Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Dictatorship of the Proletarian

Last week I had a meeting at work with people from the Marketing team. They were headed by someone who, given my limited experience in my new organization, seems to be quite a hot shot – the type of person that seems to know which strings to pull, the type you don’t want to be on “the other side”. Luckily, as with the vast majority of people in my new job, she is also a very nice person.
Anyway, we had our business meeting, and somewhere in the beginning someone mentioned the new budget introduced by Costello the night before and how nice it is. In usual fashion, I said something like “For the record, let it be said that I think this budget is a bad joke; instead of giving people $20 extra a month, which won’t benefit them much anyway, they should invest in infrastructure. In general I despise what this government does and what it stands for; but I will shut up now as I would like to keep my job”. And on the discussion went.
Come the end of the meeting, when everyone left the meeting room, that Marketing hot shot asked me to stay a minute. Being the confident person I am, I immediately thought that my cover has been exposed, that she saw right through me and realized that I’m the total idiot I am and that I’m just wasting her time, and that this is it – from this meeting I’m going directly to Centrelink to find myself a new job as a cleaner [for the record, I am still on probation].
It turned out she wanted to discuss politics. So while I was relived to learn I still have a job for yet another hour at least, she told me she thinks the Australian people have a problem realizing how well off they are and offered to bring me some material on new directions for the labour movement.
I agreed, of course. I would have agreed for politeness alone, but I also found it interesting to see what she has to say and what the material is all about, because Australians seem to be in complete apathy towards politics (until it comes to their own pockets and their investment properties), so I was curious to see what a politically aware Australian (as opposed to a bloody foreigner like yours truly) has to say.
She stood up to her word and yesterday she snuck behind me while I was listening to Led Zep and writing test cases (a task so boring that without music I’d probably prefer to cut my veins). I survived the mild heart attack to receive this booklet from her: A periodical called “Quarterly Essay” (check it out at www.quarterlyessay.com) featuring an article on the death of social democracy as we know it.
It’s not your average newspaper article: It’s a 70 page plus article where someone who obviously cares about the Labour movement spills his guts out.
I’ve started reading it, and I have to say it’s quite interesting. The entire affair so far has been interesting because it got me to learn something about the people of Australia and now I’m in the process of learning something about Australian history.
But most of all it’s a literature experience: I’m not used to reading an article of such length where someone expresses their opinion (as opposed to telling a fictional story or stating non-fictional observations). Think of it as reading a really really long entry in this blog; it’s not that common.
Last time I got to read something like that was in Literature class back in high school, where they forced us to read these articles by the like of Ehad HaAm (“one of the people”) explaining their late 19th century views on Zionism and the directions it should take. The language was ancient and unfriendly – just as trivial to read as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales would feel to a modern English speaker – and damn boring as it discussed old agendas that mattered to me as much as the history of ants between the two world wars.
This time around, though, things are different: the circumstances are interesting, I approach it with an open mind, the language is clear, the agenda is well laid out, and most of all the material feels relevant. I read it and I identify with it. It makes me think of what it says.
It’s funny what age does to you when you begin to take interest in such stuff, stuff you would have never bothered before when all you cared about was having fun but eventually you realize that what you used to call “fun” is pretty shallow and that you need substance to feel complete and satisfied. Or, to put it another way, the things in life that are worth having are not that easy to acquire – you need to make an effort.
Which is in exact contradiction to the current prevailing culture of consumerism and instant gratification. I don’t predict a bright future for those: we will not be able to sustain them for too long at their current levels.

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