This is a personal post by the editor of The New Observer.
I’ve just signed up for a ‘permanent’ job – something that millions of people in the country do multiple times in their life. I’ve been avoiding it for a while, but the freelance career is fizzling out. I know, from experience, what it is like to be poor – threatening letters from the local authority and utility companies, a complete lack of sympathy or even mercy – complete hell. These days I wouldn’t even consider benefits: it is clear that there is a deliberate campaign to humiliate and abuse people who claim benefits. This, despite the fact that all people who claim benefits are doing is recouping some of the insurance payments they’ve paid into a mutual social fund. Ha. Ha. Ha. So; to forestall that I’ve taken a permanent job. – The system works; by making being poor such hell I’ve been forced to supply my labour on any terms.
Today I’ve signed the contract of employment. Looking at it it looks very generic. In fact so generic I suspect it was downloaded as template for a few pounds from some web site. It contains, as I fully expected, clauses that no rational and self-respecting person would sign. For example the clause about how my ‘performance’ will be ‘monitored and appraised’. Or, the clause about how the firm has the right to ask me to work extra hours with no overtime pay if the business requires it. Or, the clause that if I do outside work it is entirely at the discretion of the employer to decide if it interferes with their business and if they decide so they can tell me to stop doing it.
The contract was signed electronically using a tacky online signing system produced by an American company. Obama liked to boast about how America leads the world in exports. It may export a lot (the US is the world’s second largest exporter) – but the quality is terrible: the truth is that the US leads the world in exporting crass entertainment and tacky or low-quality IT products, harmful pharmaceuticals and arms. Here again I had to agree to their terms – which contain all sorts of clauses that no sensible person would agree to, such as indemnifying them against any liabilities.
Rational and self-respecting people do not accept things which harm them. It is a pattern linked with abuse to accept being harmed. People who have been abused often have a pattern of not being able to say No – to being further harmed. But to get this job I have to break this fundamental principle of sanity and good health. My ‘self-esteem’ takes a hit.
And then there is this discourse about the ‘mental health crisis’. If it is institutionalised that people are treated like s* then it is hardly surprising that there is an epidemic of ‘mental health’ problems. Of course; the discourse never gets anywhere near the real causes. For millions of people in this country every day, every week, every month, they have to accept things (actions done to them or actions which they have to do in order to keep their heads above water) which are demeaning, insulting and destructive of their self-respect.
The official discourse including 99% of that in the liberal press is stage managed to avoid any of the real questions.