How We Live
Source: World Socialist Movement
Republished under a Creative Commons License.
What happens when we wake up in the morning? Most of
us have to get up and go to work. We may decide that we would rather lie in for an hour or so and dream of going on a world cruise. But the dictatorship of the alarm clock reminds us that dreaming will not pay the bills. Ideas of world cruises must give way
to the reality of getting to work.
If we go to work by bus or train, we must buy a ticket. No money for the ticket and there will be no ride to work, even if the bus or train is half empty. Millions of workers set out by car. The roads are congested at the beginning of the working day with anxious men and women who cannot afford to be late. Very often there is one person in a car which could provide transport for four. Driving to work through the big city produces tense, angry, frustrated people, many of whom do not want to go where they are going, most of whom cannot afford not to.
We arrive at work. Some of us are employed to do useful work: farming, manufacturing essential goods, attending to the sick, performing music, driving buses and trains, teaching children how to read. Others of us do useless, destructive or antisocial work for our wage or salary. Soldiers are employed for the purpose of killing other human beings in time of war. Munitions workers are employed to build weapons of destruction. Sales promoters are employed to persuade people to buy what they may not really need or be able to afford. Servants are employed to look after people who are quite fit and capable of looking after themselves. None of these jobs is necessary to the smooth running of a sane society. We could all live without them.
For very many people the working day is something to be got through as quickly as possible, It is not that they are lazy, but the jobs that they are doing give them little or no personal satisfaction. Even potentially interesting jobs are often unpleasant because of the way in which it is necessary to be deferential to a boss or to skimp on quality work so that your employer can get as much as possible from you for the wage he is paying. Many people go home from their employment to work very hard on pursuits they find interesting and useful. It is not the work they dislike, but employment.
On the way home from work we may buy an evening paper. It will contain all sorts of trivia to take our minds off the stress of employment. But we may also read certain facts about the world we live in. We may read that food is being destroyed due to “overproduction” while millions are starving because they lack the money to buy that food. We may read that scientific advance now makes it possible to transport organs such as hearts and kidneys but that most technological research is devoted to the design of new weapons. We may read on the one hand of politicians saying that workers are not being productive enough, and on the other hand of economists saying that unemployment is necessary because the factories are producing more goods than there is a market for. Many of us conclude that we are living in a society that needs to be changed. But most people believe that it is best left to politicians to make the changes.
In the pub or social club at the weekend we can hear all kinds of ideas being expressed, many of them picked up from the newspapers or television. We can listen to the nationalist who announces that he is proud to be British. Yet 80 per cent of people in Britain own less wealth between them than the richest one per cent. Those who speak of “our country” usually have little more than a rent book or a mortgage to show for it. Then we can listen to racists who will blame problems on blacks or Asians or Eastern European immigrants. Their racism arises from fear that someone else is competing with them for housing or jobs. We can meet sexists who believe that a “woman’s place is in the home” or that men are inherently aggressive. We can meet men and women who believe that their lives are being manipulated by an invisible god who lives above the clouds. We can meet people who talk about socialism and then point to China or the former Soviet dictatorship in Russia as examples. All these views are very common indeed. Those who oppose them are often called cranks or utopians.
It is hardly surprising that many people cannot cope with the tensions of this society without turning to drink, drugs or suicide. Others suffer in silence. Most fear crime, and the possibility of losing their job. They must always reach deep into their pockets to pay for the basic necessities of life. One in a million wins the Lottery and escapes from the treadmill of being a worker. Most of us do not. We must either work for an employer for a wage of a salary or beg from the state.
We are wage slaves.
Freedom – Equality – Solidarity
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