Saturday, March 17, 2007

Careers, mortgages and pensions

I currently have no career, no mortgage, and no pension. Hence, my attention was drawn somewhat to the following passages from Tom Hodgkinson's book, 'How to be Free':

Belief in the abstract invention 'career' is a middle-class affliction. The lower orders, wisely, don't quite have the same faith in progress and self-betterment as the bourgeois classes and neither do members of the aristocracy. The aristos are at the top, so they've got nowhere to go. Paradoxically, this gives them a humility that is lacking in the successful meritocrats of the middle classes. If you are to the manor born, then you do not have the self-satisfaction and pride of the self-made man. And at the bottom, the people don't see the point in striving for mortgages and security. But the middle classes as we know them today, the heirs of the Puritan tradition of money-making and self-denial, have elevated 'career' into the epicentre of their daily struggle. And now more than ever before, the middle classes attempt to impose their career ethic on everyone else. This is called 'government'. (p38-39).

People cite their mortgages as the prime reason for doing work they don't want to do...Clearly the mortgage has become a symbol of repression. 'I just need to pay off the mortgage, then I'll be free,' they say. There it is, the monstrous elephant of a mortgage, sitting in our way, holding us back. Property, promiser of liberty and deliverer of slavery!...The very thing that we take on board in order to provide us with security - a home - seems to offer instead only anxiety and a feeling of being trapped. (p212-214).

Just compare the house or houses of your average pension-fund manager with your own humble dwelling. Well, that's your money he has bought his champagne with...The rise of the pension as a sort of earthly reward for having suffered for forty years or more in a job you didn't is an expression of reward by the authorities for good work, the 'secular afterlife'...Suffer now; enter paradise later...Funnily enough, the people who encourage others to worry about the future are those who want your money now. They themselves are not worrying about the future; they are maximizing their profits today. (p243-247).


Anonymous said...

Apposite passages, interesting-sounding book. I gave up a career several years ago to work for less money as a freelance but to have more time for everything I love. Husband and I both work about 20 hours a week, spend the rest of the time hanging with our kids, pursuing what interests us.

We have smallish pensions from our years as university professors, but otherwise we're counting on our genius kids to support us in our dotage (just kidding -- sort of!).

But don't worry, Gordon. If you were to die tomorrow, wouldn't you rather have spent today hang-gliding than working to pay a mortgage?

We could have a great house & fab cars, money in the bank (our friends from Ph.D. days at Columbia & Harvard, respectively, have these things), but instead we have time and sanity.

Moi, I prefer it!

Gordon McCabe said...

Very wise Susan.

My hang-gliding....? Oh, yes, er, of course, my Australian para-gliding exploits. Yes, it's all part of having a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

I have a career, a mortgage and a pension. I happen to like my job, my mortgage isn't crippling and my pension is fairly good. Yippee. I leap out of bed each morning at 6.30 and do cartwheels across my bedroom. Trapped? Me? You bet. But I'm philosophical about it - fatalistic, pessimistic and occasionally nihilistic (on a good day).

Susan and Gordon, I'm a tad envious. But what's the point of envy?