Give thanks for what?

I fail to see what everyone is getting so cheerful about. Yes, the year is almost over. But there will be another after that, bringing with it more power cuts, higher interest rates, spiralling corruption and fewer jobs.

For those of you with jobs, you’ll find yourself working longer hours for less money. And there will be a lot more wildcat strikes. Funny old business, this downing of tools.

If my research is accurate, Australian workers started it way back in 1856. They used their underground communications network to organise a work stoppage on May 1st. Were they demanding that their bosses stop treating them like a bunch of expatriate convicts? Did they want medical aid and pension benefits? No. They went on strike to push for an eight-hour working day.

That’s right. The Australian proletariat is directly responsible for us having to work from eight to five with one pathetic hour for lunch. What were they thinking? If they had started out high with a five-hour day, they could have settled for six and the world would be a better place today. As if it wasn’t enough that they gave us Port Jacksons, Kylie Minogue and a cavalier attitude towards women.

New information has just come to light. The Australians might not, after all, be to blame. But you won’t catch me apologising. Not now, not ever.

It seems to be the Pommies, rather than the commies or the Aussies, who caused all the trouble. More accurately, one Pommy in particular. His name was Robert Owen, a heavy-handed, dogmatic authoritarian who was alternately revered and cursed as the father of English socialism – an ideal that today can be found torn and bleeding and gasping its last in a gutter off Brick Lane in the east end of London.

It was in 1810 that Comrade Owen unilaterally instituted a 10-hour day at his sweatshop in New Lanark, and proceeded to demand the same for workers throughout England. The government, much like the unemployed of the time, thought he was mad. It took seven years and a very high staff turnover for Cde Owen to realise his mistake. It was on a Saturday night, after a hit of particularly good opium, that the cranky old socialist came up with the slogan: “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

The idea looked good on paper, but, as we have all discovered at one time or another, eight hours of recreation quickly turns into twelve. Factor in hot monkey sex followed by gnarly rush hour traffic and you are left with maybe three hours of rest. Which means that maybe one out of the eight hours of labour will be productive.

The British government, careful as always not to be seen to be caving in to pressure from a socialist, implemented Owen’s original demand 37 years after he made it. With a rider, of course. Only women and children would benefit from the new 10-hour day. Men would continue working until they dropped. And they still are. Well, maybe not since the dole made it possible to acquire a heroin habit, a Mohawk, a full body tattoo and still earn the same as an entry-level astronaut.

That was then, before Britain became an American colony. Before America realised the danger of setting aside one day of the year for the bourgeoisie to rally around. They already had Thanksgiving Day, a day devoted to the Pilgrims who all took a long shower after breaking in Pocahontas down at the river, thereby ensuring a solid defence if any Puritan had to be accused of spreading dread diseases throughout the New World.

The children of the Mayflower generation should be made to crawl on their hands and knees across shards of glass every Thanksgiving Day, instead of ramming turkey and bourbon flavoured yams down their ungrateful white throats.

Since the Bolsheviks and other grubby Eastern Europeans had hijacked May 1st, the Americans decided that they would mark Labour Day in September. Successive right-wing administrations have succeeded in turning the day into a drunken orgy in which everyone celebrates the last day of summer and nobody mentions the working class.

Even the Catholic Church co-opted May Day, announcing in 1955 that May 1st would henceforth be known as the day of Saint Joseph the Worker. This did little to stop virile pagans from committing random acts of degeneracy in the name of the great unwashed. Besides, anarchists and other smelly radicals of their ilk know Joseph more as a man who made his wife pregnant and then claimed afterwards that he hadn’t laid a finger on her. An immaculate deception, indeed.

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