rational detached acquisitive utilitarian
March 12, 2010, 1:22 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Is there exclusive virtue in doing or should we also plan?  People don’t like planners, and heap praises on doers.  She’s a hard worker, they say.  He doesn’t do anything they claim of managers and administrators.

At my last job this system of belief was ritualized and absurd.  People who were unclear but could produce mountains of unclarity in hours that seamlessly flowed into days and nights and weekend days and weekend nights, were demigods in the system.  People like me, who thought there should be a guiding principle, were tolerated but mostly ignored.  This state is epidemic in the places I have worked.

I am reminded of ants when I see people merely working.  Only they achieve less.  The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes moving toward the grand fallacy, says Marshall McLuhan.   There’s always a grand fallacy, in my experience, and if you bring it up people look at you like you’re from mars.  How dare you disrupt our lunatic preoccupation?

What about life, should we make a plan for that?  Or should we forget about the big picture, shun those who would help us see the grand narratives and merely … work?  There could be a better way, if we would just stop and think about it, and maybe make some goals that are a little more thoughtful than putting in 50 hours 52 weeks a year, shunning thought and planning, and striking out on our own, and shopping.

In the quotation below, Rifkin suggests naming what we want — companionship, affection, belonging — identifying these qualities as meaningful and fulfilling, and making goals that help us to achieve them.  Damnation!  You mean my life can be about more than my isolated and narcissistic state and the freedom to work and then shop?

Freedom in the nation state era has been closely associated with the ability to control one’s labor and secure one’s property, because that is the way to optimize pleasure and be happy. The classical economists argued that every individual is free to the extent he or she can pursue their individual self- interest in the material world. Freedom, in the rational mode, is the freedom to be autonomous and independent and to be an island to one’s self. To be free is to be rational, detached, acquisitive, and utilitarian. The role of government, in turn, is to safeguard private property relations and allow market forces to operate, unfettered by political constraints. The conventional American dream is personal opportunity to succeed in the marketplace.

The empathic approach to freedom in the emerging Biosphere Age is based on a different premise. Freedom means being able to optimize the full potential of one’s life, and the fulfilled life is one of companionship, affection, and belonging, made possible by ever deeper and more meaningful personal experiences and relationships with others–across neighborhoods, continents and the world. One is free, then, to the extent that one has been nurtured and raised in a global society that allows for empathetic opportunities at every level of human discourse. The new dream is the quality of life of humanity.

–Empathic Civilization:  Why Have We Become so Uncivil? Jeremy Rifkin

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