"I was discovering what three-quarters of the blokes who’d been officers were discovering — that from a financial point of view we’d been better off in the Army than we were ever likely to be again. We’d suddenly changed from gentlemen holding His Majesty’s commission into miserable out-of-works whom nobody wanted. My ideas soon sank from two thousand a year to three or four pounds a week. But even jobs of the three or four pounds a week kind didn’t seem to exist. Every mortal job was filled already, either by men who’d been a few years too old to fight, or by boys who’d been a few months too young. The poor bastards who’d happened to be born between 1890 and 1900 were left out in the cold.
But there were no jobs for travelling salesmen — that’s to say, jobs with a salary attached. What there were, however, were on- commission jobs. That racket was just beginning on a big, scale. It’s a beautifully simple method of increasing your sales and advertising your stuff without taking any risks, and it always flourishes when times are bad. They keep you on a string by hinting that perhaps there’ll be a salaried job going in three months’ time, and when you get fed up there’s always some other poor devil ready to take over.
Selling things on commission is actually what I like doing, provided I can see my way to making a bit of dough out of it. I don’t know whether I learned much in that year, but I unlearned a good deal. It knocked the Army nonsense out of me, and it drove into the back of my head the notions that I’d picked up during the idle year when I was reading novels. I don’t think I read a single book, barring detective stories, all the time I was on the road. I wasn’t a highbrow any longer. I was down among the realities of modern life. And what are the realities of modern life? Well, the chief one is an everlasting, frantic struggle to sell things. With most people it takes the form of selling themselves — that’s to say, getting a job and keeping it. I suppose there hasn’t been a single month since the war, in any trade you care to name, in which there weren’t more men than jobs. It’s brought a peculiar, ghastly feeling into life. It’s like on a sinking ship when there are nineteen survivors and fourteen lifebelts. But is there anything particularly modern in that, you say? Has it anything to do with the war? Well, it feels as if it had. That feeling that you’ve got to be everlastingly fighting and hustling, that you’ll never get anything unless you grab it from somebody else, that there’s always somebody after your job, the next month or the month after they’ll be reducing staff and it’s you that’ll get the bird — THAT, I swear, didn’t exist in the old life before the war."
George Orwell, Coming Up for Air (1939)