Corporate Christmas

This piece was penned with a view to fitting the ‘Black Friday’ theme of December’s Fictions of Every Kind spoken word night at The Wharf Chambers, Leeds, on 30th November 2015 (which, incidentally, was great, with a good mix of writers of outstanding quality, and a brilliant atmosphere in a super venue).

‘Corporate Christmas’ is a part of the ever-expanding and presently ongoing ‘Rage Monologues’ project, and as such, is designed first and foremost as a performance piece. However, as I’m aware my live performances are few and far between, and tend to take place in the north of England, there are may who won’t be able to hear this material. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share this piece, which doesn’t feature in the tour edition pamphlet of The Rage Monologues, here.

Enjoy…

 

Corporate Christmas

It’s all about the money. But at a certain point, the money becomes theoretical. Top-flight executives, boards of directors, the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy, I get. No, that’s not true. What I get is that it takes a certain kind of person to become a top-flight executive, a director on the board, to scale the heights and reach the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. A sociopath, no more and no less. I will never understand the mindset, the megalomania that drives such criminal disregard for everything other than money. They’re so far removed from the reality of the everyday, so distanced from the shop floor, they’re effectively exempt. They’re wired differently. They don’t see their employees as humans. They don’t see their customers as human. They never hear the voices of the downtrodden, the weary, the world at large. They can’t hear us cry out, fists raised.

You’ve got the money.

You’ve got the status.

You’ve got the power.

You’ve got the control.

You’re fucking us all over.

You don’t see the planet as a finite resource. Everything exists for your benefit. And nothing is ever enough. You have everything already. What more can you possibly want? More… always more. Because money doesn’t just talk. It buys whatever the fuck you want. Want it? Buy it. Because you can.

What do you want? World domination!

When do you want it? Yesterday!

Competition? You’ve bought the competition, and shut it down.

Regulation? You laugh in the face of it. You’ve bought the regulators.

Government? You’ve bought the government. The parties are in your pocket, paid off with the money not spent on paying tax. You’re not the law – you’ve bought the law.

But the countless other layers of management, from the cringing petty bureaucrats at the lower managerial levels, to the ones who command payola and power but don’t own a fleet of yachts or several Pacific islands… I get where they’re coming from. And they, they’re the worst fucking scum.

You, you’ve also got the money – not as much, but just enough to think you’re special, to afford the finer things in life, not least of all thanks to the company credit card, the expense account. Like you fucking need it on your salary – pleading poverty while cruising in your Audi, smugging it up, your 2.4 kids in private schools and destined for top universities and to follow in your patent leather footsteps.

You’ve got the status – not as much as the real high-flyers, but club class will do. You’ve got enough to flash it around, to swan off on management away days and three-hour “working lunches”, plotting espionage and tax avoidance on your iPhones while chilling in first-class lounge suites making like your lives are so pressured, while not having the first clue what it’s like to have to worry about the bills – your pampered wives sipping Pinot Grigot from balloon glasses on leather corner sofas in front of a 60” flatscreen while wearing a white fluffy dressing gown, perish the thought they might break a nail in a five-bed townhouse with the heating cranked up to thirty.

You’ve got the power – not world domination, but you’ve got a hotline to the gods of business, and they know people who know people who know people who know people and the next thing, you’ve bought into Europe and you’ve got steer on the TTIP… so you’ve got power enough to throw around, enough to make you feel good while holding others down. You need to hold them down, keep them in their place.

You’ve got the control – just enough to live out your fantasies of power play. Those rebels and potential usurpers… you know how to dispense with them. Dissent? Crush it! Remove it! Yes, there are ways and means to sidestep legislation about unfair dismissal and discrimination… show them the door. No-one’s going to stop your march.

We need to make cuts to boost profit! The shareholders have spoken! The directors have spoken!

So what do you do? What do you do? Front-line staff every time: you’ll never see management voting for a cull of management, a stripping back of the layers of the hierarchy, no. Because it’d be like turkeys voting for Christmas. You’ve got just one interest, and that’s self-interest.

So you stand there in your sharp suit with your company laptop rucksack, your sharp haircut and your buzzwords, making like you actually give a fuck as you apologise for the cuts, the redundancies as you lay off yet more staff, just to protect your own bonus. Cunt.

You think you hold the power, that you have ownership. But you’re all part of the same system. The capitalist system. You’re still climbing over one another to attain material goods, more and more and more, and nothing is ever enough.

You don’t own capitalism: capitalism owns you. You’re still a part of the system, a system the purpose of which is to make people buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have.

Whipped into Shape: Getting Fit For Christmas with Jesus Christ

With the Summer and the London 2012 Olympics over with, and the ‘back to school’ promotions finished now that school, college and university students are all back, many are beginning to turn their attention to Christmas. M&S already have seasonal red and white carrier bags in circulation, Sainsbury’s has got its ‘seasonal’ aisle packed with confectionary and snacks (which will be rather close to their best before date by Boxing Day) and the Slug and Lettuce pubs have got their Christmas trees up in the entrance. Yes, it’s the second week in October.

Around Christmas and immediately after, there’s invariably a big push to promote fitness DVDs to cash in on the fatties desperate to squeeze themselves into that not-so-little black dress at the office Christmas party, and the lards who decide they need to do something about the three stone they gained gorging themselves on mince pies, buffets and endless turkey roasts over the festive season, not to mention the copious quantities of calorific celebratory booze.

High-energy aerobic exercise isn’t for everyone, and not everyone wants to see some celebrity bimbo prancing around while telling them to ‘work it’. For these reasons, amongst others, gentle low-impact exercise like yoga and pilates is often a popular alternative to boxercise, dance workouts and zumba.

The Church of England today announced it would be releasing its own Christian exercise DVD. Entitled Pontius Pilates, it will feature gentle stretching and breathing exercises that date back to the time of Christ. The workout instructions were found in an ancient scroll containing a version of one of the scriptures that was recently discovered in the same collection that contained the so-called ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’. Positions featured on the DVD include well-known ones that are still popular today, such as The Lotus, The Cat and The Crab, as well as some which have been lost for centuries, like The Nail and The Crucifix.

The RRP for Pontius Pilates will be £12.99 – but rather than paying full price, why not wait a bit? The chances are they’ll be flogging it off cheap around Easter.

 

pontius-pilate

Pontius Pilate prepares for take-off

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Sales Fever! Looking Back on Christmases Past

I spent a large chunk of my day today at an out-of-town retail park, where I parted with a small fortune. It was hell on earth, but needs just: I’d been planning to sort myself a new laptop, printer and external hard-drive (I’ve learned – and re-learned – the hard way the importance of backing up all of my work) for months and had been stalling (and saving) for the sales because, being on a budget wanted to make my money go further. And so it was I returned home with an ASUS X53U, an HP Photosmart 6510 and a Samsung hard-drive that measures roughly the size of my wallet and has a whole Terabyte capacity, plus various other non-computing related items for the house.

Needless to say, it was a relief to get home again, and having reserved most of my items on-line in advance, the excursion kept the trudging and legwork and general pain to a minimum. But while out I was acutely aware of just how many people are out there raiding the sales just because goods are discounted, a point reinforced by endless footage n television. Haven’t people got anything better to do, and why do they feel the need to spend money just because? The justification that a £200 jacket had 50% off doesn’t wash – or dry-clean – when considering the flipside of the equation, namely that there’s still 50% on. The last I heard, we were in the middle of a financial crisis. Are people really still dim enough to max out their credit cards just because they can’t resist a ‘bargain’? It would appear they are.

So once again I was reminded that people are idiots, and of the adage that a fool and his money are soon parted. I was also reminded of a blog I posted back in the MySpace days, which I found on my old (and now full to capacity) 300G hard-drive. It may have been posted on this day in 2007, but most of the points still stand, and it’s somehow comforting to observe how little I’ve changed my position. I like to be consistent (although I have taken time off work this year)….

 

Sales Fever! (2007)

 

The fact I haven’t been present on-line for the last couple of days shouldn’t be misinterpreted that I was busy wholeheartedly embracing the traditional Christmas rituals. I don’t absolutely hate everything about Christmas, and for me, it’s a good opportunity to spend a couple of days not straining my eyes in front of the PC and to actually have something approximating a rest.
 
Still, because I don’t consider Christmas to be quite as big a deal as many, and don’t consider it a reason to go on a month-long bender with everyone I’ve ever met, and don’t feel the need to eat my own body weight in poultry and pork, I didn’t feel the need to book the days between Christmas and New Year off work. Being at the office – a place I abhor with a passion – is always more bearable when there’s no work, no phone calls and no other staff in to drive me to distraction with their inane waffle.
 

Business as usual it isn’t. and while I’ve been able to potter around without distraction and amuse myself by switching the contents of people’s drawers and so on, I’ve also given a thought to those thousands of people who work in the retail sector. As I’m writing this on January 27th, I’m quite relieved to be hiding out in an office: I learned from Breakfast on BBC1 that today was expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year. And the footage I saw of the queues and the rucks on Boxing day were disturbing enough. It raised a few issues, not least of all the question ‘why?’ I mean, after a month of intensive shopping, why would anyone want to go shopping through choice? It’s insane. We’re a nation in financial crisis, in case no-one had noticed. But then, it’s this inherent greed and an inability to say ‘no’ – or to be seen to be unable to keep up with the pack – that’s got us here in the first place.
 

But irrespective of whether or not we (collectively) can afford to splurge, one would think that the last thing anyone would want to do after a period of intensive shopping in the run-up to Christmas is go shopping. I mean, it’s hell. It’s not so much a jungle out there as it is total war. There was an item on Breakfast in which some ‘fashion guru’ was giving tips on how to succeed in the sales, revealing a handbag full of energy-giving drinks and snacks (‘bananas are great for energy…’) and advising that in order to grab that must-have bargain, if you need to kick or punch, then so be it. To condone or promote such behaviour is beyond me. It’s not a loaf of bread in the middle of a famine, it’s a fucking handbag. Let’s get things in perspective here.

Despite my general disregard for many of the traditional aspects of Christmas, this eagerness to hit the shops on Boxing day or the day after is concerning. One issue is the fact that people seem to expect shops to be open all the time, and we do appear to be very slowly heading the American way, toward a 24-day society. The demand is for convenience, and that demand is coming to be supplied. And why not? Well, it’s all very well to demand, and to receive supply, but what of those who are required to deliver that supply? I’m talking primarily about those in retail here, of course, because 24-hour shopping requires 24-hour staffing of shops, but there’s inevitably a knock-on effect. We already have 24-hour / overnight couriers and so on… and where’s it going to end? And 24-hour is one thing, but what about 365-day-a-year?

Time was when everything closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Now, banks are about the only things closed on Bank Holidays (well, the clue’s in the name). A friend of mine said “they’ll have us working on Christmas day soon, mark my words.” Now, he’s a cynical old goat, but I think he may have a point. And similarly, the synchronicity of Christmas and the exchange of gifts may actually become a thing of the past the way things are going.

Consider the facts: the January sales now start on Boxing day. December 27th is the biggest shopping day of the year. Many take unwanted gifts back and exchange them for things they ‘really’ want in the sale, and I’ve heard a number of people say they’re waiting till the sales for their presents. So it’s not that much of a stretch to see, 10 years hence, people going shopping on Christmas day when the sales start, perhaps having a slap-up meal in the evening, and exchanging gifts on New Year’s eve, with New Year’s day remaining the only day the shops are closed because half of the population’s too hungover to go shopping. Of course, the reaction to this may eventually be to put the sales back to January again, and dog knows what kind of mayhem or rioting may ensue as a consequence.

The trouble is, the people who are at the head of the queues, who will punch and kick and trample to get their bargains and are demanding most vocally to be supplied appear to the, somewhat ironically, the same people who most rigidly adhere to the notion of a ‘traditional’ Christmas – extended family round for dry turkey and Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes, followed by falling asleep in a cloud of flatulence in front of Eastenders, before re-enacting Eastenders with a major drunken barney of their own over something petty but that will prevent the different factions within the family from speaking to one another until the same time next year.

I’m not defending Christmas as a religious holiday of course, but given that I’m of the opinion that people should hibernate during the winter months, do think that in terms of maintaining a work/life balance, the demand for everything on tap at all times there should be some time off.

So I’m keeping out of it (I’ve quite enough handbags already, thank you). But alas, I may not be able to avoid the sales entirely. Whereas I usually receive more calendars than I have rooms in the house, this year I didn’t receive a single calendar. Ok, so I’ll buy my own. I just hope I’m not too late and won’t have to end up with a Russell Brand picture calendar.

 

 

 

 

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No Win in Winter: Taking Leave of the Compulsory Festive Fun

Being the kind of writer who doesn’t sell enough books or writing to cover the bills, I find myself forced to take on regular work in order to stay afloat. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to find work that utilizes my literary and / or academic skills, but not always. Sometimes, I find myself juggling multiple posts, because, well, needs must.

One feature of office work around this time of year is the inaugural Christmas party. More often than not, that’s parties, with departmental nights out, team nights out, and any half-arsed excuse for people to hit the boozer at lunchtime or immediately after knocking off early.

I’ve always avoided these events like the plague. I have attended one or two during the course of my working life, and have usually felt compelled to make my excuses and leave just as things are warming up, i.e. before someone punches me in the face, makes a serious tit of themselves, gets us kicked out or pukes over their – or my – shoes. As a consequence, the worst I’ve had to endure on my return to work is mild abuse for being a killjoy or a lightweight, and while I’m most certainly no lightweight (I simply happen to know my limit and stick to it rather than letting things get out of hand), I guess I’m happy to wear the ‘killjoy’ hat if by ‘killjoy’ it’s meant ‘person who gets out before it gets too crazy’. In fact, leaving the rest of them to have their fun at whatever cost to themselves rather than nagging them not to behave like imbeciles is surely the opposite of killjoyism, but I digress.

So it was that on Friday I found myself on the bus back into town in the company of a friend of mine and some of his colleagues. They were going out for a meal, but before that, some drinks. It was 4pm. I, on the other hand, was going to pick up some milk, go home, cook for my family and get down to some writing and various other pressing things.

Disembarking, we parted ways and bid one another farewell, and I was momentarily resentful of my fiend’s active social life and the fact he has connections with enough social and work-related groupings to see him out doing Christmas-related socialising at least two nights a week throughout the whole month of December, in contrast to me, who declined the one crappy offer I did get, because, well, it would have been hell. So what’s my problem? Well, for starters, just because I don’t want to spend insane amounts of cash on crap nights out in loud bars in the company of tossers who can’t handle their drink or their emotions, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to participate in the faux revelry and put-on camaraderie – but I would like to socialise with the people I likie in places I like. The trouble is, all of my friends are busy, for the most part spending insane amounts of cash on crap nights out in loud bars in the company of tossers who can’t handle their drink or their emotions. So, if you can’t beat ‘em… No, fuck it, even if I was invited, I wouldn’t join ‘em. So call me bitter and awkward if you like and see if I care.

As I carved my way through the crowded city centre, packed with Christmas-shopping tourists, gaggles of students not long out of school or college, and early doors workers descending on the hostelries and eateries to begin their merrymaking, I felt the tension rising within me. I could barely move it was so crowded, and while I’m no agoraphobe, I do find crowded places – other than gigs – stressful environments.

It didn’t take long to dawn on me that while I enjoy socialising and would broadly jump at the opportunity to sample the range of seasonal ales on offer, I can only enjoy myself in the right environment and in the right company. Works nights out invariably mean being pressed into close proximity with the crets you work with and despise all day every day: why the hell would anyone want to prolong the experience? Add to that the fact the setting are always lowest-common-denominator mass-market pubs and chain restaurants that offer group discounts on cheap and cheerful (microwaved) food, and my resentment of my friend dissipated rapidly.

It wouldn’t be me with a raging hangover and gaping hole in my finances the following morning, even if he did succeed in avoiding any of the kind of embarrassing situations that would see him all over Facebook and publicly humiliated by half the globe before he’d even woken up, and subsequently derided mercilessly for the next three months by all and sundry. Yeah, I’m happy to stay in, sup a few bottles of homebrew and enjoy a quieter night in. The pubs can wait until January, when I can go and sit on my own with a pint and read a book in peace. Ahh… cheers!

 

Christmas Night Out

Above: some people having a blast at a Christmas meal. Don’t you wish you were them? Image courtesy of the Internet.

And if you’ve loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk