Brothers and sisters, we, the interns, are united at last. We stand shoulder to shoulder, our poorly fitting new suits rubbing up against each other, causing static. But we don’t care, because soon the power structure will start to crumble. The end of our struggle is in sight! Across the land, photocopiers have fallen silent. Dry cleaning lies uncollected, coffee is unmade. We the unpaid and unthanked, the once-willing slaves of gallerists, publishers, model agencies, production companies, law firms, newspapers, media networks, political lobbyists, non-governmental organizations – all the thousands of companies which exploit us – will no longer accept the conditions of our subjugation. No longer will we hide from our managers in stockrooms. No longer will we lock ourselves into disabled toilets to weep our bitter lonely tears. Never again will we commit small acts of workplace sabotage or steal stationery to compensate for our feelings of worthlessness. Our refusal to work is merely the beginning. From now on, we will resist! Month by month, year by year, we’ve been forced to work for longer periods of time before we’re considered worthy of a paid job. The so-called knowledge economy rests on our free labour. Without us, how many of you, our masters, would find yourselves performing tasks you consider menial or dull? How much glamour would rub off your culturally capitalized lives if you had to update your own mailing lists, address your party invitations yourselves? Our efforts are invisible, uncounted by economists, unappreciated by society. So we put you on notice. We’re no longer content to grit our teeth and take out ever bigger bank loans, while we serve our time and wait for the chance to begin paying off our debts. We live under a mountain of debt, and you should not think we don’t understand why. It’s where you want us! Yes, we owe you. It seems we came into the world owing you. Remind us, how did that happen, exactly? Since the moment of our births, our debt has only grown. We used to be grateful. Oh, we were positively quivering with sapping, fawning, self-annihilating gratitude for our comfortable beginnings, our homes in the suburbs, all the consumer goods, the education. But not any more. Tennis racquets and maths tutors don’t compensate for a life of workplace slavery. Gratitude doesn’t count for a thing in the new world order. Only power counts, and we have none of that.
Understand this, you jowly, smug, thick-waisted, computer-illiterate fools. We don’t know if there will even be jobs in ten years time, but if there are and we’re in them – which we think is likely and probably only just and righteous given what we’ve been through – certain things are going to change. Don’t snort into your overpriced drinks, you bastards. Don’t roll your eyes at one another as you chow dolled-up junk food in your private members’ clubs. This is one call you can’t put through to your assistants. From now on, we’re going to ensure you’ll never be too busy to notice us, the ones who proof your documents and reboot your PC and buy your wife the second-largest bouquet the day after you had us phone to say you were attending a non-existent corporate dinner.
We know you don’t take us seriously. We’re pampered children. We’re your pampered children. Well, you shrug, we don’t know how lucky we are, there are many others who’d gladly swap places with us, and so on and so forth. That’s your trump card, isn’t it? Supply and demand. All the millions crawling over one another to make it up towards the light. This is why we’re calling upon our trust fund brothers and sisters – the ones who can afford to work for nothing, who keep Fiction The Interns Hari Kunzru 13 quiet about how they’re living rent-free and think we don’t notice their new shoes – to join with us in solidarity, to help us smash the system which makes it all but impossible for anyone but the children of the already-successful to gain entry to the elite. After all, you started this. Who was the first boss’s son to spend his holidays at dad’s office? Who was the first daughter to be allowed to help out on the picture desk? We say to you – reach out the hand of friendship! Put your contact lists and your credit cards at the disposal of the revolution! Join us, or be counted among the ranks of our class enemies. For too long we’ve fought to hide our envy and disgust as you talk at the water cooler about your snowboarding holidays. Join us, or get fed into the shredder of history!
Brothers and sisters, day by day we have abased ourselves further. Some of us are even paying for the opportunity to work for free. Oh, we desire our own repression, all right. We’re begging the bastards for it. Of course you, our bosses, find this funny. You have no sympathy. After all, we’re merely paying the price of admission. We pay now, so others can repay us later. You think that once we actually have the luxury of a real job, we’ll just reproduce your bloated, iniquitous system. But we say this: we will no longer live in the roles you’ve made for us. And we will never, ever become you.
In the working world of tomorrow, in the working world we create (if we bother to create one at all) there’ll be no more snide remarks or messy passes, no casual bullying, no twisting of the knife by the lowest grades, the ones who have to manage us, who work out on us the resentment generated by their own all-too-recent internships. Those poor downtrodden bastards! They’re still sucking up abuse from the layer of management above them, angling all the time to stick their snouts just a little deeper into the trough, hoping, always hoping, that one day they’ll be free of their obligations. Those poor bastards! They fell for it, the Big Lie! They still believe that one day they’ll finally buy the house and the car that will do what was promised, that will rid them of their agonizing resentment at the world, their unremitting psychic pain.
And so it goes on, the cycle of debt and credit, the cosmic pile of yearning bodies striving upwards until a lucky few are spat out at the top to discover that, even in the airless bell-jar of the corner booth and the boardroom and the VIP box with the minibar and the fabulous view, the piercing ache remains, the psychic goutiness that you, the victors, must now recognize as the true state of your souls. Now the realization dawns! You know that nothing will make you free, not any more, not ever. You know that all you’ve been doing is wrapping your chains more tightly around yourselves and, in your anger, your all-consuming anger at the way you’ve been tricked, you vow to visit hell on the working world, the cheating, unproductive, feckless world that has robbed you of your youth and your family life, your health, your ability to relax without drugs or alcohol, your capacity to feel strongly about anything that’s not a safely-summarizable banality. As you slide towards the vengeful idiocy of old age, the only action which can stimulate any kind of response in your deadened synapses is the infliction of pain, the reproduction of the whole cycle of domination which now operates for your nominal benefit. Then, what do you do? You kid yourselves it wasn’t for you at all! Everything you ever did was for the good of others. You stand simpering on the stage at your charity balls and try to squeeze that last drop of feeling out of your shrivelled hearts, that worthwhile feeling. Oh, the glory! The pomp of you modern-day pharaohs! We could never, ever, ever be like you.