You are thinking again of the M.D. Of his softness. The great apparatus around him – the suite of rooms, personal assistants – and then: his softness. Rather like that of the Martians in The War of the Worlds who are soft inside the metal carapaces in which they stalk the Earth. Only the M.D.'s softness is benign; in place of the mask, there is only a kind of feebleness (the soft face of the creature from the Predator; the puffy Darth Vader beneath his mask). You say to yourself: but he is just like me. Only he is not like you. And as he looks at you does he think, too: he is just like me. Or: he is just like my son. Or: we are all like one another.
I am reading Gramsci in my lunch hour. And I note to myself the miraculous smoothness. World that functions without the strictures of external authority. The great functioning of the industrial estate, of the interactions of this or that company, and then the relationships which spread over out brave new world, in which company trainees come to us from Delhi or from Prague. In which a foreign name arouses no curiosity. In which everyone speaks perfect English.
Smoothness: it moves of itself; its mechanisms do not simply traverse us, we are those mechanisms – its robot arms, its mechanical pseudopodia. But what happens when we are denied a firm place in the industrial estate? When you only have the position of a temp? Your light step: you are barely there. Only you are there – you are not yet a proper worker – but you are hardly there. You have always usurped someone else’s place – replacing a worker on maternity leave, for example, or providing phone cover when staff are on holiday. You role is to disappear into the role of others. To do so with a minimum of fuss and training. To be unobtrusive.
'Is Helen there?' - 'She's away on maternity leave.' - 'Can I speak to Mark instead?' - 'He's on a company trip to Blackpool. Can I help you at all?' - 'Who are you?' - 'I'm temping here. Can I pass on a message?' - 'No, it's okay.'
You are an usurper. But what you are is also usurped; your existence is borrowed; you are a temporary fix, an item from a repair kit. You are not to obtrude; you are there but you are not there, a ghost. But this is what reveals itself in the temporary worker: identity itself is phantasmic; the working of the great benign system depends upon an identification of worker and role. This is how hegemony works: you become your job; you pass through a training scheme, and there you are. You say to yourself: I am a management trainee. And you say: this is just what I deserve. The world has opened to you and let you in.