To “keep the dream alive” I work 3 days a week for one of the big supermarkets. It’s been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.
The work, for most, can be quite repetitive and, for some, hard – proper physical labour. There’s nothing wrong with an honest days work, in fact it’s an important part of a meaningful life. However there’s a side to what I’ve seen over the last few years that doesn’t feel right and at times has stirred a great deal of anger in me.
The company I work for has seen profits rise every year for the last 3 years so that last year their profit was over £1 billion. I often think a billion looks better as a number than a word – that’s over £1,000,000,000 profit. In one year.
However over this 3-year period the employees of this company have been told time and time again that belts need to be tightened due to the economic climate and difficult trading times. This has meant below inflation pay rises and, worse, a gradual reduction in the (hu)man hours available for tasks – more is being asked of less people.
The effects of this are manifold – those with responsibility have the stress of trying to get more done with less people at their disposal and those that do the “heavy lifting” simply have to do more of it. It’s literally breaking peoples bodies – the incidences of back injury, joint problems and repetitive strain injuries are common and increasing.
At least as harmful as the physical damage is the worry that I see in so many people. Fear that their jobs aren’t safe, that they won’t be given enough hours to work to earn the money they need – not so they can live an extravagant lifestyle but to pay the rent, their council tax, electricity and then feed their children. It’s corrosive – this ongoing, gnawing worry that is ever present. It’s heartbreaking. However these are difficult times. Difficult times for who? – remember that’s £1,000,000,000 profit. In one year.
It would easy to turn this into an exercise in blame – corporations this, globalisation that– however if we look a little harder it’s not so clear cut and not as convenient as that. If we start pulling at one thread we soon start to realise that it’s all so utterly interconnected.
In the Western world our population is aging – everyday more and more people are retiring and living longer, more active, lives. This needs to be paid for. The largest investors in stocks and shares globally are pension funds – whether this is a private pension or that provided by the state. Do you think that these pension funds are all invested in ethical, sustainable, noble enterprises? Of course not – they invest in that which will give the best long-term yield for their investors. Not necessarily the riskiest but no doubt that which offers profitable returns. The lifestyle expectations we have demand this. Somebody, somewhere has to pay for this comfort. It’s inescapable.
These funds receive their return on the backs of those working in the warehouses of our supermarkets (which compared to so many other parts of the world is relative comfort), on the backs of those working in the copper mines of Zambia, on the backs of those harvesting crops all over the world. Our comfort depends on this whether we like it or not.
I realise now that even when I lived in the ashram my comfort and ease of life was paid for by the toil and labour of others. Every time I turned on a light switch, felt a warm radiator or ate a meal someone was paying for it through toil and hard work. It would be nice to think that all this money came from people working as organic beekeepers etc however it didn’t – many visitors would be doing jobs they didn’t like for companies whose primary purpose was to provide a return for their investors (see above) and even some would have already been receiving an income from this type of fund.
And so to the point of this (if there is one) – there is very little moral high ground here. It’s the vibration of our time and we’re all part of it. It may make us feel good to think that we’re not part of this however unless we’re completely off-grid and self-sufficient then chances are our roof over our head and our full belly relies on this system.
It is after all Kali yuga and, if I’m honest, I don’t think it’s optional. It’s like cosmic energetic weather and the world we see manifesting is a result of that weather.
And yet it hurts. What I see around me at work hurts. Sentimentality it may be but that’s the way it is. Good people with hopes, aspirations, with good hearts, with potential and they can’t see a way out, a way to a better life. Maybe there isn’t and to be honest I haven’t got any answers – it would be easy to say “well let’s just share out all the money more equally” however I get the uncomfortable feeling there’s only so much wealth in the world because it is possible to create so much and to hold on to it.
Maybe all that we need to do is feel the hurt, to recognise our shared pain – to see it as it is. Who knows what may come from that?
 This is not some thinly veiled argument for enforced euthanasia – just trying to highlight how seamless it all is, there are no clear boundaries and lines. We’re all in it together.
 According to the Indian traditions the lifespan of the universe is divided into different ages, yugas, which repeat time and time again through time. We are said to be living in Kali yuga – a time of great imbalance, discord, greed and fear.