Monday, 14 August 2017

Ever feel like you've been had?

As a child in the 1970s I was heartened to hear from Michael Rodd, on the BBC's excellent Tomorrow's World, that by the year 2000 computers and robots would be assisting us to such an extent that the working week would be down from 40 hours per week to ten, and that our biggest problem would be finding things to do to fill all that extra leisure time. However, seventeen years after the turn of the millennium we work just as many hours, and the precious leisure time that is left to us is eaten away by the very technology that was supposed to free us from a life of toil, as many of us are deemed to be always available on email, mobile phone and social media. How could the charming Mr Rodd have got it so wrong? Well, what he failed to account for when making his prediction was the scale of personal debt and ongoing financial commitments that people would take on over the coming decades, and that it never entered into the plans of the employers or the minds of most politicians that the proles would do anything other than spend the majority of their time working, commuting, getting ready for work and recovering from work. That gave 'The Man' a very big stick to threaten us with. Remember, if you do not keep up repayments your home/car/everything is at risk . . .

As-much-as-you-can-afford mortgage payments, high rents, student loan repayments, hire purchase, energy bills and rising food prices all coerce the masses into unhappy acceptance of the spirit-crushing full-time jobs on offer in the modern UK economy.

It doesn't have to be that way though. As our fellow job-dodger Robert Wringham writes in his brilliant manual Escape Everything - "I dream of a day when shelter and basic sustenance are inalienable human rights and nobody is forced into working against their will to pay for them." Wringham is right. If resources were more equally shared, and advances in technology were used for the common good, then those who want it could be working a much shorter week, with a secure roof over their heads and food in their bellies. Oystercatcher will be looking at how that might be achieved and what small steps we can all make towards that end, and towards a better, happier society.

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