Neal Lawson: same old cretinous error

For the vast majority of people life has become relentlessly anxious, stressful and exhausting as we desperately try to keep up on the treadmill of a learn-to-earn-to-spend culture in which there is no time for the things and the people we really value; no time even for ourselves. Life just feels like a relentless slog to keep our head above water.

Leisure time has been increasing for the past friggin\’ century, you twat.

We have ever more time for ourselves.

What hope is there for compassion in a world of endless competition? When the rewards of those at the top crush every hope beneath them, and the ruthless logic of the market tramples all over our planet, how can we hope to find any meaningful sense of control and therefore freedom in our lives?……And our planet can better sustain itself as we decide that there is more to life than searching for meaning through materialism. So the good society demands proper restrictions on the time we spend working so we can think, rest, play and have the space to be citizens.

How did someone so ignorant ever get to be taken seriously in the world of politics? It\’s that very market system which has made us all so pig rich that leisure has increased and we have the time to think, rest, play and have the space to be citizens.

But what brings the good society to life is democracy: the only tool we have to take control of our lives.

Fatuous wittery. Freedom, liberty, are the tools we can use to take control of our lives. Democracy is all very well of course, but it\’s actually the tool by which we take control of other peoples\’ lives: that tyranny of the majority.

17 comments on “Neal Lawson: same old cretinous error

  1. I can appreciate all the “working until you drop” stuff, but the frustration comes mainly from the reality that all the taxes I pay for education and health I then have to duplicate privately because the state fucks their execution up so badly 🙁

  2. For 99.9% of human existence, life was famously nasty, brutish and short. The biggest problems throughout history have been where your next meals’s coming from, not getting killed and not dying of some random (now easily curable) disease/infection. What we experience now is so far removed from life even only 100 years ago to be totally unrecognisable.

    We should all be very grateful for what we have, because its surprisingly fragile. It wouldn’t take much of a shock to tip our comfortable world off its axis. Then the least of our problems would be ‘having the space to be citizens’.

  3. I can see why some people feel more stressed and unhappy at work.
    For many work has changed: Job security has evaporated, staffing reduced but work increased, pensions destroyed, close monitoring of performance against impossible targets.

    Increase in average leisure hours isn’t necessarily evenly distributed. Stress levels for the hours spent at work haven’t necessarily reduced, even if working hours have.

  4. I wonder whether this is one of those situations where an average can be very misleading. There seems to have developed a polarisation between the group of those of working age who are literally “working their tits off”, doing insane hours and/or two, and sometimes three, jobs and those of similar age who sit on their fat arses all day watching “Trisha”. Add the free time of those groups together and it probably looks quite rosy… But ain’t.

  5. “We have ever more time for ourselves.”

    Nops. We don’t. The women went out to work and now there is 8 hours of housework to be done when people get home(unless you want to slum it in lie), so, we end up with 2 people spending a total of 24 hours being busy, instead of one person doing 14 and getting 2 hours of complete leisure as the home and everything else is already done for them.

    The difference is that to stay afloat nowadays, you now need two salaries that cost 16 hours of work a day, instead of one salaries that cost 14 hours.

    Oh, and we now have 2 working, stressed people in a marriage, whereas before it was only one and they came home to an organised home and an unstressed wife.

    Tim adds: Hexe, to believe that you have to believe that housework isn’t work. Work which has been made immeasurably easier by the invention of the washing machine, oven (instead of wood stove), microwave, vacuum cleaner etc etc etc.

    It is true that women’s market working hours have risen: but household production hours for women have fallen by much more than this. And male both market and household production hours have fallen.

    One Federal Reserve paper from the US shows that leisure rose by 6-8 hours for both men and women a week in the 1980-2000 period.

  6. Hexe,

    Actually, the leisure time statistics specifically allow for unpaid as well as paid work.

    Whether the massaged averages are presented in a way to allow for Marksany and Pogo’s concerns about uneven distributions, or even that the raw data is made available to allow interested parties to correct for relevant categorisations of (un)employment, is doubtful.

  7. “For the vast majority of people life has become relentlessly anxious, stressful and exhausting… Life just feels like a relentless slog to keep our head above water.”

    I would suggest this is the only nugget of truth in this idiot’s piece. But why do we feel this way, when, as Tim says, leisure time has apparently increased?

    Assuming the leisure statistics are fairly accurate, some suggestions might be:

    1. Technology saves labour and time when it works; but when it doesn’t, our lives descend into chaos…
    2. Travelling and commuting…
    3. Dispersed families without the supportive network of the extended family…
    4. Levels of household debt…
    5. Self-pity: a victim is the thing to be these days, so we feel entitled to be sorry for ourselves…
    6.Levels of bureaucracy and regulation… eg my local authority has decreed that it will collect only 4 sacks of sorted dry recyclables tomorrow and we have 6; so this evening will be spent compressing plastic bottles, etc…grrr (see 5 above!)

  8. Hexe, who the hell does 8 hours of housework a day? Where do live, Windsor Castle? My place is fairly spick and span with perhaps five hours a week (including the three hours my cleaning lady does.)

  9. @surrepticious evil: they may do that, but I think that with 12 hours effort a day (and I didn’t count traveling time, hmm) people don’t have all that much spare time to go round.

    Or put another way, it now takes two incomes to live the way we used to live on one income. This is not progress at all… and certainly not suggestive of _more_ leisure time at all either ;-(

  10. @Hexe Froschbein: er no, you don’t live on two incomes now the way people did on one income years ago. In fact if you wish to live the way people did 50 years ago, I suspect you could still do it on one income. It wouldn’t be what you call living but perfectly possible.

    It involves probably not having a car (walking/bicycling to work), not having a houseful of expensive electronic goods, not having a nice warm centrally heated house, possibly having an outside toilet (certainly no en suites then!), going on holiday once a year (to a UK seaside town/Butlins), eating pretty bland monotonous food stuffs (no takeaways, no exotic foreign dishes, no meals out at restaurants), no telephone, no internet, no DVDs.

    You grow your own fruit & veg, you mend your clothes, and your children wear hand-me-downs from their older relatives. You buy very little brand new, and you religiously repair things when they break. You watch every penny, and buying new things is very expensive.

    What you consider the bare minimum for civilised living now, would have been reserved for the very wealthy 50 years ago. That’s why you require more than one income to maintain such a lifestyle.

  11. So, to summarise, all life was rough and hand to mouth until modern times when feminism liberated the women 😉

    And what you describe is already the norm, lots of people with jobs can’t buy take-aways or DVD’s and other tat, and umm, spices were available in Mr. Beeton’s day already, so forget about the ‘bland’, that’s a cultural thing, not a wealth issue.

    Fact is: most women were not expected to go out to work, and today it’s mandatory, the one breadwinner family is extinct. That’s a bum deal 🙂

  12. Hexe,

    “So, to summarise, all life was rough and hand to mouth until modern times when feminism liberated the women”

    Well, not only feminism. Capitalism, technological advance, innovation, etc had more to do with it. (Try handwashing all clothes for example)

    “And what you describe is already the norm, lots of people with jobs can’t buy take-aways or DVD’s and other tat, and umm, spices were available in Mr. Beeton’s day already, so forget about the ‘bland’, that’s a cultural thing, not a wealth issue. ”

    What is described is decreasingly less the norm as prices decrease and real wages increase.

    “they may do that, but I think that with 12 hours effort a day (and I didn’t count traveling time, hmm) people don’t have all that much spare time to go round.”

    With all due respect, I believe the statistics more than what you think.

  13. Jim

    Not so.

    Back in the sixties my dad was an office worker with an average salary having started out, after an apprenticeship , on the shop floor. My Mam did not work but we(my parents, brother and I) lived in a small semi-detached house my dad had the mortgage on, ran a mini as our car, had one holiday a year(in the UK but mass travel abroad was only just getting started back then). During that time our standard of living was rising. We got central heating put in and got colour TV about 1967-8 . My Dad also smoked although he did not go out drinking very often.

    On an average income now–no way. Why? Because the thieving scum of the state are filling their pockets, both through tax and inflating prices to reduce the debts they have been and still are running up.

  14. Hexe,

    I assume you believe in what you are saying but the people who actually assemble the statistics allow for:

    1. Time in paid work
    2. Time in unpaid work – whether voluntary or childcare or housework
    3. Travel time.

    And they say that leisure time is increasing. It might not be your perception – and I’m more than alive to the “unequal distribution” issue – but I’d want more than anecdata to reverse the stats.

  15. @Mr Ecks: it would be interesting to see if a family on one average income now, but paying the taxes that existed in the 60s could live as you did. No VAT springs to mind, and less taxes on fuel/fags/alcohol too, but I don’t know what income tax and NI rates were then, or what the local rates were like.

    Tim adds: Millions upon millions of families live on exactly that right now. You could easily live a 60s lifestyle on £22-£25 k now.

    £800 a year in 1960 (just a number) is £12,500 now on straight inflation. But £800 then in wages is £28,500 now in wages. I don’t think people really realise quite how low living standards were 50 years ago.

  16. @surreptitious evil: I said *I* hadn’t worked in travelling time im *my* calculation(see above) and then the balance looks even grimmer.

    The statistics here simply are number voodoo and can be ignored — look at the reality, and it’s obvious: 2 people now doing jobs + housework, instead of 1 working and 1 doing the home making.

    Unless there is a time machine gadget I missed in the Xmas sales that adds magic hours to the day, no ‘statistics’ can convince me that people who work more nowadays have more free time than people who didn’t back then… 😉

    Some stuff is best figured out by looking at what you’re dealing with, instead of trawling through a database and finding a parody of reality.

    Regards the idea that our standard of life is better nowadays — so many things are different that it’s impossible to compare like for like.

    Yes, we have cheap clothes, but even expensive clothes nowadays are often not lined and most people only sort of fit theirs. For example: Bras. It’s a dirty secret of the trade that using proper sizes costs too much to produce and so… designers start with a C cup underwire and scale down or up, with rather ugly and uncomfortable results for many larger and smaller ladies. The small specialists bratician shops that used to fit those ladies no longer exist. So, we have the technology, but making the actual stuff that people need is too expensive and so, people get an approximation of the real thing (a bit like HH tea, lol).

    And material wealth is no substitute for a good life either… no amount of expensive gadgets displayed nicely in a newly built rabbit hutch will please you if what you actually need is a spacious house and a garden which nowadays is out of the reach of most young families, even if both are working and warehousing their children.

    Another helpful measure of how successful a species is: Offspring.

    And as we all can see, the people in work are not producing enough children to replace themselves — Germany for example is shrinking 2/3rds in every generation and Britain is not far behind.

    So, all in all, we have not improved life quality — people are working harder to earn the same or less as before and we’re not producing enough children to perpetuate our culture.

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