August 11, 2010

Work and shame

Reader Phil responds to the work posts:

    I had the same feelings about work, and had a couple of long periods of unemployment when I left university in the 1990's, but what amazes me in hindsight is how most of the people I studied with, and even members of my own family (FFS) seemed to intuitively understand, with no prior experience themselves, that the adverts were bullshit and the interview experience was, as you say, a ritualised process. It is one of the most baffling aspects of my life that people who are no more intelligent than me, no more experienced in the life process, and are in many other cases less able to analyse how processes work, seem to just know how things are done. It's started to make me wonder if there really is anything to this reincarnation lark, and people like you and I are simply in our first incarnation and are therefore fresh to all the tricks that all these older bodies seem to know intuitively. I'm only half-joking about this, btw. The other aspect I would mention is your feelings of shame of not feeling capable of doing work. Are you sure about this? Looking back at my own experience, this was a partial source of shame, but the other aspect was I didn't want to experience the more personal shame of pretending to be something I wasn't i.e. accepting the ritualised process would have been at least as shameful as the shame of not having work in the first place. It seems to me there are three sources of shame - the shame of compromising to obtain work, the shame of being "found out" if you turn out not to be good enough, and the shame of not having work because you don't want to risk the two aforementioned sources of shame. To conclude I'm not entirely convinced that the reasons behind my own problems had their root in class/social phenomena, because my own brother sailed into a high-flying job having had exactly the same upbringing as me, but what I would say is that the system seems to be increasingly set up to favour those who are missing something (primarily a sense of conscience, but also humility, a sense of proportion, compassion etc.). This is kind of why I take Piers Morgan as the epitome of our age - a man whose success relies almost entirely on his shallowness, and why success should be redefined as not the result of something people have (talent, wisdom etc.) but what they don't have.

He adds:

    The only final thing I would add is, looking back from my current more stable position, what annoys me most is not the system so much as my sheer naivety in believing in it. It's the years of wasteful self-doubt, where all it would have taken is for someone to put their arm around me and say, "Phil, you do realise this is bollocks, don't you?", or for me myself to think, "well, they sound sincere, but as this is the Xth time I've gone through this experience, there really must be something fundamental I'm not getting...."
Posted by mark at August 11, 2010 04:25 PM | TrackBack