Tag Archives: employment

The Shirk Ethic

playworkSon 2’s lovely 18 year old girlfriend just found herself a full-time job. This, of course, is great news when so many young people are genuinely struggling to get themselves onto the employment ladder. So I was evidently all-kinds-of-wrong when I had a bit of an ambivalent response. My first thought was the standard one: That’s great! She will earn an acceptable amount (so long as she doesn’t want to live anywhere) and is taking the first step to independence. But hot on the heels of that response was this: And now she’ll be spending  most of every day doing things that are nothing to do with her for people who are nothing to do with her wearing clothes that are nothing to do with her, and when will she have any time to spend working out what IS to do with her?

See, now I’m in my 40s, I think I’m de-maturing. I’m going back to my childhood values. When I was at school, for example, I would have vigorously coveted this t-shirt because I couldn’t accept that THIS. WAS. IT.
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I just could NOT come to terms with the idea that I had to get off my bike, put away my drawing stuff and abandon my Lego in order to go to this place where I was obliged to work and play with people selected purely on the basis of them having been born at roughly the same time and in the same place as me. ALMOST EVERY DAY.

welcome-to-kindergartenThat was the thing – the everydayness of it. I actually didn’t mind school in general, but what about when I had better things to do? What about on those days when the sun was shining and someone had built the beginnings of an amazing den down the bottom of the hill and we’d found the materials needed for building a table? What about when I had an excellent idea for an illustrated story that urgently needed attention? What about when my snails had eaten through the cardboard box home I’d made them and were escaping? I completely and totally hated not having control of my own destiny and decisions. And the idea that there would NEVER come a time when I could make my own life decisions because I’d move from doing things that schools wanted me to do, to doing things that employers wanted me to do, just blew me clean away. The work ethic left me cold.

This personality flaw led me into plenty of problems which I won’t go into here, but suffice to say, I eventually realised that if I wanted to exist in the world of Having Enough Money to Keep Warm and Buy Shoes/Tampons/Peanut Butter, then I’d probably have to give in and work for someone. And I did, and I learned that there is some satisfaction in knowing that you are a contributor to the machine. Other people treat you differently because there’s some relatively visible evidence that you’re not just useless eater. When you do useful things for others it does make you feel good (I’m not sure how investment bankers get their feel-goods, but I think it’s probably not that way).

So that was fine for some years until my job began expanding out of all proportion. Or rather, I began to notice that my job was out of proportion – that I was working every evening at home and all of Sunday too. And I had stopped doing anything else. If friends or family dropped in, or if a son needed any help with something, I would feel a wave of stress like an acid inoculation because it meant I would probably have to stay up until 2am to do the work I would have been doing in those hours. You know the story. But even if you don’t have one of those jobs that demand all your time, here’s  breakdown of an average working week:

  • There are 168 hours in a week
  • We should spend at least 56 of them sleeping
  • That leaves 112 waking hours in a week
  • An average full-time job involves 40 hours at work a week
  • That leaves 72 hours in a week not at work
  • On average, we probably spend 1-2 hours a day getting ready for work and travelling. That leaves 62 hours a week not involved in work.
  • On average, if we have a full time job, we probably spend an hour a day preparing/cooking/eating food. That leaves 55 hours a week.
  • Perhaps an hour a day is needed to organise/clean/do the chores at home (conservative estimate for some). This leaves 48 hours a week.
  • Other modern-life-sustaining chores (food shopping, getting car mended, doctor/dentist appointments, paperwork, etc.) – perhaps half an hour a day? This leaves 44.5 hours a week.

So, if we have a job that only takes up 8 hours a day and no more, we are left with 26% of our lives to do the things that are – in the grand scheme of things – the only really important ones:  playing with our children, painting, exercising, going to the theatre, thinking, reading, exploring the world, travelling, photographing, volunteering, writing, walking, bird watching, inventing, building things, relaxing, keeping up with loved ones, learning things, etc. The things that we look back from our death beds and wished we had done more of.

just-got-home-from-workI am probably a bad human, but for me that’s not enough. And I’m in a job (now) where I probably can make the occasional small difference to people and therefore achieve some job satisfaction. What about those who spend the majority of their precious lives in some of the mind-grinding jobs that are out there? Bertrand Russell argued that “without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things”, and I agree with him. Since I escaped my skull-crushing previous job, I am painting, making things, exploring my native county, photographing with a vengeance and writing. Ideas have started to appear in my head again, and I feel more sentient than I have in years.

Russell also felt that everyone should have a 4-hour working day, and again, I agree. But our ethic isn’t really a Shirk Ethic – I don’t hate work – I actually love it. I will stay up all night and work if I have an exciting batch of photos to edit or some sort of project that’s sparking my inspiration nodes. Because, as George Halas said, “Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”

So, if anyone has a spare shack in the woods (with broadband) that they wouldn’t mind filling with a regressing, workshy artist, do let me know.


In which I make a list and get sidetracked by homosexuality

Even after only a short time away, I miss my blog.

I miss reading and communicating with my fellow bloggers and I miss thinking about stuff long enough to write words about it. But I’ve gone back to work after three months of shell-shocked off-sickness and now my brain is full of other things again. It’s full of reasonably interesting other things – but other things nonetheless.

I do have some things I want to blog about, but I don’t seem to be able to pin myself down long enough to write about them coherently because there’s dog hair on the sofa, the washing machine needs emptying and I need to teach myself about schemas and apertures and interview skills by Friday.

So… I’ve decided to bullet point some of the things I’ve been thinking about/ doing in lieu of the series of blog posts they could have been/will be one day. Here they are:

1. I have a new job. It is not horrible. In fact, it’s VERY un-horrible. This week it involved visiting a place where I could shoot lasers at my students and get paid for it. And I don’t have to do any marking.

Here are two students fighting back.
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2. I have a car. An actual car. One that drives and fits things in. I’ve filled it up with wool, tennis balls, mini whiteboards, magazines, cardboard, sheepskin offcuts, playing cards, books and sandy blankets, and now it feels like HOME.

3. I’ve been thinking about masculinity. And dads. About how valuable masculinity is – and how misrepresented. I decided to write a post about it and/or start a Bring Back Men campaign. In preparation, I started to read around online, and found myself drowning in the furious dichotomous histrionics of the extremists of the ‘Feminist’ and ‘Masculinist’ movements. So much so that I had to have a bit of a lie down. A post will happen on this subject when I’ve recovered.

4. Pubes again. I went back to my old place of work and met the teacher who has inherited my job. He is teaching Equus, the play by Peter Shaffer in which the character Alan has a religious and sexual orgasm while riding naked on the back of a horse and yelling. My colleague observed that the students, on watching a 1970s film version of the play, were more horrified by Jenny Agutter having pubic hair than they were by Alan’s horsegasm.

5. I started basic photography classes and may have an f-stop diagram tatooed on my arm because I can’t seem to retain the information. I think it’s because it involves fractions.

6. I sat on a rock at Poly Joke beach and a seal popped up almost at arm’s length. It kept submerging and then reappearing even closer so it could get a better look. I didn’t know seals were so nosy, but I’m glad.Image

7. I started reading a book called Androphilia, written by a gay man who argues that the stereotypical gay identity is…

“… a subculture, a slur, a set of gestures, a slang, a look, a posture, a parade, a rainbow flag, a film genre, a taste in music, a hairstyle, a marketing demographic, a bumper sticker, a political agenda and philosophical viewpoint. Gay is a pre-packaged superficial persona. Gay is a sexual identity that has almost nothing to do with sexuality…”

He goes on to say that his book is…

“for those men who never really bought into what the gay community was selling. It is a challenge to leave the gay world completely behind and to rejoin the world of men, unapologetically, as androphiles, but more importantly, as men.”

This is a subject I find really interesting because I’ve always wondered why people who are attracted to members of the same sex should want their partner to imitate the opposite sex. Why should lesbians be ‘butch’ and gay men ‘effeminate’?

I remember reading Foucault’s The History of Sexuality where he argued that homosexual desire has always been a natural part of the human spectrum of sexuality and that it was the Victorians who decided to categorise it as entirely separate from ‘normal’ heterosexuality.

He said that although ‘sodomy’ was seen as abhorrent in the Bible – so Christians disapproved of it – sodomy was a sexual act, not a persona or a way of life. The Victorians, he said, labelled individuals who regularly performed homosexual acts as ‘inverts’ – men whose gender/sex was kind of upside down. Homosexuals were seen as men with too much woman in their makeup.

I don’t know how true Foucault’s version of the history of homosexuality is, but it has always made me wonder why – if the Victorians thought homosexuality was all about men who were too female and needed curing – why did the revolutionary gay movement adopt a style in which gay men tend to perform a type of femaleness? Surely that is pandering to Victorian ideas of sexuality? Surely if you fancy men, then it’s their ‘masculine’ traits that are attractive? If you’re a lesbian, why would you fancy ‘masculine’ females?

I expect I’ll get verbally kicked in the head for this post by those who will argue that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are social constructs (and I have sympathy with that idea in the main but do acknowledge also that there are some rather pleasing biological differences between males and females), but never mind. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. And I think the book Androphilia gets a bit troubling later – I think he goes on to blame Feminism for gay culture. *sigh*.

8. Pubes AGAIN. My friend H said she ended up talking about pubes in one of her lessons after observing that there’s only a one day shag window available after you’ve had your pubes waxed off. A group of young female students in her class said there was no way they were buying into all that shit about having to yank all the hairs out of their pubic region. H was delighted.

9. I saw these cats.

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