Sunday, October 08, 2006
Why am I alive?
The question, “Why am I alive?” was prompted this morning by someone in the blogosphere asking how to deal with the stress arising from working in a Call Centre. I’m sure we have all had occasion to call these “places”: here in England we sometimes find ourselves linked to one in India. I find the workers warm and friendly, but then I make sure not to blame them for the infuriating deficiencies of their organisation.
In 1998 I worked on a computer project to install Telecom call centres across Holland, to deal with directory enquiries and the like, so I am aware that the human operator is a captive cog in a huge robotic machine. The system was designed to shave seconds off each call and maximise the productivity of workers who were treated as battery chickens. Supervisors could monitor each call and even intervene. If an operator got upset by a caller there was a timeout button which could be used between calls. This was the only way the operator could get up and go to the rest-room. Like everything else, the timeouts were analysed for statistical reports.
So I said to the blogger that humans were not meant to work in call centres at all. I’d sooner be a rag-picker, road-sweeper, toilet-unblocker: anything where I can do things in my own time, reshaping matter with the skills of my own hands and eyes. Yet I was sad to see that in a research study the “customer service representatives” at these call centres, who are mostly women aged 25-40, have fairly good “job satisfaction”. They are only there to bring home money in a clean job where they don’t have to sell their bodies. As for their souls, they’ve probably mortgaged those already.
Naturally my previous two sentences are not taken from the research study itself. Most people, including doubtless its authors, take it for granted that you have to sell your soul to earn anything at all, by legal or criminal means. Civilisation has made Fausts of us all, even though my spell-checker complains there can only be one Faust.
“Why am I alive?” asks the person who stands on the parapet of a tall bridge, trying not to look down. “If I can’t find a good reason I’ll jump.” The question should have been asked long before.
Why am I alive? It's a question I ask my body, not my intellect, and rely upon its emotional response. The answers are surprising.
Posted by Vincent at 6:33 am