Chapter 4: A Futile Chore

Footnote: Public Opinion about The Unemployed

The rich deserve their wealth because they've earned it. Society owes no­body a living. An employer has no moral duty to employ me. It's his busi­ness. He built it. He can run it as he likes. Such fallacies have for gener­ations been etched into the public mind by capitalist propaganda. It is time they were replaced by truth.

Over-simplistic View

Taken individually, the human life-form is very intelligent. A managed group of hu­man beings, such as a team or a committee, exhibits less intelligence. A larger un­managed group, such as a mob or a football crowd, exhibits little intelligence. The largest and the least co-ordinated group of all — the general public — exhibits the intelligence of a cretin. And when expressing a general opinion formed from what he may have casually heard or read but not intellectually considered, so too does the individual.

Casual hearing and reading in the absence of intellectual consideration is danger­ous. It lets anything enter the mind unfiltered. It enables outsiders freely to form one's inward thoughts. It provides an open door for propaganda. The wealthy, whose self-interests are served by manipulating the public mind, know this. And they use it well. Through it, they justify within the public mind their wealth in the face of poverty. The lowly worker is thus beguiled into revering the wealth of the idle rich while vomiting contempt upon the poverty of his unemployed neighbour.

Since becoming unemployed and poor I have many times felt the impact of this elitist propaganda. The faceless ghosts of the undeserving poor created by Vict­or­ian values are wandering still this purgatory we call England. The prejudice is ever present in little things. Places one would like to visit which allow concessions to pensioners but not to the unemployed. The staunch conviction that the poor of foreign lands are deserving because their poverty is the fault of the regimes which rule them, while the poverty in one's own land is ipso facto the disgraceful self-inflicted fault of the poor themselves.

Who is to blame for these entrenched notions which, to the considering and dis­cern­ing mind, are so obviously false? Is it the rich and powerful who proffer such propaganda? Yes, in part. However, I place the real blame where it belongs. On Joe Public, who is so mentally lazy and unconcerned about his neighbour as to allow ideas into his mind without due conscious consideration. It is about time that Joe Public took on board his fundamental self-evident obligation of responsibility as a member of the human race.

I do not ask him to give of his precious hard earned money. I do not know his means. I simply request that he give due thought to an issue before forming an opinion about it. For this, everybody has the means, be they rich or poor. It is the incredible 86 billion neuron supercomputer we call the human brain. You do not need to go anywhere to use it. You do not even have to switch it on. All you have to do is think. Or as the old IBM ad used to say, "THIMK". [It was deliberately mis­spelled to gain attention].

A Complex Society

Elitist propaganda has led the ordinary person to think that because he has a job then others have no excuse for not having one. He makes the unqualified assump­tion that everybody else has the same opportunities he has. But this cannot be so. For a start, the job he has is a job which nobody else can have. It is already taken.

Every human being is unique. Consequently society's response and behaviour to­wards each of us is also unique. And part of that response and behaviour is the types, times and places of the opportunities it offers us, and the trials it sets before us. These too are therefore unique to each of us. The only possible way a man could experience the trials and opportunities society presents to his neighbour would be to become his neighbour. This he can never do. Therefore no man can ever become qualified to judge another.

Elitist propaganda has also led the employed person to believe that the reason he has a job and another does not is because he made the effort and the other did not. In other words he 'earned' his job. This may be true in part, but only a very small part. It is far from being all the conditions which are necessary and sufficient to secure employment. All the other conditions and factors are completely beyond his influence and control. Consequently, they can in no way be accredited to his own effort or virtue.

Considered observation shows that what plays the greatest role in placing a part­icular person in a particular job is arbitrary chance and providence. Though it be an honest observation, this is, however, no more than a superficial perception. What appears as chance and providence is, in reality, the inevitable consequence of the workings of the deterministic laws of complex dynamics, which inexorably govern human socio-economies irrespective of the political meddling of men. So it is the natural laws of complex dynamics rather than the disparities of individual human virtue, that create the inequality of opportunity so prevalent in modern society.


I once had a memorable trip from the Hook of Holland to Felixtowe on a night ferry. A Force 10 storm blew up. The ship rocked and rolled relentlessly and without mercy. The waves looked like dark looming hills. They must have been 10 metres high. My colleague and I decided to go below. I put my hand on the stair rail. My hand slid immediately and frictionlessly downwards until it hit a saving wall bracket. The rail was covered in vomit, as were the stairs. I imagined swimming in that storm. I could have made headway in any direction I chose. But it would have made only a small difference to where the storm was taking me anyway.

The socio-economy is a Force 10 storm in which we are all ostensibly swimming. But most, through complex dynamical chance, manage to get on a ship. They man­age, by happening to be in the right place at the right time and having the right apparent qualifications and personality, to acquire access to a means of turning their labours into their needs of life. But not all. A significant proportion are on the wrong ship or not on a ship at all. The storm whisked them away from the boarding ropes as they made their desperate grasps. So they are swimming through the storm, hoping that somebody onboard one of the ships will toss them a life belt. But they don't. Those safely onboard a ship say, "I'm on a ship, so if you ain't on a ship, it must be your own bloody fault. Get those arms and legs moving and get on one". In other words, "I gotta job, so if you ain't gotta job, it must be your own bloody fault. Get on yer bike and go find one".

My 75 years on this planet have ruthlessly demonstrated to me that, despite all best effort, the extent to which I am able — by exercising my free will — to deviate from my complex dynamically determined path through time, space and the social order is extremely limited. In other words, the laws of complex dynamics afford the indivi­dual only a very limited scope for self-determination. Everybody is, for the most part, driven solely by circumstances, with very little latitude for exercising choice.

Notwithstanding, there do exist winners within a complex dynamical socio-econ­omy. Some — extremely few — individuals do start from a lowly beginning and rise to become successful multinational entrepreneurs. But this is fully consistent with the nature of complex dynamical systems. Occasionally, through the action of resi­d­ent forces, very small and lowly initial conditions can give rise to grandiose con­sequences.

This principle is often illustrated by the example of a butterfly on a Carib­bean island. Whether or not the butterfly flaps its wings at a particular time can determine whether or not, days later, a hurricane forms in the North Atlantic.

Thus, the phenomenon of meteoric rise from pauper to magnate is powered by the storm, not by individual merit. Individual self-determination in such an event is limited to little more than the power to make the choice to seize the opportunity or not. Thus, inane quips like, "I gotta job, so if you ain't gotta job, it must be your own bloody fault." and "You make your own luck." have no systemic basis. They do not even make logical sense. They are merely idle off-the-cuff attempts to morally just­ify the obscene disparity of wealth and well-being that is all too obvious.

But if the gross disparity in human well-being is all determined by the natural laws of complex dynamics, why should I disapprove? For an inanimate system like the weather, the individual molecules of the atmosphere interact according to a strict protocol which constrains meteorological phenomena to operate within non-cata­strophic limits. Individual humans within society also interact, again according to a natural complex dynamical protocol. But only a basic one, governed solely by the prerogative of preserving self. And although, so far, it has been non-catastrophic, it is nonetheless the precipitator of the gross disparity of wealth and well-being ex­tant in the world today.

It is nevertheless well within the scope of human self-determination to augment this basic protocol to include the preservation and well-being of neighbour as well as that of self. But the augmentation of the raw basic protocol of self-preservation to include neighbour is an endeavour that is forthrightly contrary to the tenets of neo-liberal free market capitalism. In today's socio-economies, self is all that mat­ters. Neighbour is nothing more than an exploitable resource. So although it is — by free volition — fully able to augment the protocol of human interaction to encom­pass the well-being of all, society repeatedly votes into power regimes that act contrary to this humanitarian endeavour. It is this loveless attitude on the part of the grass-roots voter of which I disapprove.

Human Worth

A society based on free market capitalism uses only one unit of measure to deter­mine the value of anything. That is money. The only value a thing has is its free market price. It is so for goods and services. It is so for people. The free market price of a person is, in turn, set solely by the current market demand for the kind of work he does. This market demand is in turn determined solely by the economic gain that individual could contribute as a cog within one of the market's myriad corporate machines.

This is the singular way in which the economic elite, who control our society, view and evaluate every lowly individual. And through their influence it has become the singular way in which every lowly individual views and evaluates his neighbour. This is why all now stand in awe of wealth and heap contempt upon poverty. Money has become not only the economic measure of a man but also the measure of his character and moral integrity. I forever marvel at the filthy rich morally bankrupt hollow little shits to whom this sick society attributes merit and on whom it bestows high honour.

During the meteoric rise of technology after World War II, the economic value of a person was considered synonymous with his level of academic achievement. Al­though plain observation shows this no longer to be true, the belief is still alive and well within the education system. I remember sitting through a 6th form intro­duc­tory pep talk at my sons' school. The theme was character: what it is and how to build it. In it, human character was directly equated to academic achievement. A-levels were what counted. Study was the builder and results were the sole and final measure of one's character.

I do not dispute that character can be enhanced by the challenge of passing exams for those whose given talents suit them to the pursuit of knowledge through the established academic structure and procedures. I do challenge its validity as a uni­versal measure of human character, or even of mental dexterity. The human mind is much too complex to be rightly evaluated through one single over-simplistic, and often inappropriate, system of measurement like the academic examination.

Academic grading and market price are too simplistic to be valid measures of hu­man worth. Nevertheless they are systematic. They make it possible for human worth to be calculated objectively rather than it being left to subjective judgement. But even this is not borne out by observation. I have leading edge software skills, for which the market purportedly has an insatiable demand. Yet I am long-term un­employed, apparently with no prospects of getting paid work by any means. It appears that, in today's economy, insatiable demand for a given commodity, skill or service can co-exist with a huge unused surplus of the same.

This suggests that the dynamics of the market are becoming increasingly chaotic. One of the mechanisms which I suspect to be a major contributor to this chaotic behaviour is human perception. The market demand for a skilled person is not in fact determined by the economic gain which that person is able to contribute as a cog within a corporate machine. It is determined by the economic gain which that person is perceived to be able to contribute. And in almost every case, the per­ceiver is not one who is versed in the skill of the person he is assessing. His assess­ment is therefore bound to be in error. At a macroscopic level this gives the free market the economic perception of a cretin.

The effect of this has been to scramble any systematic scale of value which aca­demic grading may have sought to apply. It has killed any relationship which may once have been thought to exist between the economic value of a skill and the remuneration one could expect to receive for applying it in the market. Remuner­ation for a job is now determined solely by market demand. The level of dedicated effort which one may or may not have had to expend to attain the knowledge or skill necessary to do the job is irrelevant. So is the actual economic gain which the worker contributes. It is only the economic gain, as perceived by that idiot we call the free market, which is rewarded.

The true worth and value of any human being will never be properly appreciated until capitalism is replaced by a value system which acknowledges wisdom and re­cognises that every human being on this planet is equally precious.

A Human Right

The dominant chorus of public opinion seems to uphold the notion that the world owes a living to nobody. It asserts that it is the duty of every able adult to provide for himself and his family. Yet it denies that society has any moral obligation to make available to the individual the means for so doing. It preaches that it is wholly up to the individual to 'get on his bike' and make his way in the world. I challenge this.

Society 'as a whole' long ago commandeered all the terrestrial resources by which a man is able to transform his labour into his needs of life. All these resources in all the world are under the control of either a clique of capitalists or a socialist bur­eau­cracy. The generic individual has direct and inalienable control over none. There­fore, if he is to survive, then he must necessarily be given either the means of turn­ing is labour into his needs of life or his needs of life directly.

If there are such things as human rights then the most fundamental of these must be the right to live. In view of the above, this translates directly into a right to either free and unhindered access to the means of turning one's labour into one's needs of life, or, the same quality and quantity of those needs which one could have pro­duced had society as a whole not denied one access to the means of so doing.

Trades unions long ago recognised this in part by their assertion that everybody has a right to work. Or more precisely, everybody has the basic human right to a job which pays a living wage. In this context, a living wage is an amount of money which enables a person to buy his needs of life in full measure and to be able to function as a normal member of the society in which he lives. Given the present structure of society, this is a good start. One's livelihood would no longer be a mere gambling chip in the hand of a stock market trader, or ebb and flow at the whim of some self-seeking capitalist.

Nevertheless, I think that a mere right to work leaves the average individual seri­ously short-changed. I think that the right to live as a human being requires the existence of a right to exploit for economic gain one's fair share of the planet on which one was born. The right to an inalienable inheritance in the Earth. Under the constraints of our 1990s capitalist economy, the implementation of this would be complex. But there is a way by which it could be done. Every individual would then possess the means of turning his work into his needs of life. Every human being could then realise his own true worth.

A Needed Change

Public opinion must be re-educated. All must be shown that the only means by which man can turn his work into wealth are the materials and mechanisms of the terrestrial biosphere. All needs come from the Earth. People must be persuaded that employers, like everybody else, were born naked. They brought nothing with them to this planet. They added nothing to the means from which come all man­kind's needs of life. Their possession of these means — whether directly as land or indirectly as market share — is simply the outcome of the workings of this society's unfair and disparate artificial rules of commerce. It is not earned. It is merely the outcome of chance and fortune. Hard work may be involved, but it is not the primary or sufficient cause of wealth.

Employers therefore must have a socio-economic moral obligation to every indiv­idual. One way or another they are collectively obliged to give everybody a job which pays a living wage. Their precious profits must take second place.

Parent Document | ©May 1998 Robert John Morton