We all too often focus on what has changed, or is changing, in our working lives. It was interesting therefore to discover a sealed letter in a dusty corner of a filing cabinet dated October 1985, addressed to us all, that may make us think a little differently….
You don’t know me, but on reading this you may feel that you do, for we are all about you, concealed in the light. Perhaps in reaching you, my sentiments may prompt you to consider our conditions and plight.
There are many, many of us. We work in a tower that resembles all of the others around us, dressing and behaving alike to avoid making ourselves apparent. We are extorted, compressed, cajoled and insulted by our fellows at the start and end of each of the days we are required to attend. The softening of our will is helpful.
They keep us here under constrictive contract, drafted by Mephistopheles himself, informing us of all the things we cannot do and the punishments that will be meted should we stray. In particular, our soul belongs to the leviathan, for the harshest penalty is reserved for daring to engage in compensated labour for another.
We strive in a large space at identical benches, at which I am surrounded by the silent scriveners. Civil but stern, they carry their concerns heavily and talk only when fetching water. Some have greater contact with the world outside the sealed windows, but the superficiality creates an anaesthetising delusion. A few occasionally disappear, some contended, some downcast, in either case never to return. We know not where they go, and never see them again.
We are rewarded for our labours such that we can live, but are seldom encouraged. We are controlled in unchanging ways – a brief and shallow discussion each year when the days are short and we are low, uncomfortable written instruction from those adjacent, and posters with polished messages of hope. Sometimes we are asked whether we are happy with our dominion, but we are careful not to believe that there will not be consequences so we express a common, mild satisfaction to ensure calm.
Sometimes we gather – seemingly at random – around a large table, and talk to ourselves about things that matter to us, while the others look at things they have brought with them. Eventually some start to make excuses and leave, and when sufficient ponderance has fallen, the remainder quietly disperse. The uncertain glances we exchange question whether there was a hidden meaning or purpose to the gathering, but none is ever revealed.
We cover our tracks with carefully laid correspondence, as despite our shared plight there are rarely clues as to the predatory amongst us. Some that have mimicked well those who dwell on the unseen higher floors are granted the illusion of an elevated status, and begin to speak with a strange, expansive dialect that we struggle to understand. We grow ever more sad at the distance between us, further dulling our urge to express our thoughts. The days merge into one another, into months, into years.
I am certain that this will depict an arcane world long since lost to you, and that you will have resolved our anomic, uncertain ways. I dream of your future, locked in your past. Remember us. Adieu.