P-p-p-precarity and the Art of Uncertainty

We are walking on trembling ground, our whole world turned into an endless compound of quicksands. Our lives from the beginning to the inevitable end are under the mantra of instability. The only constant is inconsistency, the only given is precarity, the only certainty is uncertainty. We’re mobile, we’re flexible, we have the elasticity and skills of a saltimbanco, of a trapeze artist with no safety net, who never comes down. The most practised skill of the contemporary worker is maintaining his/her equilibrium on a continuously turning ball.

In spite of all the pseudo-spiritual ideas that we preach as the utopic state of happiness and freedom combined in a perfect harmony, of  the idea of a burning and soul-uplifting love, which defies everything and anything, the reality check that we have to make in the morning when opening the fridge in search of the bottle of milk, is reminding us that in the end, it all comes down to money, in the most trivial and instinctual way: no money, no food. So we put aside our fanciful ideals and go out into the world to make the money needed for the fridge to be reasonably full and the rent to be paid for the next month so that we don’t end up sleeping under a bridge or in a cardboard box, as those social pariahs, who failed so miserably to juggle with the “good life”. But the world has changed and is constantly changing, in a succession of economic paradigms since the Middle Ages. Agriculture made place for industry and modernity, which stepped back to leave the place open for postmodernity and its process of informatization. So nowadays we don’t work with the soil anymore, not with the machines, but with people. Smiles recommend good workers, it’s the tertiary production that is most valued.  This of course on the privileged side of the globe, the rest can still bury their arms up to the elbow in the dirt as long as they provide cheap labor, and can be constantly blamed for wars and other sins, like invading the western world and stealing the jobs from under the nose of the white, entitled individual, who would not have lowered himself to do those jobs in the first place. But so it is, one only notices something and starts missing it, when that something is taken by someone else, isn’t that one of the first lessons love teaches us? You only love her, when you let her go.

The fact is, that immigrants come to America or Europe not out of a caprice but because they were driven away from their own homes, and they come in search of a better life, of the stability and safety they were missing in their own countries. The problem is that not even the western world can provide the stability and certainty of the next day so desperately desired, and it cannot because a worried and busy human constantly trying to ensure a good life, has already too much on his/her plate to notice the global issues. Rosalind Gill’s article on the practice of freelancing specific to the area of new medias, as a counterpoint for hours spent between the four walls of skyscraper’s office, highlights that even such a new and open environment cannot escape the defects of race or gender discrimination. And while she makes sure to emphasise the fact that only 3 out of all the freelancer interviewees from Amsterdam noticed that new media is mostly an area for white people, not even the white, middle class, male freelancer’s situation isn’t as bright as it is made to be in the adverts.

Work has been taken out of the factories and offices and sheltered in the private space of one’s home, where working hours cannot be measured because what one’s doing in one’s home is a private matter, isn’t it? But payment must be made somehow, and it is, by project, which by no means offers the security of a monthly wage. Work is no longer a way to live, but a way of living. Zero hour contracts, the frightening possibility of not finding enough projects to make enough money to cover the rent and student loans, part-time poorly paid student jobs, never ending work hours are the price one has to pay for flexibility, mobility, creativity.

Doing what you like does not even feel like a job, agree, but it should be paid like one, and it should provide the facilities that a full contract offers. Too much work to have time for having children, for having a relationship, to exercise, to eat healthy, to have enough hours of sleep, to read inspiring books, about how to live a perfect life, and all this could still be fine, if the image of a perfect life would not have been imprinted on our brains, which only transforms us into stressed, tired, depressed, anxious and frightened puppets searching for the Holy Graal of the contemporary world, stability and safety, which seem to be only a myth.

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