Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Utopia: Communism Versus The Common Cold

It harms profit levels, but capitalism has no cure for the cold
Call it 'acute coryza', 'acute viral rhinopharyngitis', or just 'the common cold'; we all know what it is, and how annoying it can be. Okay, so it's not cancer, but it's certainly not nice for the few days you have it (plus maybe a week of catarrh afterwards), and actually 727 people died from it in 2003, according to a World Health Organisation survey. And though there's no cure for cancer yet, I believe the cold could easily be eradicated.

Think about how you felt last time you got one. For me, it was just in time for Christmas. For the man in the flat downstairs, it's now, by the sounds of things. When I got it over the holidays, I stayed in bed, wrapped up warm with some Ribena, and kept away from people. I was able to do this precisely because it was the holidays, and I didn't need to be anywhere else. So I did what 'came naturally', and let my body get the rest it needed to help combat the unwelcome intruder.

But if you get a cold on a day where you have to go to work or school - and that's most days for most people - you are being compelled (by the threats of bosses or teachers or whoever), to do what seems most unnatural, and to take your virus into environments (such as public transport, offices, or classrooms) where it can contaminate others. So not only do you feel like death warmed up, but you also have to deal with the knowledge that you are spreading it to your colleagues, and if you deal with customers, you are likely handing over a rhinovirus with their change.

As the above poster indicates, this is insanity even from the bosses' perspective. Unhealthy workers are less productive workers, so their rate of exploitation is temporarily decreased. If you were a boss, it would make sense for you to allow your workers the day off whenever they had a virus. Of course, the problem with this is that alienation thing. Because most people hate their jobs, and only come in because they 'have to' in order to make a living, such a system would obviously be (ab)used by millions of people with pegs on their noses and a phone to their ears.
Could this sight be a thing of the past come the revolution?
In a communist society - where all products of labour would be freely available to everyone - alienation at work would be abolished. If someone was genuinely ill, they could take a duvet day, without worrying about bosses or colleagues getting resentful. In fact, co-workers would be grateful, because of course no-one wants to be infected with a virus. Sooner or later, the common cold itself would be cured, thanks to the medicine of common property relations.

If you think that sounds utopian, you're right. It's unashamedly utopian. With the crisis of capitalism bringing ever greater misery around the world, it would be easy to write reams and reams about how horrible everything is. And I'm not going to stop doing that. But more importantly, I want to encourage people to look at society in new ways, and start imagining how we could create a social structure that actually functions for the benefit of the immense majority - the opposite of today's reality. With that in mind, I'm starting a 'Utopia' series of articles, to illustrate the idea that nothing about this universe is inevitable. Nothing except change, that is.
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