London Indymedia

The Problem With...Work

Keith Farnish | 19.07.2008 14:45 | Analysis | Globalisation | History | Repression | London | World

At what age do you think your working future is planned out for you? If you are conscience of the impact civilization has on our lives, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the answer is: "from birth".

I could be writing this article about both the education system and the workplace, but there would be little point separating the two – real education has nothing to do with the education system we were taken through in our early years, and the children and teenagers of today are being taken through now. Neither is education anything to do with on the job learning or career paths; after all, what people have been brought up to do in Industrial Civilization is to do work, and not just any old work.

The population explosion of the last 200 years can be almost completely accounted for by the Industrial Revolution[1]. The growing population of Earth, from the traditional industrial hubs of Europe, into North America and Japan, and then across a huge swath of southern and south-east Asia largely consists of a mass of willing slaves brought up in the cities to be components of the industrial machine. To create wealth you need product; to create product you need people.

There were a few who saw what was going on and realised that some of the most brutal aspects of physical work needed changing: the great philanthropists of the West - Titus Salt, Lord Leverhulme, Joseph Rowntree - bear the passing of time, mellowed into a whimsical tale of pure goodness; ignoring the fact that the philanthropists were largely ensuring that their workforces remained loyal and hard-working. To be blunt, working during the Industrial Revolution in the West was hell; working in the new Industrial Revolution in the sweatshops, mines and factories of China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam: different sets of eyes, but the same vision of hell. Time may have passed, but all that has really changed is the location.

Yet, incredibly, the participants see such conditions as a necessary evil. Unionisation, a living wage and the promise that the company will do its best not to shorten your life is the best that can be hoped for. Such "victories" make life tolerable for those people working to make the shoes you wear, the food you eat and the televisions you watch, but they do not change the fact that we are all part of the machine. The education system is where it starts.

For centuries governments and dictators have twisted a population's knowledge base to their own ends. We may look back in history, and gape at the ritual burning or enforced suppression of the works of authors whose printed ideas did not match those of the accepted orthodoxy, but the flames are closer than we like to admit. The Nazi elite stirred up hatred of anti-Nazi materials in a coordinated "synchronization of culture"[2], while only a decade later the US government elite stirred up hatred of left-leaning beliefs in a coordinated exhumation of so-called Communist sympathisers; the Chinese government installed the Great Chinese Firewall to suppress "immoral" Internet access, while at the same time the US government continue to control information coming out of wartime Iraq and Afghanistan through the use of "embedded journalists". In the last few decades, stories of censored schoolbooks in far off lands[3] have made those in supposedly more enlightened nations cringe, yet in a culture that apparently promotes freedom of thought and expression, teachers are forced to become mouthpieces for the Culture of Maximum Harm:

The Government has worked with partners from the statutory and voluntary and community sectors to define what the five outcomes mean. We have identified 25 specific aims for children and young people and the support needed from parents, carers and families in order to achieve those aims.[4]

This is from the UK Government Every Child Matters programme, which "sets out the national framework for local change programmes to build services around the needs of children and young people so that we maximise opportunity and minimise risk." Twenty-five aims, supposedly to promote the well-being of children, yet containing the following items:

· Ready for school
· Attend and enjoy school
· Achieve stretching national educational standards at primary school
· Achieve stretching national educational standards at secondary school
· Develop enterprising behaviour
· Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school
· Ready for employment
· Access to transport and material goods
· Parents, carers and families are supported to be economically active

National educational standards; Enterprising behaviour; Ready for employment; Access to material goods; Economically active - the progression is there for everyone to see. Even when veiled as being in order to "improve the lives of children", the educational system is little more than an instruction manual for creating little wheels and cogs. I urge you to look at your own national curriculum, searching for words like Citizenship, Enterprise and Skills - it won't take long to find the real motivation behind the education system where you live. "A child in the work culture is asked, 'What do you want to be?' rather than 'What do you want to do?' or 'Where do you want to go?' The brainwashing to become some kind of worker starts young and never stops."[5]

This is a wake up call: look at the work you do and how it neatly fits into the industrial machine, ensuring economic growth and continued global degradation; think about your job and what part it plays in ensuring we remain disconnected from the real world; read your children's books, talk to their teachers - find out how your own flesh and blood is being shaped into a machine part. As we are encouraged to work more and more in order to feed our inherited desire for material wealth and artificial realities, we lose touch with the real world; we pack our children off to day centres and child minders in order that we can remain economic units, and stop being parents; most of us work to produce things that nobody needs, and we are unable to perceive the things that we do need - food, shelter, clean air, clean water, love, friendship, connection.

The vast majority of us don't need to do the job we do. The lucky few, who through chance or design have found work that is a fulfilling part of their lives rather than their lives being a slave to work, provide examples for the rest of us. Once you decide to break out of this cycle for all the right reasons and reduce your expenses to the bare minimum by refusing to follow the instructions of civilization, leaving your job and taking on something that provides you with a real living becomes easy.

(This article is an edited extract from the author’s free online book “A Matter Of Scale” []


1. Charles More, “Understanding The Industrial Revolution”, Routledge, 2000.
2. "Book Burning", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
3. For example: "China seizes books from Japan school because of Taiwan map", Japan Today, 28 June 2005,; Ali Asghar Ramezanpoor, "The Scope and Structure of Censorship in Iran", Gozaar,
5. Jan Lundberg, "Unlucky to have a job", Culture Change,

Keith Farnish
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  1. hmmmm — Harry Purvis


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