Feb 042014
Uruguay's president José Mujica, a former guerrilla, at the farm he prefers to presidential palace

From Prognostication for 1533: “I do warn you one thing, however, if you fail to believe it all, you are doing me a bad turn for which you will be grievously punished. So now, my little lads, wipe your noses, adjust your glasses and weigh well these words…”
“…old age will prove incurable this year.”
(from Chapter 3)

How vulnerable ageing apples look. Those that were picked in time and not left to rot on the ground that is. Laid on wooden racks in a cool outhouse their skins have become wrinkled and dark blemishes have appeared. Some have begun to brown near their stalks. Their heads and tails are going soft.

The argument over the colour green which Piet Mondrian set off probably continued among other artists of the mid twentieth century. For and against. Was it an artistic argument over representation and abstraction? Or between the play of shadow and the light?

The ageing apples are squishy, soft and vulnerable. More or less like us. However, their sweetness remains. Indeed it has increased with maturity. They have lost their crispness and firmness, and some have begun to fur. But no loss of taste.

The argument about insecurity also continues. Does vulnerability equal insecurity? And are both equally good for us in fact as we age? Beneficial to the older life well lived. When it comes to the growing insecurity of people in work, there is a strong case to be made against. Check out Guy Standing, The Precariat: the New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, London.

The evidence of an emerging class is that with every recession since the 1970′s, lengthy episodes of high unemployment, privitisations and public sector cutbacks have served to weaken the position of labour. Flexibility is the neo-liberal word to mask a programme of increasing insecurity: working people have to learn to be more flexible. It is like some queer yoga. Standing’s book argues the effects among what he calls the new Precariat Class are “four A’s: anger, anomie, anxiety and alienation”.

Precarious. From the Latin precari: to beg, pray, entreat – be unstable, exposed to danger, with uncertain tenure. Insecure. Does that mean the same as being vulnerable?

I am no visual artist and, like the argument over the colour green, I’ve not lifted a paint brush to read the actual book. I’ve only gleaned these thoughts from the Jan Breman review in the latest NLR . Jan argues that the Precariat Class is a phony idea, and there is a far bigger perspective than the Anglo/Euro-phone speaking developed world: ‘according to the 2013 Global Employment Report on “vulnerable employment”, only 3% (some 47 million out of a world total of 1,539 million) are to be found in the developed countries, including the US and EU, compared to 247 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 405 million in East Asia, and 490 million in South Asia’.

In other words, there are many different ways to experience insecurity (and many paths of insecurity’s historical development). As when one of the little lads pipes up in the orchard and says, please but ivy is as good as any old apple tree. Category errors like these between vulnerability and insecurity play havoc with the bees. Total hive collapse can result.

As in human society for bees and for apples there are many kinds of insecurity. Ageing fruit will all become equally wrinkled and vulnerable to decay. How about saying that vulnerability and insecurity are two different kinds of seeing green?

Or asked another way what kind of apple would you prefer to have as your head of state? My answer is to be found above in the picture of Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay, in his dressing gown. He has reached 78 years old, and he has got his ageing teeth into an apple. His apple is my choice to be President of Ukania.

A Prognostication for 2014: “Insecurity will prove incurable this year”. Here is a story of an ageing man who lives in increasing vulnerability, and spends all his waking hours and energies getting his teeth into opposing insecurity. If you fail to believe me you will be grievously punished.