Loving Your Job When You Really Hate It
By Justin George at Feb 25, 2008
In less than two weeks time
As part of the move I’ve had to hand in my resignation, doing so was an interesting experience. Its amazing how much one develops Stockholm Syndrome with one's employer. While I’ve tried to challenge and improve office life and policies, subverting when I can, I think you can’t help but form a weird love/hate relationship to the place where you spend most of your life. I can’t imagine what that would be like for someone who has had a job with the same company for 30 years or more. The sensation is unusual and I feel adds an understanding in some ways to the 'stickiness' problem that Albert has discussed in relation to radical politics and movement building.
Everyday I loathe being forced to sit under artificial light, virtually chained to a computer, for 8 hours a day. But come the time to quit and a fear of being without a safety net starts influencing my reasoning, suddenly the job's 'not that bad' , or 'I won't find better' and suddenly Im in the same position for another 6 months swallowing more of the same old crap. I think this reflects how dependent people can feel towards the exploiters. I know how I am being used, I could see through the managers corp. speak yet, I know of alternatives yet I felt compelled to go along. That didnt mean I didnt try and stir up worker anger when promises weren’t met by management or that I didnt create my little pocket of resistance even if that just meant reading ZNet on the company's dollar. But in the end I went along as I felt I needed a job. What I also found interesting is that the more you earn the more you get tied up into the system. I went from an unemployed student on welfare eating cans of beans but having enough to pay the bills, to a part time job then to a full time job and a promotion and I found that no matter the paycheck I was spending the excess. That rather than living on cans of beans still, extra cash meant that I could buy marinated tofu, a CD or go see a movie, or subscribe to ZMag and suddenly I was much more dependent on keeping my job to ensure that I could continue to enjoy the things that I built up around me- good and bad. So its interesting in finally leaving how hard it can be for people to give up that feeling of security, of having a safety net, even though most people know the system is not working for them. Another aspect of leaving is moving on from your workmates. While I definitely dont like everyone I work with, in general there is a sense of solidarity that develops among people, that we're all in the same boat together. So in some ways it feels that by leaving you're escaping while they have to endure, which for me isn't a pleasant feeling.
So these are some of my feelings about moving on to something new and hopefully more fulfilling. I think that my feelings might give some indication to some of the similar feelings many people have when it comes to work, worker exploitation and capitalism in general. Often I read that people need to know that TINA (there is no alternative) is not the case. While that is true, I feel that often people know that there is an alternative, its the fear of leaving what little (if any) bit if security they have in order to try the alternative. For me I know that there is an alternative yet I found it very hard to move away from the system in a small way, let alone seek out new ways of structuring and organizing our world. That’s not to say that I dont agree with struggling for such change, what Im saying is that perhaps its not only TINA we have to fight, but also the ways that people cling on to the system with the mentality of 'I only have a little bit here but its better than nothing if change doesn’t work'
So as movements we might also need to find ways that make people feel secure, to embrace change, to feel that moving towards a radical change such a Parecon is not such a big leap it just requires everyone to take at least one step in the same direction. We need to not only let people know that there are alternatives but that such alternatives are worth giving up the little scraps thrown their way by those with money and power. How we can counter feelings of insecurity and fear, and ways we can help overcome working people's Stockholm Syndrome Im not sure, but I feel that we must include such considerations when we organize and promote radical alternatives. In doing so we might be more effective in attracting and retaining active people in progressive movements, people able to end their abusive relationships with their exploiters, and move ahead for the change for a more fulfilling and enjoyable world.