Tag Archives: precariat

Diary Blog, 25 August 2022, with a few thoughts about poverty and living through hard times

Morning music

[Marianske Lazne, former Marienbad, Czech Republic]

On this day a year ago

Greta Nut

A commentator on the blog reminded me of the clip below, not seen for a long time:

[when not accepted as a “world leader”…]

I still think that the most telling thing about Greta Thunberg is how the decadent mainstream media, politicians etc at least pretend to take this uneducated and afflicted girl (now 19) as some kind of sage, when actually she has nothing to offer. It says something about the world we are in today.

See also: https://ianrobertmillard.org/2019/09/29/greta-thunberg-system-approved-wunderkind/.

Latvia

Levits— a half-Jew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egils_Levits.

“Jack” Monroe, the “Bootstrap Cook”; some thoughts about “poverty”

I thought that it was worth reposting those tweets, which refer to the Twitter storm around “Jack” Monroe, aka “Bootstrap Cook” (mentioned in yesterday’s blog).

I have no particular animus against “Bootstrap Cook”, and I should imagine that many find her recipes and other advice very useful [see https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/recipes-food/], but it is clear that she herself is not (now) in what most people would regard as poverty.

As to my own experiences of “poverty”, I have had some pretty low moments from time to time over the years, for example after I returned to the UK in Spring 1998, after a few months living in Egypt [https://ianrobertmillard.org/2019/03/07/when-i-was-not-arrested-in-egypt/].

Was I myself “in poverty” when I returned to London? It certainly seemed so!

Think living in a single room in a flat (provided by a friend of a friend— eventually, and very belatedly, months later, paid for by Housing Benefit). Think living largely off tiny State benefit for 3-4 months (monies also delayed for weeks). Think having to be a little bit “creative” in finding ways to travel around London, and equally “creative” in finding out how to increase supply of food and reading material (mainly books).

Yet only a few years before, I had quite often been paid, as Counsel, £1,000 or more for often quite brief (less than half a day) appearances in the High Court or elsewhere.

Later, living in the former Soviet Union in 1996-97, my home was a kind of large penthouse with a very wide wraparound balcony, I had a former MVD car and driver to ferry me to my office etc, a Rolex Seadweller on my wrist, and I rarely carried less than USD $5,000 on my person.

Incidentally, barristers reading this might sneer at the modesty of those High Court fees (perhaps a tenth or a twentieth of the fees some now get and even back then received), but this was 1993-95, nearly 30 years ago, and I was only just out of pupillage (on-the-job training). Anyway, it seemed good at the time to me.

What those born into wealth usually fail to know, having never experienced it, is how quickly a comfortable lifestyle can disappear, without personal capital or family money as a safety net.

When I was living on pennies —and my wits— in the London of March-June 1998, I often walked past Julie’s restaurant in Notting Hill, a restaurant patronized by film stars and other “celebrities”, and a place which I had previously visited several times, only 2-3 years before, and arriving in a large white Mercedes (a girlfriend’s car).

Maybe 3 years later, in 1998, I would have been unable to buy a coffee in the same restaurant, and I wondered whether those staring out of the windows could perceive somehow just how poor I was (maybe a subjective and resentful thought: after all, the Rolex may have gone, but I was still clad in an Austin Reed overcoat and Dents leather gloves etc).

There is no need for me to say more about that very pinched time in my life. Adolf Hitler had it worse, in the Vienna of 1909-1912. Eventually, my several months of poverty came to an end and then, less than a year after I had returned penniless to London, I was spending time living in a villa in the Caribbean, with a private beach (in effect), though those sometimes pleasant months sadly did not become sybaritic years (though I did spend much of 1999 in and around the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico— several Caribbean islands, and the Gulf Coast of Florida).

I later had more ups and downs, but that is enough for today.

I do not know a great deal in detail about “Jack” Monroe, the Bootstrap Cook, but I would guess that she knows a lot about “precarious” life in the Britain of today. Occasional poverty, occasional plenty, but not much security either way.

Many many people in Britain in 2022 are part of that “precariat”. This has political implications. Labour was the party of the industrial “proletariat”, mainly, a class which is now all but non-existent. “Bootstrap Cook”, leaving aside her personal predilections, is in that sense far more typical of the masses than would be the Soviet-style miner, rail worker, or other member of the organized labour force, insofar as such people still exist in the UK.

If there were a credible social-national movement in the UK, the “Bootstrap Cook” would probably not support it, but the “precariat” in general would, especially as inflation, low pay, and low State benefits all start to bite.

More tweets seen

Well, £600 is not a fortune for a watch these days (any of my one-time Rolex Seadwellers would be £10,000-£15,000 in 2022), but I take her point.

…on the other hand, Bootstrap Cook is, after all, from Essex, the home of “bling”…

Meanwhile, though the @norfolkchatter1 Twitter account has disappeared, the storm around the Bootstrap Cook has, if anything, intensified, with many Twit-people (including the terminally “woke”) supporting her, but also with many others either criticizing her or demanding to know exactly how much capital or income she really has at her disposal, and asking whether she is exploiting people who donate to her when they really cannot afford to do so.

Legitimate questions, arguably, though it is almost axiomatic that the poor (however defined) do donate more generally than the wealthy or not poor (however defined), relative to income. Also, people are assumed to be compos mentis; if they want to donate to someone, that is their choice. There are many worthwhile-seeming appeals around: see, e.g. https://www.gofundme.com/f/judith-thorpe-funeral-children-fund; and https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-if-you-can-help-to-keep-our-boy-safe.

[Incidentally, I do not know anyone involved in either of the two GoFundMe appeals above; I just happened to see them].

“Covid” “panicdemic”

Looks like reality has started, finally, to break through…

Late tweets seen

Sometimes I wonder what, WHAT, would make the mass of British people wake up to the “panicdemic”, the nonsense measures such as facemask-wearing that were part of the scam, or to the “support Ukraine” propaganda or, as in that tweet, the very real dangers of the “Covid” “vaccines”, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that nothing, nothing at all, will awaken the masses. A “victory” by a football team, or whatever absolute shite is on “reality” (unreality) TV that week, and the real and important issues are forgotten again.

Maybe after the nuclear war with Russia that so many have been brainwashed into (as they imagine) wanting to see, the survivors will see their reality more clearly.

Late music

The Society of Measure

In the mid-20th century, especially in the 1960s, it was commonplace to see articles or features about the supposed coming “age of leisure” which would be facilitated by machines and advanced industrial techniques. Now (since the 1980s), those predictions are often laughed at, as society (eg in the UK) finds itself enmeshed in the “long hours culture”, the workaholic culture, the low pay economy. Was this inevitable?

The fact is, that the predictions of the past about a future “society of leisure” left out one crucial fact in particular: that the benefits of industrial efficiency and the emerging developments in computing, robotics etc would be taken by the owners of capital, by shareholders and others.

Since the 1970s, real pay (whether absolute or per hour) of most employees has stagnated and indeed even declined across the advanced Western world generally. At the same time, the profit accruing to capital and the remuneration of the upper strata of executives, higher managers and their professional counterparts has rocketed.

The above was true to some extent even in the Soviet Union, except that there, the developments in technology and efficiency were not spread equally across all industrial sectors and the benefits were used mainly for State power and prestige: military and naval upbuilding, space programmes and other large-scale projects such as the BAM railway.

The result (focussing on the West and particularly the UK) is that people have to work ever-longer hours for ever-lessening real pay. If public services, amenities and State benefits are taken into account, the contrast between the optimistic promises and predictions of the 1960s and 1970s on the one hand and the realities of 2016 on the other is even more stark.

There is another factor to be taken into consideration: there are three “work/leisure” faces:

  • work as unwelcome and/or repetitive drudgery, with little free time;
  • leisure as mere absence of work, for whatever reason;
  • creative work, balanced with stimulating leisure or free time

Adolf Hitler was referring, by implication, to the above alternative lifestyles when he noted “the Aryan ideal of creative work“, to be contrasted with (as he saw it) uncreative Jewish profit-making, as well as equally-uncreative paid drudgery [see Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf 2:7]. In explaining, for example, the symbolism of the red-white-black NSDAP banner, Hitler wrote:

And indeed a symbol it proved to be. Not only because it incorporated those revered colours expressive of our homage to the glorious past and which once brought so much honour to the German nation, but this symbol was also an eloquent expression of the will behind the movement. We National Socialists regarded our flag as being the embodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us — the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is in itself and always will be anti-Semitic.

In our contemporary society, we see the temporary victory of uncreative work/leisure modes: on the one hand, soul-less profiteering (whether by manipulations on stock and bond markets or by buy-to-let parasitism etc); on the other hand, everyday work becoming less and less interesting for most people. Soul-less economic serfdom. Creativity and a decent work/life balance become the province of the artist, the maverick off-grid person, the creative writer. Most people are excluded.

At the same time, those without paid work and who are under pensionable age cannot even enjoy the one major benefit of being unemployed: leisure! They are harried and chased around by Department of Work and Pensions drones. In other words, in place of actual paid work, there is a ghastly and ghostly simulacrum of work consisting of the tick-box applying for (often non-existent) job vacancies or the attending of pointless “courses”, in return for which the unemployed claimant is paid a shadow version of a very low real salary: State benefits.

It is estimated that, between now and 2030 or so, developments in robotics alone will mean that 20%-30% of UK jobs will disappear, including some presently “professional” ones (eg in the medical and legal fields). The numbers of unemployed, under-employed and poorly-paid will increase. The “precariat” will include ever-more people.

The solution to all of the above is not a “society of leisure” but a “society of measure”:

  • strict limits on hours worked by employees, perhaps 30 hours per week;
  • strict enforcement of break-times within the working day;
  • strict demarcation between work-time and free-time (leisure time);
  • strict limitations or barring of employees being “on call” when at home;
  • payment to all citizens of “Basic Income”
  • more equitable distribution of the fruits of the economy.

Such a society will have time for those important things which have traditionally been part of “leisure time”: home, family, culture, rest, sleep, entertainment, sport. This must be the way to go and will cure many of the ills of the present society.

Text reference link:

http://www.angelfire.com/folk/bigbaldbob88/MeinKampf.pdf