The Elephant in Society

We spend our lives working jobs we hate. Not only do we loathe them, they aren’t even worthwhile. 37% of British workers were willing to admit their jobs are meaningless – the others presumably couldn’t face reality. The same survey found that only 18% of workers found their work very fulfilling. I’ve certainly never worked a job that made a scrap of difference to anybody’s life, except for enriching the leaners who profited off it.

Yet we dedicate our lives to these bullshit jobs. With full time hours, the extra unpaid overtime we donate to our bosses and all the work we put into sustaining ourselves (plus self-care to fill the gnawing hole in our soul where a purpose should be), we spend our lives either working or sustaining ourselves for the next day’s work. The meagre wages we get are quickly swallowed up by landlords and profiteers, as we sell our lives for the resources we need to keep on living.

Skippy doesn’t pay anybody rent.

Our bosses control not only our lives at work, but our lives outside it as well. The bosses demand that we are on call, responding to email, projecting a suitable image and restricting our speech to the company line. Yet I was shocked to see supposed progressives piling onto Israel Folau for his remarks on social media, demanding that bosses sack a worker because of what he said in his personal capacity. Certainly his remarks were offensive, but what a worker does in his own time shouldn’t be a matter for his boss to decide. If we can’t even profess an opinion which goes against the company line, do we have any autonomy at all? Someone whose whole life is under the control of another isn’t a worker, but a slave. That’s what we are – wage slaves.

In time, some accept this shadow of a life. Four weeks a year for us, the rest for our bosses. They allow themselves to be defined by their pointless profession and perhaps some pretensions of care slide into the real. Others decide that such a life isn’t worth living – death rates by suicide are noticeably highest during the period when this is demanded of us. Do people’s brains just suddenly go haywire at the same age they enter the workforce? I think not. Some try to eke out an existence on the fringes, salvaging what they can from the shattered welfare state. And others try in vain to bring the whole stinking edifice down.

The glittering towers of wealth – always trying to encroach on the rest of us.

With such a stark division between lifters who have to submit to wage slavery and those leaners who live off the works of others through their investments, it is clear that there is only one class distinction that matters in our society. Lifting class versus leaning class. Working class versus owning class. The graduations within the lifting class which are used to define a middle class into existence pale in comparison to those between lifters and leaners.

So why do the lifters submit to this? There is one thing worse than wage slavery. Not being a wage slave in a society which demands it.

There are two basic ways in which workers can be induced to work harder. Bosses can offer a carrot in the form of increased wages or improved conditions. These things tend to reduce profits and thus are counterproductive, but have been used effectively in the Silicon Valley model. Providing a ‘campus’ with snacks and foosball tables can induce workers to stay longer hours, but is generally only cost effective for workers who already generate substantial profits.

A nice warm rock can induce a water dragon to stay around.

The more effective way to discipline a workforce is with the stick of unemployment. The dole for unemployed workers hasn’t risen in 25 years, and is insufficient to pay rent in any of Australia’s capital cities. If unemployment means homelessness and destitution then workers will agree to anything to avoid it. The fear will drive them towards competition rather than solidarity with their peers. Almost half of Australia’s workforce is casual, contract, part-time or otherwise not in secure, full-time work. These workers can have the spectre of destitution raised against them on a weekly basis, with their hours of work and pay dependent on the whims of capricious bosses.

But why should the lifting class agree to this arrangement? There are many more of us than there are of them. But even in a liberal democracy, numbers aren’t power. Knowledge isn’t power. Power is power.

In a market society, power comes from the resources one is able to spend on the market. If Jeff Bezos wants something, he has $US148,500,000,000 to make it happen. Since March 2017, that figure has more than doubled, so Jeff’s disposable income is about $US33,000,000,000 per year, give or take a few billion. The median wage earner in Australia gets $AU55,000 per year, even before taking out the money pre-budgeted for survival necessities. So to put it in democratic terms, for each 1 ‘vote’ on the market that you get, Jeff Bezos gets around 850,000.

Symbols of corporate dominion.

There are common interests which business owners share. If wages and conditions for workers are reduced, they all reap the benefits. If corporate taxes are reduced, they all make more money. They all benefit from wage slavery. Forbes most recent list has 2,153 billionaires, worth a total of $US8,700,000,000,000. It can be hard to grasp just how big that number is. Just how much of our resources are allocated to so few, and how much power these leaners wield over our markets. If each of these billionaires had $US100M (certainly enough for a lavish life), there would be $US8,484,700,000,000 left over. That is equivalent to more than 6 years of Australia’s GDP. Everything we produce or earn for more than 6 years.

So you can see how spending $6M a year on the IPA, $10M a year on YouTube outreach, $60M on Palmer United advertising or $95M on Liberal donations is chump change for a class of people with so much. Why even supposedly progressive parties dance to the tune of billionaire donors. Why the ‘Labor’ party is so keen to appease property investors, corporations and shareholders. Why the corporate media vehemently supports their corporate mates. Why there is an industry of bipartisan think-tanks devoted to denigrating any alternatives to continued wage slavery. Why all the powers have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: the spectre of communism.

An alternate path.

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