Being Precarious and Anti-Work

The Cat in the Hat Oh his went mind flat When work came ’round Never would he make another sound

For the past few years I’ve been in and out of a few different jobs. They were all part-time and I hated pretty much all of them. They never gave me much joy besides some of the cool people I was lucky enough to meet. Of course there were also assholes and asshole management and so on. But even those things don’t really stop or start the work from really sucking. I mean, the work is work whether the management is there or not.

Even if I was in an eco-friendly, worker owned and locally sourced store that sold t-shirts I’d still be bored out of my fucking mind.

I’ve got nothing against any of those things mind you. They’re just not always the game-changers that we want them to be.

So, anyways, I’ve always felt a little precarious I guess in terms of my jobs.

All of this is to say that I finally got around to reading this Jacobin article called “We’re All Precarious Now” which highlights the concept of the precariat.

As you might guess this is a very clever play on the use of the word proletariat. You know because they’ve got the “iat” going on? Genius!

Anyhow, the Marxists are head of us all once again opposing the boogeyman of “neo-liberalism”.

To clarify, it’s not that I disagree what counts as liberal is currently harmful. Rather, this term has been obliterated in any sort of cogent meaning at this point because of its frequent use and misuse. I’m not even sure half the time what Marxists (or anyone else) are trying to describe when they’re saying neo-liberalism. The state-capitalist markets we have today? Okay, so why not just call them that. Or hell, let’s just call it capitalism and be even, eh?

You may think I’ve being a little harsh but ironically I think the original term in question, precariat, is great. Well, for me anyways. Apparently the author involved in the article doesn’t think this is a very new trend at all that it’s being hailed as.

And not only is it now new even if it was accurate but according to Charlie Post it’s not:

People aren’t working for only a few months, but rather are working sometimes ten or fifteen years for the same employer, and they just can’t get full-time.

The consequences of getting laid off or fired today are much more severe today than they were just a few decades ago. This is what contributes to a growing sense of precariousness among all workers. That starts with workers who are so-called “privileged” with full-time jobs, down to those who are working part-time for Walmart with no prospect of a full-time job.

So the problem isn’t that workers are more precarious than they used to be but that they’re stuck part-time jobs and can’t get full-time jobs.

Whether that’s true or not I relate to this concept of being precarious. But perhaps that’s because of my own philosophical dispositions. Obviously, I have some problems with work. It affects me every time I come into the convenience store and try to put on a happy face for society. I know that I’m faking it and especially as someone who dislikes a lot of social societies I don’t really like that I have to do this.

On the other hand I can conform (go me?) and can give some emotional labor for the compassion police if I must.

And at least some of it is genuine. I mean I do what people to have a nice day (unless they act like jerks or something) and I want people to find what they’re looking for in the store. More often than not though I’ll make a bunch of weird jokes based on their shirts, something funny that’s going on or whatever oddball goes in my head.

And I’ve stated multiple times to multiple people that this helps me survive the job.

But I’m not kidding.

I mean, humor is how I deal with most of the world. I can’t really see myself as an entirely serious person much less anyone else. So I mock (lovingly usually) and deride and poke fun at the things around me (not least of which is myself). And it’s a way I’ve developed to cope with how absurd things are. I’ve taken the sort of Camus approach to the world: The world is absurd so embrace it!

And I pretty much embrace it.

Unfortunately this puts me in some, ahem, precarious situations mentally. I already struggle with depression as I’ve stated before and my dislike of work and general distrust of authorities doesn’t help the situation much. It doesn’t usually put me at odds with management. I know how to fake agreement and I’ve got nothing personally against the management. If they’re nice to me, give me flexible schedules and generally seem like okay people then I’m not about to jeopardize my job to make some sort of political point.

At the same time I can never help but think that I’m always in a depressingly political situation. Where I’m, once again, in retail (in one way or another) and back to doing things I don’t really care about while putting writing to the side. This means that the income I once needed only slightly becomes, paradoxically a lot more necessary because now I have less energy to the things I want to focus on (like this site!).

So this also puts me in an emotionally precarious position.

Quitting isn’t a question of if but a matter of when.

And I know saying shit like that semi-publicly and under my name isn’t exactly an award-winning combination. But I’m not really known for my work-ethic to things I don’t care about. Give me something to be invested in. Give me some reasons why I should care about what you’re offering for. If I don’t have anything invested in the job then you’ll still probably get a fairly responsibly, consistent and adequate performance from me. I try to do that much.

But you sure as hell ain’t getting me at my best.

I’m living precariously enough right now. I don’t need to be doing crazy things like giving my best to those who take from my labor through the state and “graciously” gave me these awful jobs I often hate.

So yeah, this “precariat” concept struck a chord with me on an individual level. Is it a more societal problem? Sounds like it’s not but I really have no idea in terms of statistics. My own experiences and friends experiences seem to point towards it being a thing. But maybe that’s because most of my friends are weirdos (whom I love dearly for putting up with my own weirdness).

Either way, may the precariat rise!

…Once we figure out how to balance our own lives anyways.


5 thoughts on “Being Precarious and Anti-Work

  1. If warm-body tending jobs bore you, perhaps you should try something more complex like engineering or creative like art? The information required to engage is available at the library.

    • Well, I am trying to get my writing going and hone my skills at video/audio editing as well as learn coding. But it’s challenging to do all three, especially when you’re not in a good situation work-wise and mentally. Still, I’ll keep at it!

  2. Pingback: Despotic Governance on "Free Thoughts" (Commentary on an Elizabeth Anderson Interview) - Abolish Work

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