Saturday, February 27, 2010

How the world of work has invaded the private sphere

One example is the way many companies give their employees free mobile phones and computers, purportedly to help them work. In reality, it is so they can take their work with them.

That is the starting point for the conflict between the individual who gives orders and the body that obeys […] If the body is pushed too hard, it breaks like a machine that’s been asked to do too much.

It’s uplifting to read someone else in the media who shares your own opinions, especially about a problem that has hardly been publicly recognised as a problem.

Over a decade ago I first noticed this new feature of work life creeping quietly into outside work time on trains in Japan, a country where use and misuse of technology is often quick to happen. It was startling to me in the late 1990’s to see phones and computers so obviously being used to “extend worker productivity.”

(*Sidi Mohamed Barkat, an Algerian-born philosopher, professor and researcher at the Department of Ergonomics and Human Ecology at the Sorbonne, in France, quoted from a recent speech at CCCB, the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture, entitled “The Future of Labour.” [From an article by J.M. Martí Font in El País.])

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spain's heroes and Poland's heroes

A Polish blogger posts an enjoyable rant and rave that expresses so well the completely understandable outrage with a place of great culture and history being used as nothing more than a background for ignorant tourists to treat with indifference. A new statue in Krakov of Michael Jackson? (An (unpunished) child molester who could once sing and dance very well and is even respected by some (younger) people here in Spain.)

The Polish blogger provides a picture of semi-undressed "girls in Zywiec T Shirts." An image that reminded me of those living human mannequins in Kubrick's awful "Eyes Wide Shut" film: ready to serve as fleshy robots. In the town where I live not far from Barcelona there is even a cinema named in Kubrick's honour! The world picks some strange people to make heroes of.

Barcelona: capital of protest

The act of publicly demonstrating in the streets is alive and well in Catalonia’s biggest city. There is an average of four protest events every day in Barcelona, one of the highest in the world.

Although there were 1,300 officially-noted rallies in 2008, 60% of these were illegal as their organisers did not ask permission from the police.

Freedom to protest in community space is one encouraging indication of the level of democracy in a country.

Unfortunately, some the groups who organise demonstrations are doing so routinely because of a lack of success with their causes. The Black Workers meet on the 11th of every month at Plaza de Sant Jaume in a seemingly forlorn attempt to raise wider understanding of their plight.

A neighbours association in the Vall d'Hebron area of the city have got together every week for months in their campaign to stop injecting rooms being set up there. These efforts included trying to block one of the major roads in Barcelona, the Ronda de Dalt.

We can be thankful though that we live in a part of the world that allows public demonstration,…even if the results of protesting in the open air are not always what is hoped for.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Payments to continue for unemployed

Spain's Zapatero Socialist government may at times deserve some criticism but they are (so far) not completely abandoning the unemployed.

News this week is that they "have agreed that all jobseekers whose dole money has run out will be entitled to the monthly payment of 426 euros promised at the end of last year."

This comes at a time when the country's unemployment (at almost 20%) is still higher than anywhere else in the European Union, and is the worst it has been since 1998.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why I choose to live in Spain

Here are just a few reasons:

Unlike Australia for example, Spain has a strong history (and a lively culture today) of political and intellectual debate.

Those who use words as their business (including writers and media figures) are generally well-respected.

While, it is true that some of the debate of current issues can be predictably rigid along ideological lines, the fact that a healthy public discussion exists at all means that people (including the young) can and do become active in local movements and organisations.

The pride that so many adults and children have of their town and region means that they often take an active interest in defending it and being part of its collective life.

A lot less Spaniards move away from their home area than say, North Americans, which creates bonds of attachment to the people and places of they grew up with. In other words, adults and younger people “know their roots” here and have a fundamental respect for them.

Related to this point above is the fact that in Spain there are plenty of public open spaces that are not there just to be commercial.

The plazas are not shopping centres and the ramblas are not principally designed for trade. The parks are many and they are not “retail parks” for buying and selling.

The town square is not a “mall” but is instead reserved for festivals or protests.

All these places are for idling, strolling, gathering and talking, socializing and playing. They are social by their nature and they function as spaces for community activities rather than for simply spending money.

To someone like myself who grew up with the focal point of young life being a multi-storey shopping center, I am happy to know that my son and his friends (plus the students I teach) will not be spending their free time sitting around in a place where everyone is first and foremost a consumer.