Monday, October 16, 2006

Changes are a foot

I'd forgotton how great jelly was until I made some yesterday. Fucking smashing it is, and surprisingly refreshing.

Anyway, in what must be a record we're being restructured at work for the second time in under 3 weeks. Nice. Or as Jamie would say 'who gives a fuck about your pathetic, worthless, corporate slave shenanigans?'. Although I do categorically say I've never actually heard him use the word 'shenanigans'.

But I could care less as well. Most of you already know that like a disheartened rat fleeing the fetid, sinking hull of obese consumerism and wage slavery I shall be vacating these once fair shores. Sometime in the not too distant future I shall be escaping an endless stream of above inflation price rises, council tax to pay for an Olympic games I don't want, one sodding water main burst after another and a general quality of life that is held up to be the best in the world, by everyone but those who experience it. I don't believe that going to Australia is going to be the panacea that will inspire me to continue on this great quest that we call life, but I do know that rotting away in London will most certainly do the opposite. Plus I'm planning on being out of work for at least a year, so I'll have plenty of time to sit around and think about what's important to me, and maybe even decide on a new career path. There are plenty of jobs that I would like to do, but corporate monkey is no longer one of them.

I set out into the world of work to prove to myself that I could be successful. By my own measure (and that is all that matters) I've done that, and got myself a flat to boot. But I grow weary of the shallow satisfaction that comes with a decent wage and some degree of responsibility in a faceless corporate entity. Sure, within my company what I do is considered important, but to anyone outside it? I think not. My departing managing director told me that he thought I had the best IT job in the company, and I think he's probably right, but it's only a job. And that alone is not enough to satisfy me anymore.

And so the plan is to do up the flat, sell it for a tidy (or tiny) profit (my neighbour's just put his identical, but well finished flat on the market for £60k more than I paid) and make the journey to the land down under, possibly going around Europe first for a month. Certainly I hope to be over there by this time next year. Either that or a millionaire aye Rodney...


Ant said...

That would be 'afoot'.

Unless you literally mean they're a foot. which makes little sense.

Anonymous said...

Shit, that sounds a bit dismissive doesn't it?

Buggering off to Australia eh? Seems that's all the rage, I can't say it's not a pretty attractive prospect.

Are you sure you don't want to give the flat away? I'm sure I could find someone who'd take it off your hands...

Will said...

The title means whatever I want it to mean. It was more a metaphorical construct around the age old philosophy of 'walking' out into the wilderness to find one's self, or something.

Jamie said...


Jamie said...

Anyway, AMEN to what you said (apart from the panacea line).

Everyone's gotta prove to themselves something and i guess yours was work. But you've hit the nail on the head, it's work, it means nothing to anyone, and most importantly, it means the least to the person who does it. How can you enrich your soul working in an office doing something that you wouldn't chose to do if you didn't have to earn money.

the thing is, we're all so tied into the idea that money is the route to happiness that when someone says "He's got a really important job" you immediate equate that with "he must be happy as he earns a lot". We all do it. Although, most of the time these days I think "i'm so glad that's not me".

I've never been into the whole work thing... Sure i do it, but i try to see it exactly for what it is. An evil necessity.

The hard part is trying to see life as it is... an amazing, creative experience to define who you are. When I get up at 7am, feeling ill like i do, with little money to do anything other than work some more, it's extrememly hard to be happy, even though deep down you know you should.

But fair play will, you're doing the right thing and the brave thing. if anyone tells you different they're utterly wrong. i haven't ruled out travelling myself, but not yet. I still don't have the greatest urge to go. not just yet.


Will said...

pan‧a‧ce‧a  /ˌpænəˈsiə/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[pan-uh-see-uh] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all.
2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties: His economic philosophy is a good one, but he tries to use it as a panacea.

Amy said...

Okay. First point - so Jamie says life is "an amazing, creative experience to define who you are" - very Thatcherite cult of the individual that. And also a position which you can only really take from a background of privilege, by which I mean not being a subsistence farmer in Namibia. I refer you to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Saying "he (or she) has an important job" does not automatically mean they earn lots of money, although I guess it depends on your definition of importance. I'm thinking firemen, research scientists etc.

And the travel thing. Fair play Will, if you really want to do it and have wanted to do it for years and years and have a real reason to do it. But it is an awfully middle class and - dare I risk saying it - predictable thing to do? "I'm a bit disenchanted with my nice middle class life so therefore what shall I do instead? Let's go travelling because I can't think of anything else to do and that's what people do?" Only really a choice you can make from a nice comfortable position. I'm not knocking it, you've clearly worked to get to a point where you can afford to do this, I'm just suggesting that a bit of perspective about just how lucky you are might be worthwhile. Maybe you'll get that on your trip and feel more settled afterwards.

Interesting you say Europe and Australia though. Why not South America, India, or somewhere less Westernised? Is it out of line to query whether any of the countries you are planning to visit don't have an outlet of your "faceless corporation" based there?

And actually, Jamie, work does mean something to some people. I think that's a bit of a broad generalisation, don't you think? I'm not sure I agree with you on that one. People who devote "their life's work" to something generally give a monkeys about what it is they are doing.

Quite a narrow world-view being aired here, no?

Will said...

Rubbish. Who are you to say a subsistence farmer in Namibia isn't completely satisfied and happy with their life? What, because he hasn't got Sky+ he hasn't reached his pinnacle of self fulfillment?

I maybe should have clarified what I'm doing - I'm not going travelling as in the sense of slumming it during your gap year through the poorer parts of the globe with daddy's trust fund, safe in the knowledge that you're only taking a holiday into some of the more desperate parts of the world, and 'thank god' would never have to actually go through what these people are going through every day with no way out, but it's an 'interesting' experience to put on your CV. No, I'm emigrating, which you can't deny is not exactly the preserve of the middle classes.

We're going around Europe first because Alison hasn't seen much of it yet, despite coming all this way. And we're going to Australia because she's Australian. But why exactly would I want to move somewhere less Westernised? Somewhere that's a bit more of a dump you mean, where my gringo pound will go further? No thanks, I'm trying to find a better quality of life, not worse. I've been to Central and South America and my idea of a comfortable life is not running from the supermarket to the car under armed guard thank you very much. Even if the company I work for did have offices where I'm going (and they don't) I'm hardly going to pop in and say 'hi, I'm from one of the twenty London offices, how's things? Have you got a job for me?'

I don't agree with Jamie that all work is meaningless, but all work that you'd rather not be doing is meaningless. Darwin or Einstein certainly weren't wasting their time, but they were also doing what they wanted to do.

Jamie said...

Yo! I really like these discussions, so let me first say, I'm not angry at anyone, so this response is light hearted and not personal. So here goes...

First off, I'm not being a Thatcherite. Saying life is "an amazing, creative experience to define who you are" is exactly what it is. Even if you chose to rape kids and murder people. That's your choice. I'm not saying it's right, but life, in almost all senses provides every opportunity to define who you are. Whether you are a starving child in Africa or a multi-million pound baby born into riches. There is much more detail to this statement obviously but you get th point I’m making…

I'm not saying this is the “ultimate truth” and I've reached a place above other people's understanding look at me SMARM SMARM… although I know that's what it can sound like. In fact, as I was trying to say in my last post. I find it very difficult to accept. But, deep down I know it's true. At least in my puny head.

The main issue that comes up when we talk about this kinda thing is circumstance. No-one harbours more middle class guilt than me. But, it's all relative. As I always say, MONEY DOES NOT MAKE ANYONE HAPPY. Otherwise most people in the third world would be miserable without exception and the majority of Americans would be in a constant state of euphoria.

There's nothing wrong with being rich, poor, whatever. It's how you chose to act within these circumstances, how you chose to define your life that counts. Everyone knows, THIS IS THE ONLY WAY to fulfill your life. After all, almost everyone has the same internal struggle in live... The soul searching, the relationship struggles, the battle with confidence, the resistance against adversity, the value you put on people and things around you... everything.

I'm not talking about materialism, I'm not talking about money and I'm not talking about safety or security. I'm talking about the very essence of all human existence, to define your character, place and purpose, from leader, or suicide 'victim'.
Saying this kinda thing makes people angry. They get angry and they also can't take it out of context of money. Because we all think in terms of money and what tangible things money and power (on an individual or national level) we've got. But I'm not referring to that at all.

But don't get me wrong. I do the same and I find it very hard to accept what I see as the basic truths in life. Like I said in my last post.

Also, one last thing... Will saying "I don't agree with Jamie that all work is meaningless, but all work that you'd rather not be doing is meaningless." This is clearly what I meant. Doing work you want to do IS defining yourself. Having the bottle to resist the daily drudgery of work IS defining yourself. Even if that means escaping by traveling "in the obvious, middle class way". (I know what you mean in that, but Will seemed to answer that one). It's still an active statement to define who you are. And a brave one.

Phew. End of rant.

Amy said...

For the record, I too enjoy these discussions and I don't mean to cause offence so apologies all round if I have done. Nothing wrong with a bit of healthy debate! Very sorry if I am trampling on any feelings here, I can shut up and go away if you’d prefer. In the meantime though, if I may respond, with respect and candour... :)

Re: subsistence farmers in Namibia I postulate that if you spend 90% of your time worrying about how to feed your kids (as per nature of "subsistence") you are unlikely to be desperately happy. (Well, I know I get grumpy when I'm hungry anyway!) Again, I refer you to Maslow in this respect -'s_hierarchy_of_needs . I agree with him on this one in that you gotta get past the basics before you can get to the whole "fulfilled" state of mind/being.

(And why did no-one tell me Sky+ represented the pinnacle of self fulfillment?! I'd have gone and got one ages ago!! :)

Anyway the point was that whilst money does not equate to happiness, it is a lot easier to be happy with a bit of money backing you up than it is to be happy when you don't know where this month's rent is coming from, for example. To quote Woody Allen "money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."

I agree money doesn’t make *everyone* happy. But logically, it is a falsehood to extrapolate this to "money does not make *anyone* happy". Interestingly, Einstein was much happier when he got his job as a patent clerk in Bern than when he was at Uni, as it meant he had a salary coming in to support the wife and kid. Admittedly he spent his evenings working on the theory of relativity, but it was only the job and salary that went with it that allowed him to do that in his "leisure" time…and it was the money that gave him the breathing space to be happy. I think that realistically you have to accept there is a certain trade off between doing things you want to, and doing things you have to in order to be able to do the things you want to.

There's nowt wrong with having money, I'm not saying that we should wring our hands all angst-ridden and give all our material goods to the "poor", just get a little context/perspective/sense of appreciation. Okay, some jobs may by some people be considered meaningless but generally the worst you are suffering is boredom rather than e.g. terrible physical hardship gulag-style.

And thanks Will, for clarifying the point about the emigration - my misunderstanding, sorry. I read that year off work as a year travelling. Doh. I concede this puts a slightly different slant on things, but even so, to emigrate to Australia you still need a decent wedge behind you - isn't it £5K (or $5K?) in the bank before they'll let you into the country? And isn’t there something about having to demonstrate "valuable" skills with regard to employment to get a permanent visa? So, it's a reasonably middle-class thing to do, I think? Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, just recognise it is only wage slavery that got you to this point.

My point re moving somewhere less Westernised still stands to a degree I think, as I'm not sure I understand why you'd want to move somewhere pretty similar to where you've come from - you're going to rub up against the same issues, just have a different view out of the window, surely? Does Australia really offer a better quality of life? I am prepared to stand corrected on this one... My query about whether your company has offices there was to demonstrate this homogeneity issue though, not to do with getting a job. But if they don't have offices there that point kinda misses. Although if you’d said you were moving over there to be with your woman then that would’ve made more sense to me. Which it now does.

Anyway, to continue, all work you'd rather not be doing is not meaningless - for example I'd rather not do housework but if I don't do it the house turns into a sh*tpit and therefore while I hate doing it, it has meaning. And if Will is working to be able to afford to go to Australia, then his work is not meaningless either. Means to an end.

Next up – I still disagree that "life is an amazing, creative experience to define who you are". Life can be many things. Life can be the basic struggle to survive, or it can boil down to the Dawkinsian view of all being gene-centric, or it can just be about finding the will to make it through another day. What you believe depends on all sorts, your personal background, culture, belief system etc.

And does self-definition mean happiness anyway? If you follow this presumption to it's logical conclusion, doesn’t this start to imply some element of pre-determination? For instance, what if the most optimum definition for you was as an IT consultant, but you don’t know what an IT consultant is, and don’t live in a country with electricity, or were even born 200 years before computers, for example...? Are you doomed forever to be looking to scratch that itch or do you just make the best of it?

I guess my personal opinion would be that life is here and then you die, and what you do in between is generally of little consequence, in the grand scheme of things. So howsabout "life is about finding what life is about for you, and making the best of it in the meantime"? That, I could agree with more. So, if "life is about...defining who you are" for you Jamie, then I respect that. It’s true for you, but I don’t think it is necessarily stands as a univeral truth. Actually, re-reading your comment, I think I am sort of agreeing with you... but it’s not just about defining yourself (or your character) as an individual.

"Having the bottle to resist the daily drudgery of work IS defining yourself." – I strongly dispute this comment. My point is that sometimes it can take more bottle to get to grips with the daily grind, depending on why you are doing it. For instance, the Simpsons episode where Homer gives up his dayjob at the nuclear plant to work in a bowling alley, only to have to go back to his old job when Maggie comes along – you know the one I mean? Maybe I have been reading too much miserable Russian literature but there is a certain nobility of spirit in this, I find. Fair enough, Will has no ties and can do this, and yes, there is a certain amount of bravery in upping sticks and emigrating, but there is also a fair amount of luck and fortunate circumstance in being able to be in this position to make this choice. Others may choose a different path which is equally as brave, and possibly more self-sacrificing. Which, in a way, I guess is a form of self-definition in itself... so maybe I am actually agreeing with you, with a few small but important caveats.

Is it me or is this the longest post ever? Sorry...

Pete said...

How's this for a grenade over the fence:

"Being a teenager is an amazing, creative experience to define who you are."

Traditional "wisdom" says that once that phase is out of the way you can go and do something with what you've defined. I don't think anyone should become completely static and unwilling to change, but there's much more to life than the definition of self.

Will: Congratulations on the plan to move. It sounds like a good one.

amy said...

I'd dispute the teenager point (for a change)... I reckon once you get the teenage bit out of the way, its the next bit that gets you some proper perspective on things, say 20-25 years old. Or at least I hope so. I'll get back to you on the 25-30 years bit in a few years. And anyway, teenage years as we know them didn't officially exist until around 1950, so does that mean no-one had a sense of self etc until then?

The key to all this is basically cognitive dissonance (cf Aronson 1969). If you looked at life properly you'd go mad, but the psychological defence that is the ego has to step in to intermediate between the actual world and the world as you experience it. i.e. it's all basically pointless, but that generally makes people feel uncomfortable, so everyone struggles to find some point to it as otherwise you'd give up and lie in the road Radiohead style. How you find that and when depends on how good you are at either self-delusion or whether you can learn to live with the fact that everything is essentially meaningless and looking for meaning through any other filters than your own self-concept doesn't really work. We're all ego-driven creatures with in-built self-preservation mechanisms, and all three square meals away from regressing to barbarism, leaving such high falutin ideals as self-actualisation by the wayside PDQ. My tuppence worth for the day. Nearly Friday though, eh?

Pete said...

My use of "teenager" was deliberately facetious and intended to wind up Jamie.

Throwing age ranges out of the picture there are distinct phases to the first few decades of human life in most societies - children are highly dependent on their parents, then there is a process whereby they take independence and prove themselves apart from their parents, then they become adult and prepared to take responsibility through choice and even have children of their own. There are lots of paths through this and personal circumstances or disposition (eg/ accidental pregnancy or infatuation with youth culture etc) have a lot to do with how fast people move through the process or if they move on at all. Recognising this fairly universal transition, I think it is fair to say self definition is a part of life, one which older children and young adults are fairly preoccupied with, but mature adults tend to de-emphasize when they're faced with new challenges. It's why Dad just doesn't care about the new Greenday album.

I think this description sits pretty happily with Maslow's hierarchy of needs... that's definitely a good reference.

Uncle Albert said...

I have lived many years and can confirm that "The Hokey Cokey" IS what it is all about.