Posted: May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Every few months it gets to the point with me that the work I’m doing, the life I’m leading is crushing me. I feel claustrophobic, certainly depressed, find it near impossible to shake for the briefest moments an abstract crushing anxiety that dogs my days. I run when I can, make jokes when it’s possible, listen to music, watch films and box sets, but nothing rids this weight whatever I do. It sits atop my head when I lay it down at the end of the day, and I wake with it, sometimes gathered up from the mess that surrounds me in whatever living space I have been temporarily calling my own, a mess that itself reflects the chaos and entropy that has always been the calling card of my life.

If you consider any of the above to be hyperbole, as many of you undoubtedly will, be good enough to take pause and consider yourself blessed rather than choosing to consider me possessed of a talent for drama: the above has been true the whole of my adult life, and while I continue to hope that I will one day shake all or, more realistically, most, of it, it is the reality I wake to in the morning.My “case” is extreme in one sense. I have the misfortune to be on the autistic spectrum and to suffer from attention deficit disorder. Both make my fitting into the spaces created for the average citizen less likely or comfortable.

But I don’t raise these issues right now in order to simply whinge about my conditions, though I am certain more than capable of doing so. I raise it, as is, I hope, more usually the case, to illustrate a point about the society we live in.

There is a shortage of jobs right now. In Britain, in Europe, in the West. Hell, I have read articles which, far from simply abandoning the idea that full employment might be something to aim for, moot rather the idea of Phillips curves or some such, by which the ideal amount of employment can be calculated so as to regulate inflation. Unemployment is with us to stay, then, as far as I am concerned, not merely because we’re in a mess and our politicians seem to be pretty characteristically oblivious to the fact that the neo-liberal economic policies they are intent on pursuing have been proven again and again to be detrimental to the very state of affairs we find ourselves in, but because those very same neo-liberal economic policies quite like the idea of a certain amount of unemployment. Say it quietly, but it keeps the workforce on their toes and keeps them from getting too uppity.

This raises any number of questions, many of which will be obvious for intelligent readers and which I hope they may solve to their own satisfaction or, perhaps better, ponder on continually, without ever reaching those rather too simplistic solutions which might only reflect the self-satisfaction of the economists, pundits and policy makers who blithely echo the classical economics like it ever could claim to reflect reality. The one I hope to probe is less often discussed, I find.

So, there’s no work. So, we ask those poor sods who live in the wrong areas where, oh I don’t know, let’s say unemployment is a fair price to pay for low inflation elsewhere, where perhaps medical services are less effective, education shoddy, and the jobs that do exist are almost invariably monotonous and unrewarding, to accept whatever jobs may be found irrespective of what they may be or stand to lose their benefits, which are, after all, paid for by the hard working folk elsewhere. It seems reasonable enough.

And maybe it does. Only I don’t believe it’s only those of us with high IQs and low boredom thresholds, difficulties with social functioning and depression, for whom there are jobs which would slowly kill us. I think each of us have jobs that quite apart from failing to be rewarding or give us any sense of belonging, would disgust us, would let us have no dignity or self-respect, and would rob us of any peace of mind, health and well being and quality of life.

No-good parasitical socialist propagandist: there were times people worked down the mines for a living risking their neck every long day of their lives! Very true, and people died building dams and tunnels. Still do in many places of the world, of course, the present being as unevenly distributed today as it ever was. For one, I don’t believe we don’t want to return to those days and the dangers people faced every day in order to go to work. Beyond that, I think sometimes that there are many ways in which those old working class jobs differ from those offered today: working in call centres, greeting people in the teddy bear shop, holding a sign on a main road, working in a chicken factory. And yes, too, there are a lot of people who can stomach these jobs better than I can myself and need nothing more, let’s say, than to leave the factory and head down the pub with a few mates, play a few rounds of darts, smoke a few fags, head down the chippy and have nothing left to show for it at the end of the week. Still, my sense is this, that there are many places where there are few jobs that don’t involve levels of stress and monotony, the complete absence of agency and creativity, that can only lead to debilitating and utterly comprehensible reactive mental conditions such as might be comparable to those developed by prisoners at high security prisons. I am uncomfortable at the idea of forcing people to accept these jobs not only because I am a socialist and believe that people have a right to dignity, respect and adequate remuneration for the work they do, to health and a private life, but because I believe that work ought to give us a meaning and purpose, and because I believe that it is time for us to stop thinking in terms of quantity and start thinking in terms of quality.

  1. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after looking at a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m certainly happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

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