May Day: An Anachronistic Holiday by Elio D’Anna


Work has changed its skin. The digital revolution and the experimentation with the introduction of robots and artificial intelligence has placed the “blue collars” and the working class among the endangered species. In 2050 half of the world’s professions will be replaced by machines. It’ is time to rethink the meaning of a celebration that has its roots in 19th century and that conceives work as a Biblical condemnation, an ancestral human curse.

Work has changed its skin

“Eight hours of work, eight of recreation, eight of sleep”, the battle of the trade unions until the early twentieth century and the workers’ movement are revived on May Day like the echo of a long-finished age.

‘Rational’, provincial capitalism, with nineteenth-century roots, that dominated the economy for over 200 years is declining, giving way to a new ethical, intuitive and emotional capitalism. Production scenes with images of warehouses and armies of workers in blue overalls, now belong to industrial archaeology. The new industries are called Metropolitan Museum, with six million visitors a year, Google, Facebook, Universal Studios and Walt Disney.

Today most the working population are freelancers and the self-employed and the number of entrepreneurs is growing steadily worldwide making it one of the most important components of the modern world of work. Family businesses allow young people to take the place of their parents, to take over the helm of the family business, but when it comes to work, like a conditioned psychological reflex, the collective educated by the media only thinks in terms of employment, continually implying and referring to dependent employment as the job par excellence.

We talk about unemployment, the need to create jobs but without being able to see the wealth of the opportunities that constantly arise in all the emerging sectors of the economy, in the youth start-ups and in self-employment.

You cannot just latch on to the wealth of others, you must produce it.

The end of the white-collar age

The number of jobs available is steadily dwindling throughout the world and the opportunity to find paid employment, especially for the younger generation, seems increasingly remote. The fear that shadows the extinction of a humiliated humanity, chained to the gears and rhythm of the assembly line, has not yet allowed us to reflect on the true meaning of this phenomenon that indicates the end of an era. Above all schools and universities continue to ignore the changes produced by globalization and the digital revolution.

The white-collar age that has dominated the life of industrial and Western democracies for two decades is over and with it the myth of “permanent job” or the expectation of being able to depend on a job for life.

Hiding the conceptual and moral exhaustion of this holiday that is repeats itself, means to be blind to a profoundly-changed world scenario.

May Day as a powerful moment of protest has become the symbolic date of a dying world, where work is hard and where insurmountable fences divide it from free time.

A new form of slavery was born two centuries ago that began to consider time as a commodity. It has permitted the creation of large enterprises and the need for an army of millions of “dependent” workers, labourers or employees, willing to sell their own time at a fixed price, by the hour or month. A new species willing to accept the humiliating position of being chosen and bought in a labour market, like farm animals.

To fulfil the needs of a myriad of organizations, millions of men and women, through the prison schools, are educated from childhood, trained as fakirs, to endure the humiliation and the painfulness of being dependent without even telling them so. Generation after generation, through genetic and cultural processes, there have been somatic changes and behaviours similar to those that can be observed frequently when training an animal or in farm animals: muscle relaxation, fat, sagging, flabby stomachs and the shortening of the skull base and limbs.

On 21 March 2002, at the “Jobs at the beginning of the third millennium” conference organised by the Public and Private Employment Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, the European School of Economics affirmed the natural and inalienable right of a man to choose their own job and do only what he loves, referring mainly to young people’s intellect.

Writing on constitutional provisions that the Italian Republic is founded on work is not enough; this work must also be freely chosen. Or we might as well say that our society is founded on slavery, for such is the condition of those who do something that they do not love, of those who work for a living. This is the dividing line, the thin watershed that distinguishes a free man from a slave. Whoever has a job that they do not love cannot be free, never mind happy. It is time that in a civilized society work transitions from hard work to ‘dream work’.

Universities: Unemployment factories

The state claims the right to work and manages universities that are true unemployment factories. Six years behind the European average, with the prospect of trying to be chosen and maybe finding a job that is in no way relevant to their academic curriculum, is below the dignity of men and women. A young person must love their work; no one should be put in the position of having to accept a job for a living.

To exercise this right, you must prepare yourself, leave provincialism behind you, broaden your vision and we need schools of freedom, schools of being, dedicated to the individual and capable of eliminating prejudices and second-hand ideas, false sentiments, imaginary fears and able to eradicate conflicts, poverty and limitations. We need universities that bring to the fore the uniqueness of each young person and affirm their right to dream and to fulfill their dreams.

Experience of managerial work in large companies throughout the world, travelling, living in other countries and learning languages well and not stuttering are all necessary. You have to graduate young and have all the theoretical and practical skills to be immediately operational. Above all you need to know yourself, know what your talents and inclinations are, love the ‘dream’ and believe it. Universities should be a system of vital ideas and at the same time a concrete bridge between school and your profession. A European degree, after three years of intense study and work, recognized in all EU countries and in the world, is the passport of ESE students for instant access to new professions and it indicates the way so that one day everyone can concretely exercise their right to choose and love their job.

Elio D’Anna
President and Founder of the European School of Economics 


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