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…

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?”

Gaslighting (jfc)

I just learned about a concept of abuse I had never hear of before – Gaslighting.

And fknell if you’re not richly grounded in the soil of your own truth and innate goodness, it is terribly easy to lose your roots and be toppled.

Gaslighting is to manipulate someone psychologically so that they doubt their sanity. It is emotional abuse where the victim is manipulated to doubt their own memory and perceptions. It happens when one person tries to overwrite another’s reality. Perception and view of self get undermined by little and big insinuations and comments such as ‘oh you couldn’t do that, you’re not organised enough’, and ‘you’re far too emotional and sensitive’. Words from a partner can seem harmless, but gaslighting is more insidious than that. It is designed to disempower, so the other person can take control and even make themselves feel better by having power over the other.

The truly destructive thing about gaslighting is that it nibbles away at your self-worth, your belief in yourself, your talents.

The worst kind of gaslighting is “spiritual” gaslighting, where the admonishments to one’s personality get couched in personal growth speak:

‘I’m telling you this because I care about you and if you become aware of how you’re acting and what you’re really like, you’ll be able to transform yourself and truly grow.’

Oh what the hell really, relationships are just so hardcore these days o_O  and I consider it absolutely possible that this happens frequently in relationships, without the proponents even really fully noticing, or the acts being deliberately harmful or meant to be suppressive, but instead are a haphazardous expression of bad habits adopted from chauvinistic role models at home as a child…

Good news is, there seems a way out of this Teufelskreis:

Develop an indestructible sense of self, based in deep value and love. When you become your own best friend, cheering yourself on, and believing in your innate goodness, you will be far less easily manipulated and knocked off your course. Step-up to greater self-responsibility and power.

  • Develop a strong sense of yourself.
  • Believe your own intuition.
  • Spend time alone and get to know yourself.
  • Create your own life and live from what is real for you.
  • Be immovable in your self-love and self-connection.
  • Don’t put others on a pedestal.
  • Listen to your heart wisdom and your intuitive nudges. Trust yourself no matter what.
  • Have a strong connection with something higher than yourself.
  • Develop a mindful internal barometer – stop and check-in before taking on board someone else’s opinion of you or of life.

 

Read more on that topic here: upliftconnect.com/gaslighted

Hello newer year

Let’s start this year with a delightful publication to set the scene for 2018:
On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit
by Gordon Pennycook, Jonathan A. Fugelsang et al in ‘Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563’

Abstract
Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its (critical or ingenuous) reception has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

I’m doing alright

End of year situations tend to make one reflect… so this morning I sat with my coffee and spent some time pondering over the past year, and came to the conclusion that, all in all, I am living my best life. I am doing alright. I was helpful to people, and tried not to hurt anyone. I looked after myself and others. I am able to forgive myself, and hold no grudges against anyone.

I am doing alright. Thanks world.

The Inner Life of Rebellion

My favourite podcast, a guaranteed pick-me up at all times:

PARKER PALMER + COURTNEY MARTIN

The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. Quaker wise man Parker Palmer and journalist and entrepreneur Courtney Martin come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.

Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin — The Inner Life of Rebellion

Senses

I think, while social media is all nice and good, it has the potential to lure you into a false sense of connectedness. On the most basic human level, social interaction is much more than exchanging information, words. It is a person’s body language, their presence, that nourishes the soul. You can’t get that through a screen. But as you wilt away, starving yourself from that oldest of human needs, you don’t know why you get sick… you only know that something’s not right… and if you’re a sucker for that, you will most likely blame yourself for being unwell, for not performing.

Boom.

Power by resource – Might makes Right

Our current, prevalent, archaic and unfortunate mindset of “might makes right” is at the crux of all the hypocrisy and global tragedy that we’re confronted with in our modern times. The idea associated with the phrase “might makes right” connotes that a society’s view of right and wrong is determined, like its perspective on history, by those currently in power. The term is used in the descriptive, rather than prescriptive way, in the same sense that people say that “History is written by the victors”. Because every person labels what they think is good for themselves as right, only those who are able to defeat their enemies can push their idea of what is right into fruition.

‘Kratocracy’ describes a government by those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning. In terms of morality, those who are the strongest will rule others and have the power to determine right and wrong. By this definition, the phrase “might makes right” manifests itself in a normative sense. This meaning is often used to define a proscriptive moral code for society to follow, as well as while discussing social Darwinism and Weberian themes of the authority of the state (e.g. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft) in critical assessments of expressions of power.
More on Might makes right on Wikipedia

Related: Moral nihilism and the Plunder of Natural Resources.

Watch: Leif Wenar, Chair of Philosophy and Law at the School of Law, King’s College London https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLbFx2t5ZbA

About subliminal propensities

Life is more interesting when it’s led by the heart. It promises more drama, more bloodshed, more banter. Life led by logic and reason on the other hand already sounds boring and uneventful only by the very composition.

So here we are, pathetically drawn to drama and sensationalism, even though we’re way past a point where we could still afford this lifestyle. And yet we don’t stop.

(in other news, and completely unrelated, a thought just manifesting as I type: public transport, in complete silence, is like group meditation… this silent train carriage is blessed with mindfulness)

Back to our problem of frantic avoidance of the unbearable risk of boredom. Just think the unthinkable – imagine there was no sensational news, just reoccurring bau, business as usual. Where people stick to plans, businesses keep their promises, governments improve on procedures and outcomes. Just imagine a world like that.

Where is the crossing on the road of life where we have to turn to get there? Where??

Das permanente Appellieren der Medien an die niedrigsten Instinkte, the permanent focus of the media on the lowest of instincts, that is what makes this world so sad, so bad, and mad. It’s like Goethe’s Zauberlehrling und die Geister die ich rief…

 

 

Twitter

This month it’s been 5 years that I was on Twitter. Twitter is the only social platform I frequent; I find it already hard to keep one running while still meeting actual real people in the other actual real life.

People spend a lot of time looking at their phones. Even the word phone has entirely morphed from one thing to something completely different now.

I digress.

I’m taking a break from Twitter. And it feels kinda odd. While I’ve already got more done in just one day than I probably would’ve in three, I miss the voices and the laughter. (no I’m not hearing voices)  I was never one for herd mentality. Twitter lets you forget that not all is good only because the loudest says so. The integrity of a writer is not manifested in the amount of followers they have.  In this short-attention-span world of ours, every single bit of critical thinking is important for sanity and goodness to prevail (hopefully, after all, fingers crossed), so don’t let anyone shout you out.

Anyway, end of rant. Nothing really matters. As you were.

Also, today turned out bearable after all.