52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

And I love to live so pleasantly

I had my review at work today. You know, one of those end of year chats with your boss about how you've done, and how you're not going to be getting a payrise this year?

It went pretty well and I got a really good grading, which was nice, although I have no idea what it means really or what difference it will make to my life. I won't be getting a bonus, I won't be getting a pay rise and pension contributions have gone up by 1%.

In real terms I will be worse off next year.

I spend more than 50 hours a week at work and I don't get any overtime.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not moaning. The hours are my choice - I only HAVE to be there for 37 hours a week. I also get paid pretty well in the grand scheme of things and so I don't really have much to complain about on that front... I think that my company is getting a bargain, but that's a different thing altogether.... compared to the UK average, I'm doing pretty well (nevermind the average wage in Africa. I'll say it again: 247 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will be living on less than $1 a day in 2015).

It's just that, well, there has to be more to life than this doesn't there? I don't want to sound like I'm approaching a mid-life crisis, but why am I giving so much of my time and energy to a giant corporation? What does that add to the sum of human achievement? Shouldn't I be doing something more worthwhile? Couldn't I contribute somewhere else? Can I not be something other than a consumer?

C. has talked about us jacking it all in and heading out to work for VSO or someone like that.... I have to say I'm not all that keen. I quite like my job. I like the stimulation and I like the challenge. I also like being paid. I like travelling and I want to be more useful, but I'm not at all sure that I want to hand all this over to go and do something more 'worthy' (and I'm also not sure what use I would be either....)

Middle-class liberal guilt - that's what it is. I'm trying to compensate by giving more money to charity, by giving my time to charities and by looking to see what else I can do to get involved.

I'm officially open for ideas and suggestions.


  • At 5:07 am, Blogger Arethusa said…

    I think that working with charities might be the best answer. I don't often like to talk about it but I'm a member of Circle K which is a youth service club that tries to help disadvantaged locally as well as internationally, mostly with fundraising or give hours. It's a part of Kiwanis International and they are quite a few like minded organizations out there that could help channel your productive energies. :-)

    In Canada there are usually also lots of events that are held monthly (walks or sales for cancer, kidney diseases, you name it) and the organizers are usually happy to accept volunteers.

    You may even get to visit Africa once or twice to help with a major project. ;) My club has been involved for 2 years with a fundraising project for building a well and a school in an African country.

    Just keep on looking until you find something right for you. There are more than enough opportunities out there.

  • At 9:21 am, Blogger Teresa Bowman said…

    Goddammit, Swiss, that's something I've been wanting to know for ages too. If you work it out, tell me what you find.

    (I'm sorry I keep talking to you via the medium of Futureheads lyrics. One of these days I might think of something original to say.)

  • At 10:38 am, Blogger Le moine perdu said…

    Make a decision. Either you're going to carry on in this sold-out state forever, and accept it and stop complaining, or you're going to take action and regain some self-respect. There's a third way, which is actually just the first way in disguise: spent eternity in indecision.

    Even getting a similar job but in the public sector would be vaguely more respectable, without meaning a huge change in lifestyle. Even the most ardent tree hugger isn't expecting you to down tools and start strapping yourself to Brazilian trees in front of bulldozers right away.

  • At 11:02 am, Blogger Damo said…

    My philosophy runs thus: there is a big difference between being selfish and looking after number one; the former is bad, the latter is not. Because if you look after yourself, you're in a far better position to help others. So I recommend that you look at what's out there.

    For the record, I earn a reasonable amount, but with the high cost of living I start and end every month with a big fat zero in my bank account... some months it's a little too tricky and Mr Credit Card comes into play. Not ideal. I want a better job and I want to earn a bit more... because when I'm comfortable, it will be far easier to focus on people other than just myself. I want to be happy and I want to do things that make me happy... but I want to give more and I want to help more too.

    Oh, and my contracted hours are 35 a week. I could easily do 50 or more if I wanted to do an outstanding rather than a good job. But life and spare time are too important for us to be giving up too much of it. Perhaps if either of us had jobs where we really believed in the ends, this would be different...

    The UK average is £26,989? I'm not earning anything like that (the first digit's a '1'). And nor is pretty much anyone I know...

  • At 11:49 am, Blogger the urban fox said…

    I'm torn about VSO.

    On the one hand, I know people who've found it personally rewarding and feel they have truly been able to bring some practical aid to an area which wasn't receiving it before. Every little helps, after all.

    On the other hand, I can't help seeing it as a patronising neo-missionary system offering piecemeal 'charity' rather than assisting in proper change, which lets our governments and their IMF/World Bank/'free' trade crimes off the hook. "Benevolent Westerners help the poor little backward people build their new school. Bless them and their curiously dressed children."

    And that it gives the benefactor more lasting benefit than the community he or she visited, by providing a short term adventure, an eased conscience and a feeling of worthiness. Meanwhile, after their VSO visitors leave, the community continues in much the same way, still kept in grinding poverty by the official machinations of their international friends' governments.

    Do you know what I mean?

    Am I just an appalling cynic, missing the point of VSO entirely, or does anyone else share my ambivalence?

    I'm prepared for unpopularity on this. Heh.

  • At 12:12 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    Ibrahim - thanks for the comment. I don't recall complaining, and thanks for calling me a sell out. I'd like to understand where that came from. Perhaps you'd like to explain what you mean?

    And by the way, I think working in the public sector would be a lot worse than where I work now: twice as wasteful and half as accountable.

    thanks for dropping by though.


  • At 12:27 pm, Blogger John McClure said…

    Fit your own breathing mask before helping others.

    That's about all I have to say about that.

    As for the VSO thing - I don't know enough about it to comment on LB's comment, but it strikes me that as a pretty well-educated, erudite and enthusiastic young man, there would be better ways for you to help people than by going somewhere and building a hut or digging a well. There's not a thing wrong with doing so, and I have nothing but admiration for those that do - but in your case, it'd be a bit like having Bill Gates pulling a shift at the Microsoft helpline call centre.

    Surely you could instead use the skills you have to finance the building of many huts and the digging of many wells...?

    Band Aids are all very well, and they stem the flow of blood from a wound, but a few well placed stitches are sometimes required too. Perhaps your calling (if anyone can be said to have such a thing) involves you looking at the causes of the things that upset you rather than shovelling money/time at them in the way that someone else dictates will help.

    It's a tightrope mind you, because spending time reinventing the wheel would also be pointless.

    Make a list of your talents, then insert a column and make a list of the way those talents could be turned to the advantage of others. If that doesn't work, call me again for another appointment... NEXT!

  • At 2:27 pm, Blogger Teresa Bowman said…

    Good Lord, I wouldn't recommend working in the public sector. Largely pointless, unrewarding work, for not very much pay - well, that's my experience of it anyway.

    Maybe the thing to do would be to take the 13 extra, non-overtime hours a week you donate to your current job and use them to do some voluntary work instead. Just a suggestion.

  • At 2:36 pm, Blogger Jim said…

    I'm inclined to agree with Fox (as I always seem to do).
    Charities are sometimes huge scams, and those which aren't don't often address the real problem. Example: if you go and feed all the Sub Saharan folks and off they go to have lots of kids...you've just made a bad situation worse if they cannot feed themselves later. They are now larger in number, and most likely will not have any better infrastructure or economy.

    Now it seems I am advocating letting them starve and die now rather than have lots more starve and die later. I hate that idea and Jenni went to lengths explaining why that won't happen, Fox pointed out that populations in developed countries are declining.

    If you can think of an option which won't perpetuate the misery I will gladly cheer up and stop the doom and gloom.

  • At 4:24 pm, Blogger Le moine perdu said…

    Sorry dude, didn't meant to come across that way...I usually choose my words very carefully, and if I'd meant to call you a sell-out or whatever, I'd have said, 'You are...' plain and simple. I don't do a lot of blog commenting, so it's probably my fault you saw accusation where I meant only suggestion or advice, eloquence isn't my strongest feature.

    What I meant by a sold-out state was where some people end up by circumstances forced to work for a company whose morals and effects on the world are questionable, sometimes they accept the job not caring about the wider implications so long as it lines their pocket and pays for their car; sometimes they have no choice - I make no presumption as to which, if any, of these you are, in fact from this blog you seem a nice chap, so I apologise for any offence I might've given :)

    I've done public sector work in urban regeneration, pedestrian schemes, sustainable transport, disabled accessibility etc, which has been anything but pointless and I've underspent on public budgets by quite some way, releasing extra money for public spending. Point being though, that I was working in the hope that while gaining the wherewithal to line my kids' stomachs, I was also hopefully doing some good for society in general, leaving a positive impact on the lives of others. I couldn't stand to work in a job where I know that my efforts are simply helping to fill the coffers of some corporate fat-cat while furthering the cause of capitalism. If I ever did that on purpose, when I had a choice, I'd consider myself sold out.

    As for where it 'came from', it was just an impression I got from your post here that you were in some kind of painful indecision, possibly swimming in a lot of unnecessary peripheral confusion. You asked for comments, but I'm belatedly seeing now that as a total stranger it was perhaps not my place to accept the invitation. Again, apologies.

  • At 5:29 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    Ibrahim - thanks for the clarification & sorry that I snapped at you.

    I welcome your point of view and I hope you feel you can come back here and from time to time and weigh in with the discussion. I got a bit defensive because I thought you had misread me a little bit. I don't think I'm a sell out, even if I do work for one of the biggest companies in the world. On the whole I don't think they do too badly on the corporate responsibility front, as these things go.... they claim have given $1b in cash and technology to "worthy organisations" in the last 10 years, and in addition they reckon their employees worldwide give 4m hours of their time as volunteers. I know all these things are relative, and that they make a whole shitheap of money as well, but that's not too bad for corporate scum.... On a personal level, they actively encourage me to spend time working as a mentor to kids in a local school, for example (and next week I'm going to spend the day in London with some of the kids from our school to meet the UK Managing Director and to go on the london eye!).

    I'm not being indecisive - I don't have a particular problem with capitalism nor with working for a "fat cat", and I don't feel the urge to go and work somewhere else more "worthy". What I do want to do, and what I was asking for ideas with, was how I can start to give a little bit more back myself... think globally and act locally and all that.

    I think we've got off on the wrong foot, but I hope it's not too late.... I'm off to have a good read of your blog, if that's okay with you?


  • At 7:17 pm, Blogger Jim said…

    Vote with your Pounds. I have gone online and found all the companies that gave to Bush and the Republicans and I don't buy from them as much as it is possible, and reward the ones that have Domestic partnership benefits, give to the Democrats, etc. There must be some such a way to sort companies in the UK.

    Give directly to the needy. I work with several single mothers who are always strapped. I'll give them each a gift card from Publix, our local grocer, telling them to treat themselves. It's direct and no chance of loss or misappropriation.

    You've got me thinking about my company. It has overall very good policies, but gave over $400,000 to the Republicans this year.

    Just some ideas, maybe helpful and maybe not, but in my previous comment I never did stay on topic and answer your question.
    Good Day!

  • At 7:17 pm, Blogger Le moine perdu said…

    No problem, man. I'm unoffendable. If people respond to me negatively it makes me curious if anything, perhaps perplexed, but not offended or annoyed.

    I'd hardly have made my blog public if it weren't OK for anyone to read and comment :)

    But Serena - perhaps those paid minimum wage to file their nails while ignoring telephones, or those paid minimum wage to spend their days repeatedly explaining excrutiatingly simple concepts to excrutiatingly stupid chavs (and I'm not saying you were either) may find public sector work unrewarding and pointless. But I did neither, and so found it very rewarding to see a bunch of disabled people living independently and with dignity thanks to projects I'd headed. Not that I'm meaning to sound like a terrible trumpet blower or anything, just making a point and backing it up with experience...

  • At 8:33 pm, Blogger Graham said…

    Thing is, is average national wage is a bit of a fallacy. For every person who is Robbie Williams/ company director / head of communications for a multinational etc. who earns over £100k a year (just check the guardian on a saturday for some of the more insane renumeration packages out there) , it grossly distorts the figure for the people at the lower end of the wage spectrum. Each one of those people is worth something like ten of an more realistic, average wage. What I feel would be best ot be judged by is a mean wage - ie the wage that the most people in the country have. Ie if there's more people earning 13-14k a year than any other bracket, for example. that would be a far more accurate measuring tool.

    Fact is, like the US, 80% of people earn BELOW the average wage, and its only worsened by the rich and poor divide. Recently I worked out that the amount of wages needed for a single person to purchase an average house price in London ...4 times the national average. Bearing in mind that 80% earn under the national average, this works out at less than 5% of the population able to purchase houses with a mortgage (at London average). And they wonder why the housing market will collapse.

    Never mind middle class liberal guilt...this is survival.

  • At 10:58 pm, Blogger Arethusa said…

    In the particular organization we're working with there is a long term plan to support the school and they're beneficiaries, not just to "jaunt off" for an adventure and return pleased with pictures of "oddly dressed" children."

    As I said, search for what you want to do Swiss, you'll find it.

    That's it from me.

  • At 1:28 pm, Blogger the urban fox said…

    Graham makes a good point. There are a lot of ways of working out an "average". If the average salary was worked out as a mean, the results would indeed be skewed out of all recognition by the Bransons of the country. The mode answer would be more useful. (I'm going to stop right there, as my patchy maths knowledge stops at GCSE level)

  • At 11:13 pm, Blogger Miss Mish said…

    Only just caught up with you today so this may come little late.
    Anyway, The Nottingham Refugee Forum is a charity set up by coterie of Churches, synagogues, temples and well-meaning individuals to help refugees, sent to Nottingham by the Home Office. Many of these people are now homeless and living on the streets due to this Governments refusal to grant them official status. The Husband and I are not sending cards this Xmas and have made a donation to them. They are always looking for people to help in some way and would appreciate anything you can do.
    Check them out. I think it's at: http://www.nottsrefugeeforum.org.uk/


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