Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
University was my choice in 2008. The economic crisis was not. Understanding the implications of what a credit-crunch meant at the time went unnoticed (at least for me) due to my ignorance at the time. Being a student was ‘great’ and discussions on what all this financial disaster meant were interesting but confusing. I say confusing because I did not understand finances at the time and I did not understand what that meant for the job-market I would be entering in to. Seeing the transformation around me was quite strange but now I understand it.
Walking around Leeds city centre in 2008 was like walking into…. erm Leeds city centre in 2008 except, shops began to close; this then had a domino effect on other shops closing. My favourite book shop that imported magazines from all over the world closed, Zavvi – the music retailer closed, Woolworths – the shop that sold just about everything closed. Numerous small shops closed one after another. This was just what I could see at the time but did not scratch the surface of the mess that we were all in.
Numerous conversations I had with people began to show a very bleak future. I chatted with a careers advisor from my University. She said “The careers centre must now lose £80,000 of its budget a year”. Another conversation I overheard was “… his trip has been cancelled to Australia, the company was going to pay for his flights, his stay and everything else but not now….” I still to this day don’t know what that company was but they were obviously on the receiving end of some financial hardship, as was everybody else (and still is!). Then there was the transformation of where I worked.
Whilst at University I believed in working to fund my hobbies and interests and would regularly be pleased with my additional money from ‘over-time’ available at where I worked at the time. I even bought into the ‘For the good of the company’ mantra. I believed as I was being offered over-time at work and there were opportunities for ‘working my way up the ladder’, over-time even when it was inconvenient worked for me. The company offered incentives and ‘over-time’. The company in my view was important and the corporate culture was for me. My perception of this soon changed however.
The ‘over-time’ at work stopped following the 2008 economic crash, people left the company and they were not replaced. 2008 onward’s changed the company forever. The company I worked at had in many respects no choice and was only doing what other companies were doing at the time and still are doing. Everybody was metaphorically playing ‘happy families’ up to 2008. There was a genuine sense of comfort in people’s thought’s knowing that there would be plenty of job opportunities available, if a job did not work out. It never felt like it was difficult to get a job; it never felt like there would be a problem with growing with a company. This all changed after 2008 and while I don’t always agree with the policies companies have implemented since 2008 I do understand them. Understanding is crucially different to agreeing.
In terms of what I understand now is a realization that music had been going online for a long time, that would explain the position of the now defunct Zavvi. Woolworths never really specialised in something, it was a nice set of shops to go in but I understood why it closed all of its shops following the economic crash. It was easy to make money prior to 2008, most people were earning and were comfortable in their jobs. And while I continue to learn and understand what happened in 2008, there are still two issues that worry me but I must deliver my thoughts on both of these.
The first one is keeping the same values that have made the world like it is today along with the greedy corporations. The consumer society we live in will come crashing down again; there have been numerous economic crashes prior to 2008, we are not going to avoid another crash while we are living in a consumer society. Changing our values would change the way we perceive work in the world. Re-defining our values would be the start of a better world, increasingly changing ‘wants’ in to ‘needs’ would be the start of this better world.
Secondly, in this continued global financial crisis there has never been a better time to help people out. There are numerous businesses that are beginning to treat people as disposable goods. There is now fierce competition for all of jobs. There has never been a greater time to help people in any way we can; there has never been a greater time to give people the confidence they need in the job market. The insecurity in jobs should be the ‘wake up call’ we all need to change our perceptions of the values we currently hold.
Oliver Wilson, (2015)