What are they doing?
Our future is sold from under our noses; repossessed by people with no legitimate claim to it in the first place. This is the biggest and most insidious betrayal of our society – and people are blind to what is happening.
Recently, on Question Time, George Galloway advocated the ‘beatification’ of workfare hero Cait Reilly. She’s a hero because she stood up to the full weight of this disgusting system and helped expose the incompetence and lies at the heart of Mandatory Workfare.
This was the scheme, if you’ll remember, that saw Cait forced to abandon the work she had arranged herself to go and stack shelves in Poundland, a highly profitable group of austerity shitehawks. She was already doing what the DWP wanted her to do and that still wasn’t enough. Better, in their beady eyes, she make Mr Poundland a few more of those lovely pounds.
This week, those odious spongers and fantasists at the Taxpayers Alliance tried again to resurrect the idea of workfare, unaware its spectre hadn’t left the building. Chris Philip, another wannabe Tory top dog, authored a report claiming, inexplicably, workfare is good for the economy, and, of course, will help people get work. This is obvious bullshit, easily debunked elsewhere. Why champion workfare on the grounds of economics? Is this the default justification for every mad scheme going? It isn’t the fault of the unemployed that the economy is in so parlous a state.
We are living under a system that is failing. It is a slow motion destruction of every social good that proves, finally, the ruling elite are only in it for themselves. Fortunately for them the speed of destruction is such that people don’t notice. Doubly fortunately the media is either on their side or in their pocket. Thus when anyone speaks up in favour of progressive values or social justice the masses conjure images of Citizen Smith in their minds to facilitate dismissing, out of hand, such views. This is a kind of NLP – a method by which rationally presented views are immediately rendered comical or facile. No one even questions it. That is the job of the media – it certainly isn’t to present factual accounting of the days events!
This is what is stacked against us. They – the movers and shakers of this system – are a minority with power and wealth whose interests are to maintain that position and privilege, no matter the cost. No matter that it is we who pay. When it all collapses, and it will – indeed must, they will still be sitting pretty. That is the whole purpose of this system and it is incumbent on us, somehow (I’m by no means expert in revolution), to expose and challenge this as best we can.
Perhaps you still think I sound like someone that’s watched the Matrix once too often. Don’t worry I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, even though the capitalist neoliberal system is certainly a conspiracy of self interest. Let’s go back to unemployment then. What good does it do us to have our kids, fresh from school and university (if they are lucky enough to afford it, that is), forced into wage slavery. They are programmed to expect nothing more than the first job that comes along. Invariably that will be nothing of any value (or even any kind of decent wage). Refusal is not permitted and resistance is to be crushed and demeaned. Support or even compromise is completely out of the question. Cait Reilly found that out.
They tell us we are to be a competitive country, but how can we even achieve that if our kids can expect nothing more than a career in the social cancer that is the supermarket. These companies are like cockroaches; they can survive any kind of economic apocalypse and thrive during austerity. So of course, as they spread like an angry tumour across the country, there is always room for more low paid staff to be exploited. When we can’t even guarantee a wage thanks to zero hours, and when the government tells people they should be grateful to work in such places, notorious for their terms conditions and wages, for nothing, you know the ruling elite is working against us.
Yesterday I did some searching, as I occasionally do, for volunteer work. There isn’t a huge amount locally that’s not either charity shop work (been there, done that) and care work, which I don’t feel up to (you can’t be frivolous with people’s well being). My heart broke when I saw the number of positions for nothing more than companionship: befriending a lonely pensioner, or a person with learning disabilities.
Later that day I looked on Universal Jobmatch (I try to look as I think it’s good practice for when I inevitably fail ESA). Wading through the agency scams and low rent crap advertised I wondered why we aren’t paying people to be companions? Why are things backwards? What can be more fundamental to the wellbeing of a healthy society than the simple act of companionship? Are we saying that it’s better for people to work as minimum wage chattel for the insatiable supermarket than it is to sit and be a friend to a lonely human being? Why is one paid and not the other? Why don’t we have a government that supports this kind of social good?
This is why our system is broken and this is why it must be challenged and destroyed. How? I don’t know. But it must. There is no other choice.
Kids are taught in schools to aspire, but this is false hope. We have put a price on things that should not have one, like education. Knowledge is its own reward, but in this society it only serves a purpose if it’s profitable – so the rich can take a cut as our owners. We have allowed these people to own us and the land we live upon (fracking, anyone? No?). What is the point of an education system anymore if the best thing that can happen is a ‘taster’ session with a supermarket?
Three days unpaid work experience with Morrisons. This is the result of your hard work and your study. Of course, because these employers are so prevalent, there’s doubtless something of value they can offer but it only has value if you capitulate. If you refuse to play their game, then they can’t win.
This is why it is offensive to have the CBI lecture schools and traduce the efforts of teachers by accusing them of failing kids. We’ve heard all the scare stories about hordes of illiterate innumerate feral kids falling out of schools unable to work. Do we ever question the employers in this? Maybe the conditions are ridiculous: unnecessary make-work for a risible wage.
Who are these employers to lecture the ‘work ethic’ of school leavers and demand their gratitude when they don’t even pay a wage people can live on. Consequently a certain cuddly cockney TV chef is allowed to get away with what might seem uncharacteristically barbed comments from such a ‘cheeky chappy’ demanding kids be grateful to work utterly unreasonable hours. A man who had a lucky break with TV career, unlike 99% of other aspiring cooks, the irony of which is that his position now leads those that look up to him to have even more unreasonable aspirations.
A man that made a tidy sum hawking Sainsbury’s product with a straight face.
Yet when does he ever speak out against the practices of a notoriously harsh industry; staff in kitchens are underpaid and overworked. However he’s given free reign to whine about ‘wet’ native brits as if he knows them all and using that as an excuse to hire immigrants while backhandedly criticising them as foreigners who shouldn’t be working in Britain.
No one’s forcing Jamie to hire foreigners. He could easily hire local staff, he just chooses not to. He’s a multi millionaire with, on presumes, a profitable empire. Jamie could advocate sensible conditions, not the 80-100 hours he outlines as the standard below which excuses are made and Brits are lazy for aspiring toward.
It all feeds into the system. In this he is a stooge; another useful idiot who appears to accept every media bogeyman going, from the evil EU to unfettered immigration. Incredibly he argues here against the EU believing that decades old nonsense about straight cucumbers – as if the people of the EU are biologically alien to the righteous British who would find EU standard vegetables somehow toxic. It’s like thinking they aren’t human abroad; the implication being they don’t value good quality food. Seriously Jamie?
He’s a public figure who unwittingly enforces the propaganda of the government: the serfs, for that’s what we are, deserve crap wages. Not only that but this propaganda always cites the ‘work ethic’, a pseudo religious construct of control, to keep people mollified, in line, and even divided – those that don’t have a work ethic are legitimate targets for Room 101 style hate from the rest. Look at the scroungers! Get angry!
Meanwhile these people face as much uncertainty as their kids. They could be out of work easily. Only then will the mask slip; only then will they get a real glimpse at just how nasty the capitalist elite really are when they find they are entitled to fuck all, just like Cait Reilly. She did the right thing – according to the government – and they still criticised her for it (even more so for daring to stand up and give them a bloody nose). In her response to Galloway and his effusive approval Baroness Kramer utterly disowned Cait’s efforts.
A Baroness (and a libdem) for fuck's sake; it’s something right out of dark ages Britain. That should tell you something right there. So what that she found her own voluntary work, geology and museums are meaningless, Cait should be grateful that the Coalition deigned to force her to work in a demeaning unpaid skivvy job for a highly profitable company (whose success comes from selling cheap knockoff goods).
This is the reality: it’s better for someone to work unpaid for the high street equivalent of some Delboy style market stall than to pursue science and technology. Just because it’s a little harder to get a career using a worthy degree we should abandon that and go stack shelves. (Geologists correctly lambasted IDS for his snide comment toward Cait’s degree by saying without geology there’d be no shelves for her to stack). However what help does the DWP offer in finding something using that degree? What do they do to support and ensure those that want to care for lonely people get a good wage and decent working conditions? Even when it might seem to be in its own interests, the system still screws you. This is because its interests are not the social good.
Creativity, art, science, research, technology, community – even compassion and friendship; none of these are intrinsically worthwhile to the system. They do not directly fill the pockets of the landowning gentrified elite. If they could, it might be different. That’s why these jobs are reduced to the level of volunteer work – and that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with voluntary work; I’m speaking in terms relative to the system.
To conclude: we should be championing those values above because that is how you build a worthwhile society. A world where there is no division because communities integrate over shared values. We all want to live free and in compassion with our neighbours. People should value art and creativity because it inspires others to better things. Science and technology should be valued so as to improve things and community building should be equally valued and sneered at. If the best we can manage is to champion supermarkets and other antisocial interests, then we have utterly failed.