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Tired of working for the clampdown

February 22, 2010

With capitalism in crisis (again) it is time to look at your political options. Do you really want to join the imploding SWP? Can you bare the interminable meetings of the Socialist Party? Would you even know which version of the Communist Party to associate yourself with? And then there is the Labour Party… but let’s be serious.

Maybe you could throw your lot in with the free marketeers who think that the best response to the crash is more of the same aggressive individualism, privatisation and deregulation that got us into this mess. But hopefully you have just a little too much integrity for that. The revolution may be on the long finger but you still have your principles, so you can wait for the tide of history to turn in the Left’s favour.

But what if you’re actually implicated in the perpetuation of neo-liberal insanity? What if your job has you working for the clamp-down?

Perhaps you are charged with producing enterprising young people, enthralled to notions of entrepreneurship and/or willing subjects of the new economy. Perhaps you are expected to produce research that has economic ‘impact’, which in effect serves the very industries you despise. Perhaps you fear that your job is forcing you to become an accomplice in crimes against the freedom of the human intellect that are so heinous that you can’t stand the sight of your own quisling reflection in the bathroom mirror each morning In which case relax. Don’t sweat it. Become a loafer.

Loafing is the political alternative that makes no demands on your time, expects no subscriptions from you and is part of a tradition as old as industry itself.

You will join a pantheon of duckers, divers, skivers and shirkers that includes Jim Royle, Frank Gallagher, Rab C. Nesbitt, Sid James, the Good Soldier Švejk and even, I would argue, Chuckie Marx himself. That’s pretty good company to keep.

Of course, had you a mind to, you could be paragon of virtue and work tirelessly through your union for change. But that’s the slow-track to liberation. And anyway you’re old enough to remember the catastrophic defeats of the 1980s, so you’d like just once to get one over on the fuckers who screwed the miners and the print workers and every other working class organisation.

You could start a campaign of your own and try to win hearts and minds. But maybe you’ve grow weary of feeling out of step with the times or perhaps years of banging your head against the Wall of Indifference is beginning to take its toll.

You used to think there was something noble about making a stand against injustice and idiocy, and speaking truth to power. Now you get the distinct feeling that you appear a little bit embarrassing and people would prefer it if you just sat down and said nothing so that the interminable meetings could finish sooner.

Under such circumstances activism and organised resistance seem futile but you can’t find it in yourself to go over to the Dark Side, for you know in your heart there is still away in which together we can bring capitalism to its knees, with a mixture of genuine idleness and faux-incompetence.

Imagine if people who had previously been committed to doing a job well, the sort of people you’d consider the salt of the earth, good citizens and all that, suddenly decided that they would do the bare minimum. Imagine if they decided that they wouldn’t work tireless to compensate for the contradictions of the ludicrous system that they are employed in. The whole, tottering house of cards would probably start to fall apart.

There is a theory that most institutions and organisations work in spite of their byzantine structures and the gormless management that prevails within them; that what really holds them together and enables them to keep going are workers who ‘interpret’ the system and compensate for its idiocy. People who no matter how stupid the directives given to them from on high, still manage to get the job done through their selfless determination to prevent meltdown.

Well, imagine if people like that just did what they were told, followed orders to the letter and refused to show any initiative. It doesn’t bare thinking about in some instances, does it. I mean, if nurses decided to do the bare minimum and apply the letter of the marketised law to its awful, illogical conclusions in the NHS, many of us would be dead who otherwise need not be.

But suppose you are the provider of some non-vital service; just a propagator of the sort inane and banal nonsense that is dubiously dignified under terms such as ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘creative industries’; the sort of insubstantial industry that can conjure profit seemingly out of thin air but has no discernible value. Don’t you think you have a duty to unplug yourself.

Consider the people whose job it is to ‘re-invent’ and re-brand common household goods (like dishwasher tablets, which are now better than your previous diswasher tablets because the new ones have a ‘powerball’); or the people responsible for Live from Studio Five (on channel Five); or ‘lifestyle coaches’; or exorbitantly paid consultants who are hired by exorbitantly paid CEOs to find ways of ‘rationalising’ and ‘modernising’ organisations by cutting jobs and wages, so that they can make savings that they could have made by not hiring the fucking consultants in the first place: think of people like this and tell me that the world world wouldn’t be a better place if some people didn’t go to work tomorrow.

Let’s make the case for less work and industry. As Bertrand Russell argued in his essay, In Praise of Idleness (1932), modern technology has advanced to such a stage that it is possible ‘to diminish enormously the amount of labor required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone’.

Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.

If you’re working long stressful hours in a world that quite clearly has the technical resources and material wealth to allow you to do less then you’re being conned. There is only one thing to do.

Loafers of the world unite (if you can be arsed). You have nothing to lose…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. CharlieMcMenamin permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:32 am

    This is seriously funny (in all possible sense of that phrase).

    You should write more stuff like this….if you can be arsed

  2. February 23, 2010 7:59 pm

    Thanks Charlie. But actually I was going for seriously pissed off…

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