Dave’s view on work – or not to

8 Sep 2020 – David Gräber: ‘To save the world, we’re going to have to stop working’

Writing as part of Jarvis Cocker’s Big Issue takeover before his untimely death in August 2020, David Gräber explains his confusion about why we’d destroy the planet if we don’t have to

“Our society is addicted to work. If there’s anything left and right both seem to agree on, it’s that jobs are good. Everyone should have a job. Work is our badge of moral citizenship. We seem to have convinced ourselves as a society that anyone who isn’t working harder than they would like to be working, at something they don’t enjoy, is a bad, unworthy person. As a result, work comes to absorb ever greater proportions of our energy and time.

Much of this work is entirely pointless. Whole industries (think telemarketers, corporate law, private equity) whole lines of work (middle management, brand strategists, high-level hospital or school administrators, editors of in-house corporate magazines) exist primarily to convince us there is some reason for their existence. Useless work crowds out useful (think of teachers and administrators overwhelmed with paperwork); it’s also almost invariably better compensated. As we’ve seen in lockdown, the more obviously your work benefits other people, the less they pay you.

The system makes no sense. It’s also destroying the planet. If we don’t break ourselves of this addiction quickly we will leave our children and grandchildren to face catastrophes on a scale which will make the current pandemic seem trivial.

If this isn’t obvious, the main reason is we’re constantly encouraged to look at social problems as if they were questions of personal morality. All this work, all the carbon we’re pouring into the atmosphere, must somehow be the result of our consumerism; therefore to stop eating meat or dream of flying off to beach vacations. But this is just wrong. It’s not our pleasures that are destroying the world. It’s our puritanism, our feeling that we have to suffer in order to deserve those pleasures. If we want to save the world, we’re going to have to stop working.

Seventy per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide comes from infrastructure: energy, transport, construction. Most of the rest is produced by industry. Meanwhile 37 per cent of British workers feel if their jobs are entirely unnecessary; if they were to vanish tomorrow, the world would not be any the worse off. Simply do the maths. If those workers are right, we could massively reduce climate change just by eliminating bullshit jobs.

So that’s proposal one.

Proposal two: batshit construction. An enormous amount of building today is purely speculative: all over the world, governments collude with the financial sector to create glittering towers that are never occupied, empty office buildings, airports that are never used. Stop doing this. No one will miss them.

If we don’t break ourselves of this addiction quickly we will leave our children and grandchildren to face catastrophes on a scale which will make the current pandemic seem trivial.

Proposal three: planned obsolescence. One of the main reasons we have such high levels of industrial production is that we design everything to break, or to become outmoded and useless in a few years’ time. If you build an iPhone to break in three years you can sell five times as many than if you make it to last 15, but you also use five times the resources, and create five times the pollution. Manufacturers are perfectly capable of making phones (or stockings, or light bulbs) that wouldn’t break; in fact, they actually do – they’re called ‘military grade’. Force them to make military-grade products for everyone. We could cut down greenhouse gas production massively and improve our quality of life.

These three are just for starters. If you think about it, they’re really just common sense. Why destroy the world if you don’t have to?

If addressing them seems unrealistic, we might do well to think hard about what those realities are that seem to be forcing us, as a society, to behave in ways that are literally mad.”

Bullshit Jobs: The Rise of Pointless Work, and What We Can Do About It by David Gräber is out now (Penguin, £9.99)

the control group bet

Looking at how people behave around me, it feels like everyone is currently choosing their own control group – sick/non(never)sick, vacced/nonvacced, mingeling/nonmingeling, masked/nonmasked…
as no one can know what the future will reveal about all this, so everyone is making their own bet… risking (re-)infection over isolation(-in|sanity), risking long-term-impact over short term pleasure, choosing blissful or hapless ignorance over trying to navigate the flood of information coming in and changing every day…

I’m in the isolationist/vacced/nonsick/nonmingeling/masked control group… if that keeps me healthy but turns me into an irreparably anxious catweasel hermit, only time will tell… but if I can stay clear from this spread for another while longer I’m gladly following my introvert instincts and stay back…

why the leadership team at work is still calling in the crowds to (voluntarily) join large indoor events is unclear to me, but I guess this is one way to find out which control group will do better… but looking at past events and outcomes it seems that showing up no matter what improves your career, whereas more considerate steps aiming at prevention are a clear show stopper of your career…

so you can stay healthy or rise up the corporate ladder… if you are really lucky you can do both, but it involves more risk taking than I am prepared to accept… so here we are, and I am watching on from the sidelines, and keep comparing the groups… but whichever way this pans out, I have already had my share of sickness, disease and long-term impact in life, I am not keen on adding to that, even if it means I will earn less or have a less fancy title.

to be continued…

Subtle rot

This is an excellent write up on what bothers me the most – the societal rot we’re experiencing is true the world over, and it makes me angry and sad that this could just happen, haphazardly and without any consequences other than the turmoil it created…

The American Variant of Democracy Is Contaminating My Home

The Trump effect has helped make Australia’s democracy more untruthful, cynical, angrily partisan, culturally charged, and politicized.

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/australia-election-donald-trump/629798 • by Nick Bryant

what is culture’s job?

I had the below proposition sent to me. I then went on Twitter to ask whether that statement is actually correct. The responses were puzzling, expected and surprising at the same time.

So I put it out to you then – what *is* culture’s job?

And – if it is *not* to find what unites us – why do we keep referencing it all the time?

You tell me…

be kind, and brave

This week my old boss left the organisation.

When asked what his advice would be to young starters who just joined the org, his answer was:

“Be nice to people, and walk towards the gunfire.”

I am still thinking about this. Not because I am not nice to people, on the contrary, but because I know I am consciously staying away from where the rub is, hiding behind my work, my job, my duties.

Being an “environmentalist”* in Australia makes you fair game in the eyes of many. When I came out here twenty years ago, I soon spiralled into depression and withdrawal because I could no longer speak my mind, as I would get shouted down. (*and the feeling of being a guest on this country kept me from fighting back.)

But now, two decades on, it is probably time to crawl out of that hole and find the smoke stack I need to chain myself on to…

I’ll come back to this one…


(*I should probs add here that back then I did not even know I am one… talking about nature, recycling or saving water was just a normal thing where I came from… but here it was met with deep suspicion and quite advanced closed-mindedness, was told that I am ‘one of them‘, that I want to take away people’s lives or standards and that I’m woke and not realistic and other bullshit…)

ecology > grief

Recently I got caught up in a commentary to a tweet of mine where I expressed concerns over people leaving stuff behind in National Parks, like the locks people put on railings. The argument put forward was that people do that because they grieve, and then they can’t think of someone else’s concerns, and also if something is man-made anyone can attach something to it.

I disagreed, saying by that definition anyone can put anything anywhere at any time. The discussion stopped, days later I found myself blocked by that account.

While it is unpleasant to be excluded by someone at random, I still stand by my conviction that if we don’t take the care for our surroundings more serious at all times, none of the protection that we’re hoping to give to our natural world will work.

So does grief out-rule ecology? No, it does not.

Instead it could be used for its safeguard, not against it. One way to connect loss to a memorable element in nature is to plant a tree, or donate towards upgrading the National Park that was visited. There are plenty of ways to create a memory that is in sync with the aim of protecting our natural environment.

Loveliveson.com/memorial-trees-australia
Plantatreeforme.org.au

Digital ethics

Digital ethics, safeguarding user and data dignity, is the very practice we don’t have enough of, the very concept that isn’t applied enough, the very standard that isn’t adhered to but instead sold out on.

Software and web development used to be a neutral space, but now it is where all the responsibilities lie. Grow up nerds, and look your own realities in the b/eye/te.

Whatever you collect and whatever you publish is also *your* responsibility.

Related: Neveragain.tech – The Tech Pledge

Read more about design that exploits natural cognitive bias and other inclination that sits with UI & UX in this formidable mastery blog…

and more on design ethics: “The Social Dilemma reveals the dark side of persuasive design. So-called dark patterns run rife through social media apps; the previously-mentioned chat bubbles and the ‘pull to refresh feature’ (mirroring a slot machine) are just 2 examples.

be a lady they said

My mate

The mate I live with for the past 20 odd years is of Aboriginal appearance. Or so it seems, according to the many times he was stopped on the streets by police or similar agencies when we lived in Kings Cross and that area.

The even more mind-boggling part to that story is though that, whenever I appeared in the picture (blond white female) (eg. me coming out of a shop where he was waiting outside, or he parked waiting for me, etc.) they would instantly let go of him. Or, and just as instantly, when he opened his mouth and started talking, with his uncanny European accent, being German born yet descendant of a mix of European cultures.

What that taught us early on, when coming to Australia to live here, is how fucked you are when your skin is not as bright shiny white as my cancer ridden freckled shell is…

We have since tried our best to support all Indigenous projects and initiatives we could get involved with. And frankly so should you too, and everyone. There’s just no other way than unconditional support to close this unbelievable societal gap that is so tangible and somehow latently accepted everywhere in Australia.

The time of the Great Derangement

A sobering yet splendid write up of the current state of affairs
Meanjin.com.au/essays/unearthed by @cityoftongues

We buy cheap clothes without letting ourselves think too much about the manner of their production, eat meat without thinking too much about where it comes from, catch planes without thinking too hard about the impact of them, or of the materials that went into building the plane, or the road, or of making the power that runs the lights. For those of us in the first world, any reckoning with these questions is likely to be particularly painful, demanding we learn to see the invisible legacies and ongoing trauma of colonialism and exploitation, dispossession and destruction that surround and enmesh us. Seen like this our resistance looks less like moral cupidity or wickedness than self-preservation. As T.S. Eliot recognised almost a century ago, there is only so much reality most of us can bear.

As a result we inhabit a weird duality, a world in which we know but do not know, and where these mechanisms of evasion and denial allow us to avoid staring into the eye of what is coming.

Five million Syrian refugees deranged Europe, a fraction of that has dramatically affected the dynamic of Australian society. What happens when tens of millions head north and south from Indonesia and equatorial or sub-Saharan Africa? When Central America or parts of India become uninhabitable? When Bangladesh and Myanmar flood? What happens when that occurs at the same time food grows scarce, water resources dry up and economic activity contracts to less than nothing as global commerce collapses? 

When sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities such as Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what can they do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight?”