isn’t time we used our blessed algorithms to work out a far more cost-effective system of dividing up the wealth the earth most certainly contains.

What could we call it if jobs, work and employment were no longer our aim?

How about “life”?

Now there’s a thought.

Just think of the advantages: no benefits, no shirkers, no scroungers, no strivers; no privileged, no meritorious, no undeserving, no graft.  Instead, a beautifully hygienic system of support and release where everyone had enough to engage and survive; where no one, in fact, wanted for anything.

It does make you think.  It does make you wonder.  It does make you feel the current system has been designed solely so that the overly ambitious, the unbearably people-stamping and the downright alpha men and women out there can continue to have an outlet for their base and cruel instincts.

Instincts which would destroy them from within if the system of jobs – as we see it right now – did not exist.

And whilst the system’s hierarchy suits them down to the ground – suits them down to the very suits they always wear – they fashion enough crumbs to make the rest of us believe there might be a way out for us all.

Only the system is designed from the ground up to ensure the ground never manages to take off.

Yes.  For most of us poor souls, our jobs are boring and monotonous.  And they only exist, my dear friends, so that the people at the top can generously employ us as their stress balls.

So how does that make you feel?

Any better?


Thought it might!

Jul 142011

It’s like a “Dear John” letter – but to an employer.  Or not exactly to an employer – just once removed, the job itself.  Not the cause of our misery exactly; rather, its manifestation.  A sad piece of lovely writing on the subject of slowly disengaging with the environment that has been public service (and thanks to Paul for the tweet which brought it to my attention).

Only thing is that I also felt, working in the private not the public sector, every word of this post in the months leading up to my own redundancy.  After almost seven years working for a bank, a bank which was lately in the eye of a financial storm, I was reduced to feeling such sentiments.  I’d realised I was no longer needed.  I’d realised even the public didn’t respect what I did any longer.  Entirely without blame, it was entirely my responsibility to shoulder its awful consequences.

To understand one is surplus to requirements in such a total sense is quite a terrible thing.  It’s a trauma of the lowest order.  As the original poster points out:

But recently you’ve changed. I no longer feel cared for, appreciated or listened to. You seem to be demanding more and more from me whilst giving me less and less back. The days feel so long and troubled, and sometimes I find it difficult to sleep at night. There are even others being brought into the relationship to do things that I used to do with you, slowly making me seem no longer needed. Our dreams are moving apart, our shared goals a distant memory.

And as the piece continues to indicate:

I won’t let myself stay downtrodden and unhappy, I can sense that I’m not really wanted and that you have been looking for an opportunity to end things for a while. Well, I’m going to be the bigger person and take action, make a clean break and move on. I deserve happiness and appreciation, and I’m going to make it happen rather than wait around for an indeterminate amount of time waiting for a potential opportunity which may never come along.

How many of us now must be feeling this every day as councils fire entire workforces and take them on again with compulsory pay cuts; as private companies “let go” good employees only to contract temporary workers to do the same roles; as those who do remain in jobs feel the evermore incessant pressures to hit impossible productivity targets – targets which not only impact on their ability to be accurate and useful but also on their ability to maintain a sustainable balance between work and life …

Better out than in?  In is a morass of spun expectations where their reality barely coincides with what we perceive when we are away from their intranets.  So yes, I would say.

Far worse in than out.  Far better out than in.

At least for the moment.

Jan 152011

What do you write about when you can’t write about the only thing you want to write about?

There’s tons to talk and declaim about right now – cuts of all kinds; the resulting injustices to women across the nation; the immorality of redesigning a country’s DNA without due and proper consultation; the feeling that on both sides the old politics will eventually reassert itself and lead us down the same path that got us here; even the growing sensation that what we’re living through is effectively a golpe de estado.

I am, however, beginning to get the impression that not only do I have writer’s block, not only do I have Twitter block, not only have I acquired, for some deep-seated and unhappy reason, a kind of desire to avoid sharing my deepest fears about the future … but also that I have suddenly found myself in the grip of what we might term a kind of citizen’s block.  An inability to perform in democracy.  A mind-binding resistance to all the dreadful messages and prognostications which are now coming our way.

In the same way that we might exhibit charity fatigue after too many natural and man-made disasters, so now I wonder if others like myself might not begin to exhibit this citizen’s block I mention.

For example, I would love to talk about how I feel about my work.  I can’t – because by talking about it the strict rules of engagement my employer has laid down which would cover such communications might lead me to losing the very job I would like to most sincerely, openly and honestly discuss.

And so it is that I spend eight hours of my day – more than half my waking-hours if we include getting ready in the morning, the journey there and back and unwinding in the evening – doing this thing which is causing me trauma and pain and which I am not permitted to talk about.

How else, then, in relation to what’s happening to the rest of society, do you expect me to react if I cannot unload my deepest fears about what constitutes more than half of my waking-hours?  For it is clear to me now that I have been trained to keep quiet, trained to not participate, trained to not speak up – trained for anything, in fact, but the big society idea which promised so much and will almost certainly deliver so little.

My participation in a wider society, in the face of all this sadness, has – for the moment – come to a full-stop.  All I can see is that communication is for the privileged.

And I do not feel I am one of those privileged.

Yes.  Citizen’s block is what is happening to me. 

Is it happening to any of you out there?