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Missive #101

Read Will Rogers column 88 years ago: July 28, 1935

Neo-liberal policies and institutional changes have produced a huge and growing number of people with sufficiently common experiences to be called an emerging class. In this book Guy Standing introduces what he calls the Precariat – a growing number of people across the world living and working precariously, usually in a series of short-term jobs, without recourse to stable occupational identities, stable social protection or protective regulations relevant to them. They include migrant workers, but also locals.

This is an interesting book if for no other reason it introduced me to the new word — precariat. I thought what I did back in 1990 when I quit working for a bank was “Going Galt” but now see that I was joining the precariat class. There are many subdivisions within that class however so it is not as uniform as the working class, the working poor or the unemployed. I think the author is right that it is a dangerous class IF it becomes unified with a leader.Standing argues that this class of people could produce new instabilities in society. They are increasingly frustrated and dangerous because they have no voice, and hence they are vulnerable to the siren calls of extreme political parties. He outlines a new kind of good society, with more people actively involved in civil society and the precariat re-engaged. He goes on to consider one way to a new better society — an unconditional basic wage for everyone, contributed by the state, which could be topped up through employment.

This is a topical, and a radical book, which will appeal to a broad market concerned by the increasing problems of job insecurity and civic disengagement.

Guy Standing, professor of development studies at the University of London, offers an unprecedented, necessary and articulate examination of a dominant, crucial consequence of globalization: the creation and maintenance of a seemingly permanent, worldwide, growing underclass of migrant, underpaid, exploited, short-term workers, the “precariat.” Their jobs and social positions are just that: precarious. This group includes millions of people from rural China who flock to the cities to work for low wages, women in many places working service jobs without contracts, and youth disenfranchised by a lack of opportunities for a career or even a stable job. Standing explains how globalization forced them into this way of life and argues for their reintegration into mainstream society. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends his important, eye-opening and groundbreaking report to students, NGO officials, policy makers, CEOs, HR personnel, and anyone delving into business, politics and the consequences of globalization.

Some quotes from The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing.

One does not have to be a technological determinist to appreciate that technological landscapes shape the way we think and behave. The precariat shows itself as not yet a class-for-itself partly because those in it are unable to control the technological forces they face. There is growing evidence that the electronic gadgetry that permeates every aspect of our lives is having a profound impact on the human brain, on the way we think and, more alarmingly still, on our capacity to think. It is doing so in ways that are consistent with the idea of the precariat.
The precariat is defined by short-termism, which could evolve into a mass incapacity to think long term, induced by the low probability of personal progress or building a career. Peer groups may accentuate this by threatening to ostracise those who do not conform to the behavioural norms. Unwritten rules on what is done and not done impose heavy costs on the nonconformist.
The internet, the browsing habit, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other social media are all operating to rewire the brain (1The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr). This digital living is damaging the long-term memory consolidation process that is the basis for what generations of humans have come to regard as intelligence, the capacity to reason through complex processes and to create new ideas and ways of imagining.

1The content of a medium is just “the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.”*Not even McLuhan could have foreseen the feast that the Internet has laid before us: one course after another, each juicier than the last, with hardly a moment to catch our breath between bites. As networked computers have shrunk to the size of iPhones and BlackBerrys, the feast has become a movable one, available anytime, anywhere. It’s in our home, our office, our car, our classroom, our purse, our pocket. Even people who are wary of the Net’s ever-expanding influence rarely allow their concerns to get in the way of their use and enjoyment of the technology.*Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media — The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

It is being in a status that offers no sense of career, no sense of secure occupational identity and few, if any, entitlements to the state and enterprise benefits that several generations of those who saw themselves as belonging to the industrial proletariat or the salariat had come to expect as their due.
This is the reality of a system that waxes lyrical about and fosters a way of living based on competitiveness, meritocracy and flexibility. Human society has not been built over the centuries on permanent incessant change; it has been based on the slow construction of stable identities and rather ‘rigid’ spheres of security. The gospel of flexibility tells people that the enemy of flexibility is rigidity. A lesson of the Enlightenment is that the human being should be in control of his or her destiny, not God or natural forces. The precariat is told that it must answer to market forces and be infinitely adaptable.
The outcome is a growing mass of people – potentially all of us outside the elite, anchored in their wealth and detachment from society – in situations that can only be described as alienated, anomic, anxious and prone to anger. The warning sign is political disengagement.

Jobs should be treated as instrumental, a proper commercial transaction. Those claiming they are a primary source of happiness, and that those reluctant to partake in the delights of jobs should be coerced to do so for their long-term happiness, should be told to mind their own business. For most in the precariat, jobs are not the road to nirvana. To be told they are the source of happiness is to make them something they were never meant to be. Jobs are created because somebody wants something done. Or at least that is what they should be created for.

A nation that perceives itself to be comprised of victims and victimizers is a fairly unique phenomenon in American history.  Rather than be divided by differing ideas or different policies, we now are sliced into an infinite number of groups and subgroups that are defined by their various victimizations.  Grievance politics now rules not only our governing bodies but almost every institution in America.  Social media influencers, celebrities, commentators, artists, and actors now pour embittered rage into our national discourse, and the underlying message of much of our cultural and intellectual lives is that we are harmed by a world that neither embraces our uniqueness nor recognizes our pain. — Can A Nation of “Victims” Survive? by Andrew M. Wilk

The nomadic instinct is a human instinct; it was born with Adam and transmitted through the patriarchs, and after thirty centuries of steady effort, civilization has not educated it entirely out of us yet. It has a charm which, once tasted, a man will yearn to taste again. The nomadic instinct can not be educated out of an Indian at all. — Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

I have not quoted from this article, Why Capitalism Is Leaving The US In Search Of Profit, just providing a link and recommend it be read.

A couple weeks ago I predicted that leading up to the monsoons there would be lightning strikes that would start forest fires. This past week I was getting a lot of smoke on the horizon and. My new neighbor is with the Forest Service and I asked him about the fires; he said they had all been started by lightning. There are seven fires in the Gila Forest in New Mexico southwest of me and one south of Alpine in Arizona. No individual fire is very large yet but they combine to generate a lot of smoke.

It continues to be HOT. Last Saturday and Sunday the high temperatures were only 97 so I thought the heat wave had broken. No such luck back over 100 again starting on Monday. The weather guessers continue to forecast cooler days and predict some rain but they continue to be wrong.

Somebody says that in 2023, humans ate more bananas than monkeys. I believe the stats. I can’t even remember the last time that I ate a monkey. — Larry-Lambert

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