Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield
Morley's Fun Page

It’s fun to toil

We've glimpsed a society in which non-essential work is paused and people are allowed to be as calm as multiple catastrophes allow. Now we're revving up the Global Warming Machine and preparing to forget that another world was ever possible.

Morley fun page toil aug 2020

In 2008 American artist Blake Fall-Conroy created an installation called The Minimum Wage Machine. It’s a box filled with pennies and fitted with a crank. The box dispenses pennies in line with the minimum wage of that country. In the UK, the box would dispense a penny around every 4.2 seconds. To afford a Steak Bake using this machine would cost you over 11 minutes of cranking. For a deposit on an average-priced house, over half a year of constant cranking without pause for eating, pooing or crying.

This machine was designed to be shocking, to strike a solitary stab of empathy through the hearts of people whose political engagement comes primarily through novelty sculptures. To these imagined people, the machine is an abomination and must be destroyed. The machine is hurting the stocky white men in greasy overalls that the middle class imagine during the rare occasions when they’re asked to consider the working class.

But to me, the machine is wonderful. It is calming. It is honest. I want the machine to be my job. I want the machine to be my dad. Some wrong’un has hidden coins in this machine and I am retrieving them so I can buy pastry. I don’t need to base my identity or self worth on it. There’s no crank manager who feels entitled to abuse me. It’s just me and the box, baby. Living free.

Around 40% of people in the United Kingdom do not believe their jobs contribute meaningfully to society and are instead fulfilling meaningless criteria to circumvent the ire of a managerial class of passive aggressive Huel™ repositories. It’s wild to think, in an economic zeitgeist where the profit motive grinds all other ethical or practical concerns into a fine powder, that the employers of the world have outfitted a globe’s worth of offices with superfluous meat.

Minimum wage machine

Pictured: Blake Fall-Conroy and his interminable crank.

Blake Fall-Conroy

We shove children into schools to stop them playing HORSE against the fire doors of Mecca Bingo and instead focus their energy on meaningful pursuits like being able to speak unintelligible broken French. This same trick is repeated once you leave school, but in the absence of parental obligation that institutionalisation is now tied to your ability to afford delicious water (unflavoured Huel™) from your tarnished pre-installed taps. People must be indoors. If everyone tried to play HORSE against the fire doors of Mecca Bingo it would be chaos.

Until recently this was presented as an immobile and static fact about the world. But thanks to a cheeky orb called The Novel Corona Virus Covid-19, we’ve learned that actually quite a lot of previously immobile surfaces turned out to be as pliant as putty in the warm hands of the Government.

We learnt you could hit the pause button on a lot of jobs and the basic fabric of society rumbled on. Money could be diverted from Making The Big Missile or Paying My Friend’s Dad’s Company To Do A Bad Job to keeping people alive without those alive people needing to sit on a bus for two hours every day to be an assistant brand manager for Granted, the economy has begun to melt, but maybe linking our wellbeing to an economy that requires humanity to build and extract and grow until the planet is a rotating dustbowl is something we could also put on pause. Maybe even permanently.

The nature of work is that you sell your labour to a stranger so you can sleep Indoors™ and afford Dairylea Lunchables™. You also stave off the feeling that you’re a scrounger, that you’re somehow stealing by being allowed to live without doing data entry for someone whose only two moods are anger and sexual impropriety.

But these material and moral concerns are not shared by the head honcho whose personal profits come directly from your labour.

The economy requires constant profit, money moving upwards from people being underpaid for their work, jobs invented just so people can be underpaid, so the profit can rise and the rich can expand and make the company bigger to hire more people and make more profit to expand further and further until there is nothing left, and the last few denizens of a scorched earth can speak broken French and kick a cow skull against the loose iron doors of a forgotten era.

Filed under: 

Next from Mandatory Redistribution Party

More Mandatory Redistribution Party

More News & Views

More News & Views