Sure, we’ve all had that sinking, back-to-work feeling when returning to our respective concrete office blocks after the Christmas holidays. We may have even signed up to a few job websites to scour the ultimately depressing job market, but did this guerilla poster campaign make you question your whole career?
Yesterday someone plastered a load of black and yellow posters across the Underground in an attempt to make us wake up and realise that the majority of our jobs are meaningless and soul destroying. They reckon that most jobs are made up to distract us from pursuing a job that we actually care about, and the endless drivel of worthless work we’re doing is damaging ourselves and the world. (That’s right telemarketers dreaming of being pop stars, they’re referring to you.) Yeah, maybe it’s not what you wanted to be reminded of on your 7am commute, but that seems to be the point of this poster campaign.
The posters read:
‘How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?’
‘It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.’
The statements and questions used on the posters have been taken from an article written by David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. You can see the full enlightening version at strikemag.org (it’s worth a read). The article refers to the way our society rewards the likes of private equity CEOs and PR researchers more than nurses and mechanics, who tend to be paid less while performing a job that has greater meaning and genuinely helps people. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who loves their job and gets paid well for it, it may make you question what you’re actually doing with your life, or the injustice of why you’re being paid an abysmally low wage for slogging your guts out all day.
Or if you’re feeling lazy, here are a few of our favourite parts:
‘There seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.’
‘What would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.’
‘Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilising resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”’