Wednesday 7 August 2013

Zero Hours

We hear a lot about unemployment and youth unemployment in particular - and we should, it's absolutely scandalous and tragic and it'll have a detrimental effect on our world for years to come - but we don't hear so much about the equally great increases in underemployment where people are working but not nearly enough or the situation where people are working but their pay and conditions have been decimated.  Zero hour contracts are a symptom of that political, social and economic debility - that malaise that we seem to be sleep walking through, haemorrhaging, howling in collective distress but dulled to the sensation by its sheer, mind numbing repetitiveness; its apparently unshakeable, unbendable, unavoidable necessity.

It is not written into the order of things.  But it is all the logical consequence of a world run for the benefit of the wealthy.  It benefits employers, investors, the wealthy - therefore it happens.  (A simple enough equation to guide a civilisation on its path towards self-consumption.)  And it will continue to happen unless something specific stops it.  It's the default direction, the downward slope, the way things roll if no particular obstruction is offered.  And obstructiveness has a name in our media - 'class warfare.'  Yes, if a few people resist the reduction of human beings to nothing more than abstract units of labour - beings as bloodless and emotionlessly eradicable, as inconsequentially forgettable as a cell in a spreadsheet - then they are waging war!  And so our dear leaders do nothing but watch everything roll by - a speech here, an initiative there but nothing to really interfere, heaven forbid! - almost literally.  All major parties, right and 'left' believe that government is part of the problem rather than part of the solution and so they go to ever more extraordinary lengths in order to do as little as possible.  And those who seek to extract a few ten thousandths of a penny more from their workers' labour-hours - they're just the level-headed, tough-nosed, forward-thinking, management-talking efficiency-finders who rationalise our labour force and create our jobs - don't step on the job creators!!  They're the heros of our day, the guardians of our night!  Worship the ground they piss on.  Nibble at the slimy crusts they so graciously let fall from their table.  And give thanks.

We're frantic, unhappy, stressed, listless, lonely - but look at the size of that flatscreen television!  We truly live in a hallowed age!  In that way we're moving forward - TVs keep getting bigger - but in a more profound way we're heading slowly but surely back to Victorian values - which, despite what all the shitheaded conservatives think, was a horrific world that the first half of the twentieth century just barely saved us from - and look what else needed to happen there.  Will we need to re-run those horrors just to get a few rights back?  Just to retrieve a sense that we can at least partially temper the vicissitudes of capitalism and turn its vicious rip tides to the benefit of many, if not all?  Can we even begin to countenance an alternative to the whole charade?

I am pessimistic.  We're heading back to the days of robber barons, crooked boroughs and workhouses.  We're already there, in many ways.  Pockets of the past and the future break into the present, here and there, ever accelerating their quiet takeover.  Soon British children will grow up thinking it strange that in the olden days people could just go to the doctor if they needed to or that mummy and daddy could know where they would be working next month and where their next meal was coming from.  (I'm aware that most of the world is not so lucky as to be able to take healthcare for granted but that is how I grew up.  I still remember finding it almost unbelievable when I learned that some people couldn't just go to the doctor when they needed to.  In my little bubble of childhood that's just what people did when they were sick.  It's what rationalised the whole concept of illness. It's still foundational to my entire sense of living in a society.  And we're in the process of throwing it away.)

When Maggie T said 'there's no such thing as society' she should have said 'there'll be no such thing as society once I'm through with it' - her crooked, wretched, rotting, undead corpse hand still greasily tangles itself around the throats of those born into her world.  Her project isn't yet complete but she lives on through it, draining the life out of any sense of solidarity, kinship or basic human decency left in us.  Her way makes a competitor of every friend, a contract of every act of love, a scandal of anything shared or mutual, a relic of anything greater than our own selfishness.  It turns our politics into entertainment and entertainment into our religion.  It has proven to be frighteningly effective.

We might get some governmental action taken on zero hour contracts, there's been some general, non-specific noise made in that direction, but it will be but a molehill on that general downward slope, it'll wash away as soon as we take our eyes off of it.  And if there is one thing that this world lavishes upon us in abundance then it is distraction!  There's scant hope but there's always TV beamed directly into our eyeballs on fuck-off-big, glowing, incandescent screens.

Me, I like the smaller but still glowing screen that lets me vent my spleen at complete strangers to no end at all other than making me feel a bit better and perhaps giving others something to read!...  Even when I'm fully focused, fixated even, I can't help but feel that it's really all just a big distraction, that everything of consequence is happening somewhere else.  I think that I glimpse it just out of the corner of my eye in some moment of bad quasi-poetic prose - and then it's gone.