Was ist die gleis fur Schoenefeld Flughafen? And other thoughts from Berlin.

The cynical part of me, influenced by my working experiences, the writings of Bakhtin and Habermas, and from hearing second hand accounts of politics gurus like Marcuse, would like to suggest holidays were created at exactly the same point that nine-to-five jobs came into existence.

Here’s how it seems to me. An individual works five days out of seven, catering for people’s inflated desire to buy things they don’t need. Eventually the poor repressed soul starts dreaming of work, even while they are sleeping, and they become frustrated and angry and fed up. They realise there is no space in society for them to be creative, that society doesn’t care about them in the way they thought it did when they were younger, and that the job they have is pointless and unfulfilling. They shout ‘Enough!’

…and book a week away – as if that will solve their problems.

While on this strange Western healing experience the pressure, which might otherwise have pushed them to tell their boss where to stick it, subsides and they feel okay with everything again. Unfortunately, this occurs just in time for them to arrive back in England with their savings spent, forced back into the work-sleep-work bind they opted into initially. The holiday even convinces them that they are doing the right thing by continuing in their job. They can’t snorkel and don’t like eating raw goat – so they conclude they don’t suit any alternative situation the world could possibly offer. As a consequence, time and time again you hear people come back with the phrase “Oh, it’s so good to be back home!”

This year I started my first ‘proper’ job as a PR manager in Preston. I was sceptical about the profession because ‘Public Relations’ is often just a fancy phrase substituted for its uglier brother ‘advertising’ – whereas what I really wanted to do was write. Still, I decided to try it out and work hard until Christmas, which I did.

I quickly began publishing stories on our Northwest businesses UK Good Deals, Ghostbikes and ProJump, their products and their staff. Our team did a pretty good job of keeping our customers informed, through email, in newsletters, through our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and in the Lancaster Guardian, Bolton News, Lancashire Post, British Dealer News, Bike Trader Magazine, the Guardian and on hundreds of independent websites across Europe.

During November, my second month of work, I convinced Chris to go on holiday with me. I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before. Before long we landed in Berlin, North Germany. This was a great place and something I intend to blog about in the future. It was an especially valuable experience for me because I came to realise a few truths about PR and about my working goals while in the harsh light of that cold climate and possibly under the influence of Gluhwein.

Good PR workers view their profession as one which gives the right people the right information at the right time. For example, when you wonder what to eat for tea tonight and the Guardian website has a section entitled ‘5 ideas on what to make for tea tonight’ that’s Marks and Spencers, KFC or Dominos doing ‘great PR’. However, all too often PR departments are made up of unscrupulous salesmen who argue that with the right lighting you can make shit look good and that you must always “Sell, Sell, Sell!”  So, thin fabric is ‘ideal for summer months’, fattening foods are ‘decadent’ and cheap merchandise are ‘value items’ or ‘bargains’. And because PR exists to oil the wheels of the economy, and specific businesses, there is always an element of pressure to accentuate the positive.

Fortunately, I was never asked to be dishonest or to irritate customers with intrusive advertising campaigns, but I was under intrinsic pressure to make our ecommerce company appear attractive – and so that permanent marketing shadow was never too far away.

I think Late Capitalism is also the era of the everyday Public Relations individual – where people market their own lives to themselves. They tell themselves they should put up with a repetitive job they hate for 50 years because it ‘offers training benefits’, the slight possibility of a pension and some vague idea of financial security. After a week out in the strange landscape of Berlin I decided this marketing mindset was something I couldn’t afford to establish in my life. I wanted to write and I wanted to paint and I wanted to make my art a bigger part of what I do. So instead of booking my next holiday I decided enough was enough.

…and I left my job for the New Year.

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One Response to “Was ist die gleis fur Schoenefeld Flughafen? And other thoughts from Berlin.”

  1. Alan Weston Says:

    Good for you for having the courage of your convictions Helen. Too many of us (and I’m just as gulity as the rest) settle for messy compromises in exchange for that elusive ‘security,’ which is really an illusion anyway. You’ve done the right thing and you won’t regret it! Here’s to a great new year. Alan x

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