I retired some 24 years ago, but I still bear the scars of years of pointless tasks being foisted on me by single minded authority. I lived those two lives for years, the dead world of employment and the living world after of work. The one world where I must perform in a particular laid down manner, and the world where I had choices, some what limited by the system, but choices, to dream, to mix with who I choose, to move alone, and at my pace. Living in two diametrically opposed worlds, is destructive and saps your energy, destroys dreams, stunts creativity, and breeds alienation. When will we enter the healing process? When our tasks will be for the benefit of ourselves and our community, creating that better world for all, one in which we choose the direction, we choose the shape of that world, where we mutually agree to see to the needs of all our people. When do we leave alienation and the divided self behind us, and return to a whole being, to being human?
A MEMO FROM THE OFFICE
(Contributed by another comrade in So-Called Australia)Jobs Destroy Our DreamsWhen I’m not at work I study the world. I read news articles and books, I listen to podcasts and I write my own articles and reflections. I practice music and I share music. I exercise and I go outside. I volunteer and try to help build a different world with other people. I dream of new possibilities for everybody and for myself.When I go to work, I stop dreaming. I think about what I’m wearing and whether it’s appropriate, I worry about my hair and the paint stains on my shoes, I hide who I am and make small-talk. I become somebody else and find energy in this adopted personality so I can comfortably call strangers and convince them to buy expensive tickets. I spend hours doing something that doesn’t interest me and that I don’t care about.I do this because I need to pay for rent, food and transport and other bills like electricity, internet and phone credit. I also do it so I can save money to travel and so I can have drinks with friends now and then. It’s not like I’m in financial hardship, I am far from it. But I do need to work for my “daily bread”.Jobs Define UsWe live in a society where the question asked when meeting new people is often “What do you do?” For some reason, the answer “I work part-time as a telemarketer” is the fitting answer while “I’m a musician and an anarchist” never comes to my mind, even though these are the things I devote most of my time, energy and spirit to. We are first of all summarised by the thing we do that pays our bills, the thing we do that stops us dreaming.This pressure feeds into a desire to build a career we are proud of, to fight for the best jobs, to compete with our neighbours and friends. Our means of survival becomes our personality and our definition. Eventually we build a pride around selling our time and skills to build somebody else’s dreams and somebody else’s profits.Jobs Disempower UsOffice workplaces like mine are usually very hierarchical spaces, with a series of big bosses and little bosses and little branches of workers bundled in between them. In my workplace, my co-workers and I are at the bottom rung of the ladder. When a change is made that affects the way we do our jobs or the way we interact with and in our workplace, it’s because suggestions and decisions for improvement of the company overall have filtered down this chain, finally splashing us in the face with a new rule or system to follow. Often these decisions do not actually offer the best solutions, but the workers who understand their jobs best of all are rarely included in discussions about these roles and changes.The Modern OfficeWhen I first started getting involved in anarchist groups there was a lot of talk about workplace organising, especially when May Day came around. The classic union movements of workers striking, walking off the job united, holding meetings and giving a voice to all seemed so impossibly far from reach in the modern office I work in. My workplace is so intricately divided up into departments and sub-departments, we rarely talk to others outside the team of telemarketers and they barely even look at us. How could the people occupying this office on weekdays ever walk off the job together? How could they ever be united when they are, by design, so divided and so competitive?The unification of the workplace is one thing, the other is the absence of very tangible or urgent issues within the workplace. We aren’t having our workmates killed when forced to fix a roof without safety gear, we aren’t being paid less than a living wage or being denied sick leave (well… we telemarketers, as casual labour, are!)What is suffered in office jobs seems to be a much more subtle, slow-working pain. Whether it is boredom from doing tasks that are disconnected from our passions or that are controlled and managed in a way that doesn’t suit our individual pace or processes; or stress from unmanageable workloads, the requirements to dress and behave a certain way at work or the simple reality of working under bosses with limited job security.In various ways these jobs eat away at our minds and souls while we feel it’s impossible to complain when our conditions are so seemingly good, with modern offices, well-mannered colleagues and occasional perks like social clubs and company drinks.