I slept late on Sunday morning and woke to hear a jokey discussion on the radio about socialism and capitalism, which were terms I was brought up with, but whose meaning has changed over the decades. So that when Ed Milliband talks about democratic socialism the young have only the vaguest idea what he’s on about. The terms are 50 years and more out of date. The panel, though astute enough, seemed to me to miss the point of the new world we live in, which is so technologised and computerised the old divides become meaningless.
The 45% plus of our population who do not have university degrees find it harder and harder to find jobs. Anyone these days with an ‘intelligent quotient’ [‘IQ’] of less than 115 is in trouble. The war is no longer between proletariat and management but between workers by hand and workers by brain – the former are poor and workless; the latter grow rich and prosperous. Politicians, who mostly still live in a pre-digital age (while using the young to manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts) fail to recognise this elephant in the room. That the working class has been replaced by machines is seldom taken into account by economists, who declare themselves mystified that while exports go up, wages stay low and unemployment high. In the new digital age most things a blue-collar worker (in old terminology) of average intelligence [IQ 100] can do, a machine controlled by a computer can do better. Computers talk to each other and to you; they don’t have to eat or sleep or be kept warm – who’d employ a person when they can employ a machine which is never rude or sulky and can do the job better? – and the price of the new technology comes down and down and down.
I was taken aback when I went into Tescos to buy a sandwich the other day. Not so much by the new self-service tills – though it took me ages to work out how to buy the sandwich – but by the rows and rows of empty tills where girls had once sat and chatted, and sometimes smiled. Where were the girls now? Down at the Labour Exchange Plus, or whatever they’re called now, looking for jobs which no longer exist? There is still some work available for women without degrees, though mostly in the catering, cleaning and caring trades where minimum wages are normal. A girl might balk at that: if she has any sense she’ll have a baby and go on benefits. The less educated a woman is, the more babies she is likely to have and the less likely to have a job. Once she could have been a shop girl, but jobs in retailing are now hard to get. The High Street fill up with charity shops staffed by volunteers as the shoe shops and the dress shops close. We all get our books and small goods from Amazon, whose vast computerised distribution empire employs is said to employ only a couple of thousand people or so in the UK – whatever the figure, it won’t be labour-intensive. An office which five years ago had ten staff on computers now has half that – the new generation of computers talk to each other and need little human intervention. The only growing area of employment, I imagine, is in deliveries and white van driving. This at least will flourish in the new world.
‘Go out and get a job,’ the government beseeches women on benefits. ‘Put your children in a crèche and WORK!’ ‘And why not? All the women I know love going out to work,’ said the women journalist that morning as I listened. ‘Yes,’ I wanted to shout at the radio. ‘But all the women you that know will be high fliers with IQs of 140 plus: earning good money, of course they love their fantastic jobs. But who is there to speak for the rest?
The problem begins to affect the lower echelons of the white-collar classes [IQ 110 plus], those on the degree borderline, and will inevitably creep upwards to affect the 120s & 130s. So many managers, so few coal-face workers, as people have been lamenting for years, but still quickly getting worse. This is the day of the clever manager, the clever nerd, those`s who create the machines, work the machines, control the machines. Social Media rob the state of its dignity, if not its surveillance power: Twitter surfs the terrorist attack: the journalist fears for her job as the unpaid blogger takes over, and the Internet rules all.
Well, no doubt we will adjust to the future. The electoral options will be the Labour Party (once it’s changed its name to the Smart Party, fighting for the rights of the nerdy and wealthy minority), the Paternalistic Party (once the Conservatives, standing for the rights and dignity of the benefits class – now 60% of the population), and the minority Luddite Party (formerly the Lib Dems, who will hold the balance.)
But I fear by then voting will be altogether out of fashion.