Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

4. (Un)employment and work organizations in a global context

Noticeable is the absence of a direct linkage between the arguments for jobs and those seeking environmental protection. Often these two positions are put into a mutually exclusive, even antagonistic relationship. Developers would denounce environmentalists as those radicals who are not interested in letting people earn their money from new developments. Yet the European Union, in particular the Commission responsible for agriculture, has recently taken up an initiative promoted already for a long time by the Council of Europe, namely how to secure a permanent income for farmers so that they remain on the land rather than selling it to developers and in so doing take care not only of animals and the fields, but of the land as part of an environmental protection plan. By altering the job description of a modern farmer, this may become a new occupation in relation on how to deal with the land. Certainly the recent announcement by the Greek Ministry for Agriculture that all farmers will be provided with computers and free Internet Access due to a package of 34 Million Euros making possible such a provision, indicates that aside from wishing to overcome social isolation and exclusion, such communication potential can open up farmers to explore this dimension. All that would fit into the category of job creation within the Information Society by stimulating a cultural adaptation process of farmers to using more intensively modern communication tools. Here an objective of integrating environment and modern development as one of the four strategic objectives of the World Summit could be examined.

Another interesting departure point for the debate could be not so much bio but job diversity. For instance, the Greek island Ikaria is known for its people to have not one, but many, even up to six or seven different jobs. Survival has been hard pressed until recent times on this remote island but the viability of a community depends upon people remaining active all over the year unless one would want to return to a paradise like situation as Gaughin describes it in his diary when visiting a remote island on which the inhabitants become but active twice a year, that is when heading out on a large tuna fish hunt.

Clearly taking care of the environment as a paid job would help alleviate the unemployment situation but as long as societies have not rectified their basic attitude towards work and time used as equally something to be valued and be paid for, livelihood and earning an income shall not be compatible with what social scientists, in particular economists and sociologists, but also demographers would define as subsistence level in any given society. Here then economic and labor theories fall apart when it comes to dealing with unemployment in Great Britain compared to Indonesia or Iran. In either case there are windfalls depending upon specific political but also global developments. The oil boom bringing enormous amount of wealth to such countries as Iran during the seventies meant all of a sudden forgotten lands took on a sudden value and only he who had been lucky or wise or both to buy it at a cheaper price before the boom could stand to benefit from such a sudden lift-off. It has nothing to do with the conversion that followed from 400 slave like labors working for one land owner to 400 individuals trying to co-exist on a piece of dried out earth not giving enough food, water or shelter in a way that both dignity of man and basic needs would be satisfied.

Thus while the German chancellor Schroeder in the election campaign 2002 wishes to stiffen the criteria of available work that an unemployed (and recognized as such by his or her willingness to seek a job) has to accept, if offered by the Employment Agency. As if this would relieve the job market by assuming people are only lazy, as was proclaimed favorably by the son-in-law of Karl Marx, and therefore need coercive measures to bring them back to work, that is reduce the public indicator of number of people unemployed. For not sure if the media measurement of success for a chancellor having promised to take the German unemployment rate from above 4 Million down to at least 3,5 Million is more important than finding solutions that are compatible with sustainable development, this debate about unemployment has not resulted in a fruitful reforms of the labor market nor brought about an equity in incomes being earned right across the table of different jobs within the local, regional and global economy. Once even a liberal newspaper like the German Sueddeutsche calls for a revolution of the share holders against overpaid management not doing the job, then equity of income is not so much meant, but a consequential equity between being paid so much and what is then expected to be delivered. The matter of certain things having been over valued does not enter here so much the mind as what Bataille would say prices are driven up by producing scarcity or rather its equivalent: wastage. It means those persons are paid the highest who waste the most resources since part of the deal that not so much job but income generators are needed, for companies need contracts before they can pay the ones they employ to do the work.

In brief, CIED would like to put into context the question of employment by relating this to the overall design and strategy of modern societies wishing to survive on the basis of key assumptions. Clearly once safety and security becomes the highest priority in the ‘war against terrorism’ after the events of the 11th of September, then the biggest job increase shall be the security sector. In reality, this means a lot of idle men and women standing around with machine guns and ever greater agencies to gather in an intelligent manner information about the ‘others’ shall involve people and resources in non-productive tasks meant to control rather than to encourage and to stimulate creative work. What was the problem of the United States economy after Second World War, namely how to decrease its dependency upon the weapon industry by converting from a war to a peace economy, still holds today and even more so. For exactly what does it mean in terms of sustainable development if industry and the overall economy becomes over dependent once again upon governmental contracts linked directly and indirectly to this new kind of war effort aimed at fighting ‘terrorism’, especially if proclaimed that this enemy although unknown and undefined, shall be forever a threat and requiring thereby the entry of society into a ‘permanent war’?

What this does alone to job creation or not, at least it should be expected that the World Summit on Sustainable Development does take up this matter and problematise it. Alone the example of the Palestinians ending up without work due to military occupation and curfews invoked by the Israeli government all in the name of this fight against terrorism says there is an issue of jobs linked to war compared with peace and civil society situations that is too important to be seen and discussed, that is responded to before the entire situation is getting out of control.

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