In the first weeks of March, almost half of Europe exercised their right to strike. Seems terrible; not because people have to strike to fight for their rights, but because I am convinced that being human means that we shouldn’t have to work. The famous saying “El trabajo dignifica al hombre” seems to have expired. Welcome to the era of contemplation, my friends.Perhaps those people who don’t work are less deserving? If that is so, then man needn’t work ever again. Governments should be capable of organising our lives so that technology could produce and organise them for us, so that we could all have the same access to the basic necessities. For many years the human species sacrificed their lives in coal mines, cotton fields, laboratories and libraries, and all this should be compensated for today with the simple pleasure of contemplation. Germany and Spain currently have the highest unemployment rates in Europe (at 8.1% and 8.6% respectively). In the former, the transport system has collapsed. How easy life would be if buses and trams could drive themselves (this is not a utopic notion). In Madrid, cleaning services were halted alongside transport strikes – even the funeral services called it a day! Yet all of these services could be done by machines – from harvesting food to constructing buildings.
Modern timesCinema provides some clear examples of figures averse to work. With his 1936 masterpiece , filmed a great argument in favour of the workers during the Great Depression. But in reality, without his even realising it, he was enhancing a notion of leisure in its purest state.
“Modern Times”Charlie ChaplinFrom the film’s opening scene, where the blue-dungareed Charlie is used as a guinea pig to test out a machine designed to feed workers whilst they work, up until the protest scenes, his character is always out of place, disturbed. The character suffers during these moments of the film. On the other hand, he is at his happiest when he is banged up in prison, lying on the ground where he has tripped and fallen or living in a dirty old house full of humidity. Cinema critics hail this film, where Chaplin’s ‘The Tramp’ character makes his final appearance, one of the best about workers. Of course there is also ’s 1924 offering (1924), which I still haven’t seen. But I have to insist that Chaplin, a communist fighting for class equality, was in reality someone who just wanted all the classes to do well.
Sergei M. Eisenstein StrikeChaplin goes life with a smile on his face. He lives happily ever after, bothering no-one, his only perversions being his satisfaction with life and buying flowers for his lover and co-star, Paulette Goddard. His performance is wonderful and his modern face surprises us still, even seventy years on. He’s the complete opposite to the decadent protagonist of Spanish movie (‘Mondays in the Sun’, 2002, another great film about unemployment and disillusion set in a shipyard crisis in Galicia). Spanish Oscar-winner puts in an excellent performance, crawling through his days instead of living out a normal existence.
Translation: Nabeelah Shabbir
Pic Modern Times: “Just in case someone…” (flickr)