Friday, 11 January 2013

All Mod Cons?

That filthy phrase ‘quality time’ (concentrated anxiety) seems to have fallen out of fashion of late. Hooray! But before I can jump for joy, I’m reminded that it has been replaced by something altogether more sinister: ‘work-life balance’.

We balance out everything – offset tit for tat, outsource the good bits, store chunks of our lives in the cloud and rob Peter to Paypal Paul. In this market of ‘continuous improvement’ we enter a frantic state of perpetual barter – haggling with ourselves for the tiniest off-cuts of pleasure. Scraps which we are far too exhausted and, let’s face it, guilty - to ever enjoy.

In the good old days, which of course I am far too young to remember, life was fuller and the days were longer. Washing took place on a Monday, baths on a Sunday, people left their front doors unlocked and nobody ever dropped their mobile down the loo whilst multi-tasking with a mop and a screwdriver. Trans fats and cholesterol were the stuff of sci-fi. Cigarettes had health benefits. The hills were greener and the winters shorter. Some idiot had yet to dream up Milton Keynes. It was all very Heartbeat and even the criminals had manners. If anything we probably had a few too many polar bears and great herds of snow leopards cluttered up the slopes.

I’m not suggesting we all have loos installed in the garden shed, rip out our central heating and start sending our toddlers up chimneys, but this 24/7 go-go-go nonsense is leaving us spent-spent-spent. The ‘work-life balance’ is weighing us down. Yet we kid ourselves that if only our trains were faster, our mobiles smarter and our broadband more infinite, we’d all be much calmer and more in control. We’d simply have time to enjoy all the things we really wanted to do. We’d have time to relax. Ah bliss!

One day, when this quest for constant information is considered as impractical as grape scissors, our grandchildren’s great-grandchildren will pity us. Like the stench of the Victorian slums, they’ll wonder how we could have stomached it. The humble office worker will become the pit pony of our descendant’s history books.

Those poor little mites in their grey, windowless world! They were penned in under artificial light with their eyes fixed on blinking VDU’s and their blunted fingers tapping bacteria-riddled keys. By then, most of the chickens were free range, but the people were still battery.

Then a picture – like the diagram showing the evolution of man from his ape beginnings – depicting Homo erectus reverting to a creature with a back so bent by hours of sitting that he is unable to stand for more than a few minutes a day – Homo collapsus.

Is this how we want to be remembered?

Let’s just hope we don’t completely lose our balance.