coromandal


flunkies and goons

nineteen-eighty-four-220312 (With images) | Nineteen eighty four ...

As the germ ravages the land, and we stay safely in our homes, now is the time to prepare for a better future at work. Improve your skills for the post pandemic reality. Lots of useless jobs if you’re interested as David Graeber shows us in his book, and which are excerpted below.

Here are the skills – update your LinkedIn. Flunkies appease, goons oppose, duct tapers patch up, box tickers distract, and taskmasters obfuscate and abuse.

What about jobs that aren’t bullshit? Let’s take the opposite skills as a possibility: provoke, promote, resolve, clarify, and act.

The optimist sees hope for substantive change after a pandemic. Less bullshit jobs would be something to rally around.

  1. 1. flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, door attendants

  2. goons, who oppose other goons hired by other companies, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists

  3. duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing shoddy code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags don’t arrive

  4. box tickers, who use paperwork or gestures as a proxy for action, e.g., performance managers, in-house magazine journalists, leisure coordinators

  5. taskmasters, who manage—or create extra work for—those who don’t need it, e.g., middle management, leadership professionals

David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs



support not struggle
April 22, 2020, 3:24 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

The totality of life it seems, in the contemporary world, is competition and struggle: family life, education, work and career, even friendship. For the most part competition today is seen as a good thing: it keeps us on our toes, makes our work and thinking sharper, is good for the bottom line. But for many competition and struggle is less than ideal – I for one can’t see the point – and there’s lots of evidence that the positives are easily matched and often outweighed by the negatives: the unequal outcomes of the meritocratic system logically end in jealousy, fear, and despair.

We are told that competition is not only good but also ingrained in our natures. Is that true?  Below is a counter argument: humans are motivated, throughout our evolution, by love and shared connection. And in our evolution and by our affinity one for another, we don’t naturally struggle against each other, on the contrary we naturally support each other.

Man is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not merely by love […] but by the perception of his oneness with each human being. In the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle — has had the leading part.

Peter Kropotkin, 1902, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution



Comradeship and justice
April 18, 2020, 7:49 am
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saving Hieronymus Bosch from the devil

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

Our understanding of the medieval world is on the whole negative: long centuries marked by superstition, plagues, illiteracy, feudal bondage, and wars. We see it as a dark age bracketed by the relative brilliance of antiquity before and enlightenment after. The victors write history and much of what we believe about the medieval world was written in the 19th century to propagate this carefully crafted historical narrative.

The collapse of empire, the crusades, feudalism, and plagues are indeed dark, but there is a lot about the medieval world that is attractive: its mysticism, social life, art and architecture, and stories. Similarly, if we’re honest, there’s an awful lot to not recommend in the Western canon world we live in: its alienation, rationalism, instrumentalism, blind faith in humanism, reason and capital.

As an example, in the realm of work G. K. Chesterton noted that the medieval view was human and redeeming and our modern system decidedly debased:

The principal of medieval trade was admittedly comradeship and justice, while the principle of modern trade is avowedly competition and greed.

G.K. Chesterton, William Cobbett, 1926

Strange how the highly religious medieval world comes up with such modern concepts to organize the world of work: comradeship and justice; yet we, drawing on the grand rational traditions of ancient Rome and Athens, the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution, evolved a system of backwardness and superstition: competition and greed. We have high priests – robed flunkies – to flog this ignorant ideology; its influence is airtight, profound, omniscient, omnipresent. They use propagandas which are part of the air we breathe: Survival of the Fittest! Healthy Competition!

Tom Hodgkinson describes the outcome of our ‘enlightened’ dark age:

The theory is that competition leads to good quality and reasonable prices in goods. But the reality is the opposite: unfettered competition, that is, commercial war, and the endless expansion that necessarily goes with it, inevitably results in monopolies, as one giant company swallows up its failed competitors.

Tim Hodgkinson, The Freedom Manifesto, p84

That’s not enlightened. We’ve no doubt entered one of Dante’s circles, or the hellscapes of Hieronymus Bosch.

It would be unfair to not at least ruminate on the effects on life built on a commitment to comradeship and justice. As we’ve seen, there is a lot of poor scholarship that pushes a view of the desperate nature of the life of the Medieval peasant; no life at any time has been a bed of roses. But we know they held to these commitments and thereby built for themselves meaningful, faithful, and social lives. And we can too.



The rocky path
April 15, 2020, 7:45 am
Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: , , , , ,

Why Medieval Serfs Had More Vacation Time Than You Do Today ...

For the medievals labour was first a burden. It was a penance: in which God is feared.

Then it became the difficult means on a path toward freedom. It was an instrument: in which God is bargained with, and even a collaboration: in which God, in the Armenian sense, is a coworker.

Medieval men initially viewed labor as a penance or a chastisement for original sin. Then, without abandoning this penitential perspective, they place increasing value upon work as an instrument of redemption, of dignity, of salvation. They viewed labor as collaboration in the work of the Creator who, having labored, rested on the seventh day. Labor, that cherished burden, had to be wrenched from the outcast position and transformed, individually and collectively, into the rocky path to liberation.

Jacques Le Goff



A pair of faiths
April 4, 2020, 7:40 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , ,

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) – MUBI

There’s a comfort in faith: that the arc of history bends towards justice, that wrongdoing will be remedied, that we will forever remember the people and places in our lives.

Kundera says these faiths are a deception. What’s left without memory and a belief that things will be made right? Perhaps a cold, calculating, puritan existence. Or more likely it’s a matter of degree: the double headed faith will always be there but if we decrease our reliance on its succour we will be better prepared to deal with the ravages of life.

Yes, suddenly I saw it clearly: most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed. The task of obtaining redress (by vengeance or by forgiveness) will be taken over by forgetting. No one will redress the wrongs that have been done, but all wrongs will be forgotten.

Milan Kundera