1990s >> 1999 >> no-1138-june-1999

Creative employment?

The Readers’ Digest Universal dictionary defines creativity as “characterised by originality and expression; imaginative”. Using this as a starting point, here is a socialist’s view.

The type of society in which we live—capitalism—naturally produces an uncreative, dull and very boring social condition We all suffer as a result. Politicians, world “leaders”, journalists, academics, authors, TV reporters are all constantly telling us that there are no other alternatives to the way we live. Capitalism is full of boring jobs to do. All that factory, office, insurance, cashier work needs to be done. All those salesmen/women and financial advisers. We could be here all day.

Even in our “free” time, or rather our employment-free hours, an uncreative, stale mentality exists. What most people do in their free time and consider enjoyable—watching/playing football, listening to music, going round to pubs/clubs, eating at McDonalds, watching TV and the like, is largely a reaction to dull and tiring hours at work (or another day of being unemployed). An opportunity to get away from it all, as it were. That is not to say these activities are totally useless and unnecessary. The Friday/Saturday night culture is but another example of people letting their hair down after a tiring, boring week. A drug-taking youth culture is indicative of a pessimistic working class trying to escape the boredom of everyday life, searching for some excitement and adventure through manipulation of their own mind.

Compromise is an ass
Children of course are usually full of energy, emotion, enthusiasm and spontaneous curiosity. As we become more accustomed to “the way of the world” and more indoctrinated with ruling class ideas, we lose this. Instead we realise we have to compromise whatever throughts and ideas, creativity, energy, emotions and intellectual capabilities we may have in order to get a job and to keep our job. Our minds and bodies are not our own but are to be used and exploited by a parasitical minority—that is if we do not wish to be thrown onto the reserve army scrap-heap known as the unemployed. If you want promotion, it gets even more extreme; just look at politicians, Freemasons, company directors and the like. Even when “creativity” does exist in the labour market—most obviously with musicians, film writers, designers, illustrators, etc, these employees are constantly restricted in the amount of artistic freedom they can pursue. Current trends and fashions, which can generate enormous amounts of profit if aggressive marketing techniques are used, usually dictate the parameters of their creative boundaries. (Look at the number of Spice Girl products available. They are not so much a band as a brand.)

One of the ironic and terrible things about this decadent culture is that it is so dull and hopeless that a lot of people hope for nothing more. Some workers are so tired and stressed that they have no time or energy to work for a world which would be free them from such a miserable existence. Another irony (and tragedy) is when the psychological effects of many tiring, boring hours has a knock-on effect into the non-employment hours of the day, when workers are unable to imagine a world free from the drudgery of wage slavery.

The sky is the limit
So how would work, as opposed to employment, seem in a sane (that’s code for socialist, by the way) society? Well, for a start at least 50 percent, maybe up to 70 percent, of the existing jobs will disappear. In a world of common ownership, money will cease to exist or have any function. All the jobs concerning money—cashiers, bankers, insurance workers, tax collectors, etc, would be totally useless. That’s the majority of the most boring jobs out of the way, then. The abolition of production for profit, and the introduction of production for use, will mean the end of unnecessary long and stressful hours. The line between “work” and leisure will become very hazy, perhaps disappear altogether for some. The fact that work will be socially and individually useful will be a great motivating factor. Ideas, expressions, thoughts and intelligence will be of great value when it comes to designing, building, organising and problem-solving. No longer would we be victims of the needs of the wages system. Human beings will cease to be mere one-dimensional, profit-grinding zombies. Everyone of us has ideas, logic, experience, knowledge, reason and creativity that is of use to others and society in general. And yes, that includes small children, the elderly and the “disabled”. In a fully democratic society (code for socialism, again) we would all be able to contribute on an equal basis (if we so choose) and take according to our self-defined needs.

The working environment will dramatically change too, of course. Being bossed around, getting up far too early, dread, anxiety, working too many hours amidst an unpleasant environment all have a negative psychological and physical effect on us. When people work in a stress-free environment and act on their own free-will they are much more co-operative. Instead of competing for jobs and promotion, which gives rise to a hostile and back-stabbing environment, emphasis will be on co-operation. Even when there are not so exciting jobs to do—cleaning perhaps, the work itself may still be mundane, but working in a co-operative and friendly environment will make whatever work we are engaged in so much more enjoyable. Cleaning can become bearable. Being around people who are enjoying themselves, enthusiastic, co-operative and engaged in socially useful work is a wonderful experience (or should I say, could be). It may be hard to imagine such experiences being part of everyday life, but don’t think of socialism as an utopia. The only thing which stands in our way is a working-class majority who understand and desire such a society. And who are willing to take the necessary political action to achieve it.

We would argue that workers have nothing to gain from being employed or unemployed. Every time we set foot in the workplace we are being exploited. And to those who want to get rid of such a reactionary society, I’ll leave with some words of wisdom from old Karl:

“Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to win!


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