Friday, November 25, 2011

The Precariat

"...Falling into the precariat could happen to most of us, if
accidents occurred or a shock wiped out the trappings of security many
have come to rely on..."
I was finishing a chapter of The Precariat: The New Dangerous
Class by Guy Standing, author of the above quote. I checked my
email. I saw a petition requesting Target to scale back its black
Friday opening from midnight to 5:00 a.m. Doesn't this capture it in
a nutshell? Despite lip service to the sanctity of Thanksgiving,
retailers deprive their workers of the chance to celebrate it in their
unbridled pursuit of wealth. And they can. Anyone who objects can be
so easily replaced...
I never before have been stumped on how to how to review a
book. I read The Precariat cover to cover. It puts all my worst
fears (and many of yours, I'm sure) into black and white, portrays an
inferno that gives Dante pretty stiff competition.
We all know intuitively, from the laid off Maine paper mill
worker to the Florida retiree surviving on Social Security, that our
neo-liberal global economy has its dark side. Increasingly the vast
majority of us (excluding the elite who benefit from the system) live
more precariously. This book delineates the many ways.
Commodification is at the heart of this transformation. All
entities become commodities to further enrich the wealthy. Human
beings become easily replaceable cogs. Families and communities hold
no value since they fail to produce income. Education at all levels
goes from growth of the mind to training for wage labor. Companies
are subjected to hostile takeovers. Nonprofits become more like
firms. Entitlements morph into help given only to the "deserving".
This shouldn't make sense. The people being sacrificed and
endangered vastly outnumber those profiting from their losses. But
the elite are great at divide and conquer games. The young are set
against their grandparents. Native born are told that immigrants will
take their jobs. Workers bagging groceries and flipping burgers are
given descriptions of welfare queens living lives of comparative luxury.
Maine's governor, Paul LePage, notorious for playing hide and
seek with a labor mural and telling the president to go to Hell, gave
us a relevant example recently. Because of lost revenue, he
instructed that deep cuts be made in welfare. Otherwise he'd have to
take it out of education.
It's enough to fill a progressive with despair. Giving up,
however, is not an option. Fortunately, after a chapter aptly titled
"A Politics Of Inferno" Standing devotes the rest of his book to
delineating a new progressive vision. We need to achieve it. The
precariat is a class-in-making, a rapidly growing potential class.
And if they suffer too much for too long they could fall for the siren
song of a neofascist, demogogue, or maverick. Sarah Palin anyone?
Although The Precariat was very tough to read, I'm really glad I
did not give up. I recommend this book to anyone with the courage to
face reality.
On a personal note: I have discovered that attending a four hour
contract negotiations meeting right after donating blood is not a good
A big shout out goes out to all my comrades around the world in the
occupy movement. We are the 99%! We must persevere so our children
will inherit a fairer world.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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