Saturday, June 28, 2008


I was talking to a friend with a yen for philosophy last night about self-indulgence, particularly as it applied to the workplace.

Screwing the System. I'm all for it. "They" are undoubtedly out to screw you. That's why you can't afford to pay your heating bills after working your arse off for a month and "they" drive around in BMWs. "They" deserve to get a bit of their own back every now and then, don't "they"?

Most people screw the system by pulling sickies. They have a hangover, or a mild twinge in their back, or they feel a little giddy because they just got up off the sofa too quickly after stuffing their face with Pringles. They could go in and do a day's work. But Why Should They? The workplace will go on perfectly well without them. And if the bosses don't care about them, why should they care about their bosses?

Which is fine in the abstract. The majority of bosses don't care about you, however touchy-feely the language of the workplace might have become to ensure your compliance with whatever unreasonable or downright oppressive policy is being foisted on you this week. They'll turn up at your birthday party; they might even spring for the cost of the cake. But they will throw you onto the street and take food out of the mouths of your babies without a second thought if you put one foot out of line, or if it ceases to be cost effective to employ you and run the Beamer.

Except when you call in sick for no good reason it isn't your boss or the System you are screwing. Actually it's your own colleagues, the poor bastards who are in the same leaky boat you'd like to exchange for a fancy cruise ship. Because somebody has got to cover your shift while you're sitting at home with no socks on watching "Jeremy Kyle" on tv and thinking you've got away with something; and it isn't going to be your boss nine times out of ten (and it'll never be your boss' boss, the guy who actually runs the company). No, it'll be one of your workmates who gets pressured into doing it. He or she will have to give up their free time, come in on their day off or work a double shift, not see the wife or husband for twenty four hours, have to say goodnight to their children on the telephone, wind up so tired they feel like puking or they snap unreasonably at everybody who speaks to them until they've caught up on their sleep.

That extra free time you're enjoying when you pull a sickie is time you've stolen from somebody else, somebody who has as much right to a decent life outside of work as you do.

Perhaps this viewpoint comes across as Straight, conservative, conformist, even On The Side Of The Bosses (to those who don't know how to read or follow an argument). I wouldn't be surprised if half the people who read it never come back to this page again. That's life. Thinking of yourself as belonging to a community just doesn't seem fashionable anymore.

And in that sense those sickie-pulling system-screwing girls and boys half our workplaces seem to be drowning in aren't philosophically any different from the bosses they think they're rebelling against so cleverly.


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