Sunday, December 03, 2006

"I Love My Job"

Recently I had to sit through a training session on a certain supermarket's secret shopper program. As you all know, during the hiring process for many companies there is a period where the many benefits of the company are hyped, its superiority to competitors is extolled, and an attitude of blind subservience and corporate jingoism is instilled. (This isn't to say managers are bad people or anything of the kind, to be clear.) The particular mouthpiece for the company in question described how she was once a bagger (or "Courtesy Clerk") and has now ascended the rungs of the company. She then said, "I love my job."

Of course, my political mind is always operating, and I was wondering how I could rebut this presumption on her part. I don't know her; might she enjoy her job?

Absolutely. After all, being in a managerial echelon, she had some degree of self-management and control. And even if she had been a menial worker at the bottom of the totem pole, one can always find individuals in a society who, for whatever reason, collaborate with oppression or at least tolerate it enough to lie to themselves that they "love" the roles that they play. But comments she made indicated a lot of what lay even under her attitude.

For one, she mentioned that it's not "worth it" to lose a job over theft. While this is somewhat ambiguous, it seemed to me that this indicated that, like everyone else, she viewed a job as an economic asset, not a treasured personal one. She surely did not speak about her labor the same way she spoke about her children. She went on to further imply this by saying that, were she to lose her job over a commodity, it would be a "$900,000 car" or something very valuable. It's pretty clear that she views her job in economic, not personal, terms.

Just ask yourself for one moment: Imagine any of those people you have heard who say they love their job. Now, first, ask how many of them were janitors, fry cooks or even bottom-of-the-corporate-ladder programmers. Then ask what I think is the most important question: If they won the lottery tomorrow, winning, say, $30 million after taxes (just to give them enough that they really wouldn't need to work ever and could survive on $200,000 a year for 50 years with $20 million left), would they come into work? Any kind of work?

I can think of virtually no person who would do so. A possible exception would be the Professors at my university. People animated by passion in a generally much freer environment who can define their own work conditions, despite working very hard.

The point? Until we replace our economic system, most people won't love, or even like, their job. They will loathe it, no matter how large their insincere smile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, you do tend to rant alot. read hello kitty post on ani. yes, this is Julie...AKA Jbird

8:45 PM  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

Thanks for the comment!

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I think that this speaks of the conditioning we all go through to live in the "system". Most everybody says that they are happy because to face the alternative, would result in an inevitable domino effect of dissatisfaction and alteration of their worldview, that eventually would lead into some very alienating and chaotic territory. People want to fit in because they want to have friends and they will cling to any shred of stability because the converse is quite frightening. A bridge if you will needs to be laid between the status quo, and the next step in the right direction. I think the opportunity for this is here with the apparent collapse of the US financial system. The bridge is teaching people to live on there own, by growing their own food, reducing their dependency on oil and electricity etc etc. All that is useless though if you cannot buy a parcel of land to set up shop. Thing is with the collapse of corporate america will come the opportunity to redistribute wealth somewhat and allow people to lay their own independent foundation. I suppose I should also say, I do not mean this in isolationist terms, we need to stop being afraid of our neighbor and learn to work together. Community is essential, even small ones. The strength of even a few individuals aligned to a common cause can be quite effective.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Frederic Christie said...

Indeed, socializing begins at an early age. High school is stultifying for a reason: It teaches boredom management. But I don't think that most people are that far from the understanding that their job sucks. What they are far from is a realization that something can be done about it. See Office Space, for example.

I think that growing one's own food, reducing dependancy on oil/electricity, etc. is only part of the picture and can in fact be misleading and go towards some regressive directions. Aside from sustainability, we also want interaction between communities, trade, prosperity, justice, etc.

4:34 PM  

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