While reading an article about the upcoming Bilderberg Summit, where I have inexplicably not been invited again to meet with the world’s 100 most powerful people, I learned that this year’s bigwigs would be discussing the “precariat.” Not knowing the word, I Googled it, and was delighted to discover that it refers to a newly recognized social class, described on Wikipedia as follows:
“…the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare… Specifically, it is the condition of lack of job security, including intermittent employment or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence.[1″”
I’m a member of the precariat!
Isn’t that a hoot?
While I have long resigned myself to the fact that I have never been, and will never be an aristocrat, I am glad to discover that I need not slide into the proletariat. What a thought… to spend a lifetime railing against the rich, like that bitter, near-sighted, scar-faced villain Strelnikov in Dr. Zhivago! That’s not a class with which I’ve ever identified, and I hope that lack of resources and envy never drive me to join with that sorry group of people.
I don’t begrudge anybody anything. I really don’t. It doesn’t bother me that the rich are rich… that their bills are paid, their houses are lovely, and their future is assured. I don’t want what they have… it’s theirs… and like so many members of our voyeuristic society, I actually enjoy watching them enjoy themselves. I like seeing pictures of their parties, and their clothes, and their cars, and their island adventures. On the rare occasions when they’ve asked me to join in their revelries, I have to admit I’ve had one hell of a wonderful time.
Therefore, I’m not bitter… but I do have to say, I’m puzzled. Back when I started working, it was a given that if you showed up every day and produced what you were asked to turn out, your path would be pretty secure. You would be retained for life and occasionally promoted. Your salary would get bigger and bigger each year… maybe not big enough to throw you into a different social milieu, but certainly enough to outpace the rate of inflation, and the growing needs of your family, which perceived itself to be upwardly mobile.
Unfortunately, we in the precariat have discovered that the road we were on diverged from the path we expected it to take. We showed up to work, we did what we had to do, we were as loyal as we needed to be, and we were tossed face-first onto the macadam as soon as our employers determined we were a drag. Our salaries (which did not always grow every year, since we experienced cutbacks and freezes in those years when our firms did not meet their productivity goals) were taken away from us long before we could invest them in savings that were robust enough to tease us with the promise of a secure future.
Time and again, we’ve been thrown out of the workforce… and although we’ve managed to get back into it repeatedly, each time we’re forced to try we find we’re a little bit older… a little bit less attractive… a little less au courant in our ideas. We’re a little less desirable… and of course, we start to fear that the day may come (if it hasn’t already) when we’re no longer employable at all.
We can focus on this negativity, and start feeling like victims. That’s what the proletariat would do. But we can take a newer and more innovative path in which we blame no one. What happened has happened, and the past cannot be changed. The future, however, can. If traditional employment has dried up for us, then let’s look around and see if there are new ways we can produce for ourselves. Let’s create our own economy… our own security. Let’s do for ourselves what we’ve spent a lifetime doing for others. If it doesn’t work out, what’s the difference? But if it does… AND IT WILL… what a difference we’ll make in our own lives, and in the lives of the people who depend on us.