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[whitespace] On the Rise

Workers struggled for generations to secure the eight-hour day. Now serfs in local high-tech industries compete to see who can log the most hours. Why? Because leaving at 5 o'clock is seen as a poor career move

By C. D. Payne

YOU BOUGHT the wrong oil filter for your car. You return it to your local Sprawl-Mart, and even though it's the house brand and clearly unused, the clerk refuses to take it back because you don't have your receipt. Slobodan Milosevic foments a bloody war in the Balkans that kills thousands and leaves the region in ruins.

What's the connection between these two events?

Both are examples of that ugly plague on humankind called careerism: jobholders trying to get ahead, cover their ass, or climb the corporate ladder without regard to the common good.

The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the marketing of cigarettes to schoolkids, the quashing of controversial stories by the local paper that might offend advertisers--all can be traced backed to some desk-bound twit trying to look good to his or her superiors.

These days entire industries are structured to exploit careerism and enhance the bottom line. HMO docs who spend the least amount of time and money on their patients rack up the best career-boosting numbers. Ever wonder why liberal Northern California has so many conservative talk- radio shows? Hiring an intelligent progressive might please the listeners, but few station managers would view it as a smart career move. Station executives get promotions and we get the right-wing cant.

Workers struggled for generations to secure the eight-hour day. Now serfs in local high-tech industries compete to see who can log the most hours. Why? Because leaving at 5 o'clock is seen as a poor career move if you want to get ahead in global capitalism's new "workaholic cult." So employees sacrifice their personal lives, marriages, and families to "work" 60-, 70-, and 80-hour weeks.

They may be sitting in their cubicles, but are they really working?

Back when I was a corporate slave, I noticed my body was still on its high school schedule. At 3:15 p.m. my brain went south, and all thought ground to a halt. By 4, most co-workers were firing up the coffee machine, going out for cookies, or surfing the Net to stay awake. Quitting time was three hours away, but their productive day was over.

Oh, if you enjoyed this article, please show it to your friends. I'm hoping it will give a big boost to my career.


C. D. Payne now spends his days writing novels, among which is Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp.

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From the October 5-11, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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