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Written on November 18, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Once you start looking for bad health, you can find it everywhere.

Unhappy workers ‘at illness risk’ shouts this BBC headline.

People with low job satisfaction are most likely to encounter emotional burnout, reduced self-esteem, anxiety and depression, say researchers. Even a modest drop in job satisfaction could lead to burnout of “considerable clinical importance”, the report warned. The study of 250,000 employees was carried out by Lancaster University and Manchester Business School. Depression and anxiety were now the most common reasons for people starting to claim long-term sickness benefits, overtaking illnesses such as back pain, it found.

Professor Cary Cooper, of Lancaster University Management School, urged employers to seriously tackle the issue with “innovative policies”.

Hang on. I thought that “work” was an invention, a fairly recent one at that, designed to line the pockets of our capitalist elite. Consumer culture is the sop, is it not, to pacify the workers, as religion used to be. So the best and most innovative policy would surely be NOT TO WORK.

I know there are flaws in this argument. For example, this blogging business – do I not in some way treat it as work? Do I not rely on my ISP and also the mighty Googlith Corporation to make my blog run smoothly, and berate them when it doesn’t? If the health professionals I rely upon to make accurate diagnoses and administer appropriate treatments decided that work was the problem and didn’t show up, would I be glad that they had released themselves from the burdening chains of employment whilst I became dangerously and life-threateningly sick?

People are presented with “work” like it is the sole option. People are forced into work, coerced, kidnapped, press-ganged. The most disturbing health news I read today was this account of a Lithuanian woman trafficked and forced to work as a prostitute.

The Lithuanian woman, who was beaten and threatened by the gang, was kept in conditions of virtual slavery, according to the police. Detective Constable Tracy Rankin, of South Wales Police, said: “When we met her, she wasn’t in the cleanest of conditions.

“Her hair wasn’t looking great, neither was her skin. She seemed incredibly confused. The place where she was staying was sparsely decorated and through speaking to her, I understand that she didn’t often eat. Her basic standards of hygiene did seem to decline considerably. The situation she was in was a controlling environment and she was given the bare minimum, if that, to live on.”

I think I might become confused if I was kidnapped, beaten and forced to have sex with seven men a day.

I understand that this poor soul was in a different situation from the many unsatisfied people who hold down unremarkable but respectable jobs to feed, clothe and shelter their families, but this seems to me to be the other end of the same employment pole. Bullying, cruelty, being forced to undergo regular humiliation, and never being paid properly are daily experiences for many workers, even if they do get to go home at the end of the interminable, exhausting, demoralising day.

Work is unhealthy.

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This thing has 4 Comments

  1. Pete Ford
    Posted 18 November, 2005 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Darn right. I read somewhere that a few thousand years ago your average Joe worked maybe 20 hours a week hunting/gathering to put food on the hand-made table. Today we’re indoctrinated into thinking that burning up the best 40 hours of every week working for someone else is good and normal. It isn’t.

  2. RuKsaK
    Posted 18 November, 2005 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, the oldest profession in the world, eh? These news stories of women forced into prostitution make me ashamed to have a penis.

  3. Lord Pasternack
    Posted 19 November, 2005 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    You can have subsistence living if you want. You can go set up a little farm somewhere growing your own vegetables and shunning mod cons if you fancy.

    A lot of folk don’t however. Although, no-one’s stopping you.

    As for being indoctrinated, I’m not feeling it. It’s a social norm to be employed for pay here, and with humans being social animals who tend to go with the crowd, and with the fact that most folk were brought up in urban settings and don’t think out of the box very often, many people will go for usual employment as they know it, without considering growing their own veggies in their window box.

    Urbanisation and modern Capitalism have their thrills and spills, and I’m definitely not a fan of poverty – but I’m not keen on regressing back to the days when peasants haggled over the going rate of a bale of cotton, or leg of beef. (Where would modern science go?)

    Frankly, I like my PC, and my CD player and all that malarky. Material and shallow, perhaps. But I enjoy them. And they were obtained in much the same way as the peasant got their leg of ham, only, with a different trade unit, and slightly more complex, of course.

  4. David
    Posted 29 January, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly, just today it was reported as an issue affecting 40,00 students in France, and an argument with which the Germans are now protesting against student fees:

    http://portal.gmx.net/de/themen/beruf/bildung/studium/5310378-Auf-der-Uni-dank-Liebeslohn,cc=0000000559000531037817q3Vv.html

    Auf der Uni dank Liebeslohn: Wenn die Studiengebühren in die Prostitution führen
    Bis zu 40.000 Studentinnen in Frankreich verdienen ihren Lebensunterhalt als Hure. Laura war eine von ihnen und erzählt von ihrem Schicksal.
    http://portal.gmx.net/de/themen/beruf/bildung/studium/5310378-Auf-der-Uni-dank-Liebeslohn,cc=0000000559000531037817q3Vv.html

    Loose translation:
    Paying for university with sex: When student fees force students into prostitution
    As many as 40,000 French students earn the money then need to live on by whoring themselves. Laura was one of them and tells us about her fate.

    A German protest against student fees:

    http://portal.gmx.net/images/380/5310380.jpg

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