DANIELA ACOSTA, Journalist, graduated from the University of Chile. In 2010, she published the online version of the book of poems La otra velocidad by La Calle Passy 061 (http://lacallepassy061ediciones.blogspot.com/2010/12/la-otra-velocidad-de-daniela-acosta.html), and in 2011 her short story Resbalín was included in the Anthology Voces -30. She is a member of the editorial board of Rufián magazine (http://rufianrevista.org/) and she is a co-founder of the website [SIC] Poesía Chilena del Siglo XX ([SIC] Chilean Poetry from the 20th Century) (http://www.sicpoesiachilena.cl). She lives in Santiago, Chile.
I was looking for a job and then I found a job
And Heaven knows, I'm miserable now
- The Smiths
I have worked handing out flyers and as a waitress. I have worked in a kiosk. I sold lottery tickets in the public transportation (when I was a kid). I worked as a journalist for a newspaper and some magazines. I’ve babysat. I was a teacher, I worked as a teaching assistant, in a call center, in a publishing house, in a cultural center (where I met the woman I’d like to work with forever). I’ve worked as a proofreader in a consulting firm full of ignorant social climbers (the worst by far, so far). I’ve worked as a secretary, as an editor, in a boutique, and as a photographer’s assistant, in independent cultural management, and as a freelance clerk.
It’s good to have a job. It’s OK. It’s seems to me that it's good that one should contribute to society by doing something beyond personal creativity. I think it's necessary to build community, to belong to society with what you have created, or worked in, in different areas, which is also part of the creative process; let’s say, the artistic creative process. We are not special birds that can’t work, or shouldn’t work, like the rest. I’m talking here of working conditions as an individual that belongs to society, not as a “creative” person. And I do it like any other worker to whom the system prevents from having a life after spending hours dedicated to production.
In Chile, the production system that ties us up to one place for 45 hours on a weekly basis (if we’re “lucky” enough to have a job) leaves us little to no time at all to create, and by that I don’t mean just to write. It doesn’t leave time for leisure either, time to share with family and friends, or to the enjoyment or comfort that everyone deserves. Life, finally. In Chile, work is just a link in the chain of production, and not a space for creation, development, or comradeship.
In this obscenely unequal country, 50% of the workers make less than 251 thousand Chilean pesos a month (that’s like 5 thousand dollars a year) and are heavily indebted. Workdays are neverending, and at least in Santiago where I live, the distances are long and many people must go to the other side of the city to get to work, using a lousy and expensive public transportation system, wasting a couple of hours of their time. On the other hand, the social atomization leads to the majority of the workers very little to share. If there isn’t a union at the place you work – something that’s very common in Chile, a country that has a lot of anti-union laws and policies– it's also very difficult to participate in any other social organization. That’s why we must fight. And it’s possible. There are many social and community organizations already working, but we still need to get our society out of the existing modes of individualism, elitism and consumerism.
As I work in an office without making great physical efforts, above all the schedule is the thing that kills me. Like the vast majority of the workers in Chile, I barely have enough time to rest. Hence, wanting to write won't work very well if you don’t have discipline. In fact, I don’t write much. Sometimes I get really excited about certain things, certain images or situations, and I write them down in my notebook. Sometimes I keep thinking about the structure of a story, or a certain character that needs more development, and well, I start writing. Slowly, faster, in paragraphs or by lines, the labor issue occupies a large part of the little writing I’m doing these days.
We just have to steal time on our job (the one that pays the rent) to use it for creative work, to fight, to be able to rethink work as a space for construction, creation, and community.
Translated by Carlos Soto-Román