Day 72 (28 May): No relation to Steve
Updated: May 29
Yesterday I saw an article in Politico.eu by a chap called David Graeber who wrote the book “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory”.
Having the memory of a concussed goldfish I would like to have verified the details but, as is often the case, somebody borrowed my copy and I have no idea who. I’ll just swim once more round the bowl….
Not surprisingly, given the title of the book, the theory he put forward is that a very sizeable percentage of all jobs are of dubious value. If they were to disappear it would make little or no difference to the economy; indeed nobody would notice. The gist is that it is most often the low paid, low prestige jobs which are really vital to society. Graeber gives the example of a garbage workers strike in New York. The mayor tried toughing the strike out to no avail. When the streets are filling with stinking garbage and rats are running over your brogues it is not hard to come to the conclusion that you need these chaps. Conversely, when bankers went on strike in Ireland everyone just worked round it and carried on pretty much as usual.
Garbage workers are essential in the same way that nurses, health care workers, cleaners, bakers, teachers and utility workers are essential. The people in these jobs produce things and do things which we need.
Compare this with the job done by leadership gurus, brand experts, marketing researchers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, strategic deans, creative development executives and the masses of their assistants.
Would anybody notice if those people just stopped turning up?
Well, the coronavirus is perhaps giving us the possibility to find out. In his politico article Graebner maintains that:
“A very large portion of what we call ‘the economy’ is little more than just another scam…..millions of highly paid office workers have been forced to stay away from the office, to reduce their work to 10 or 15 minutes a day, or often nothing at all, without having the slightest impact on those essential functions that keep the public fed, clothed, distracted and alive…..In many areas — notably hospitals — things seem to be running decidedly more smoothly in the absence of the ‘nonessential workers’ at the top of the administrative and managerial food chain.Those with the power to do the most harm are rewarded most, while those who do the most good are rewarded least.”
I find this interesting - whether or not he is right. It is a small and interesting piece of a much larger interesting problem. Problem? Perhaps opportunity is a better word. It is not every day the motor stops and everything goes quiet. Generations have been so concentrated on driving with the pedal to the metal; this is perhaps the first time that 'normal everyday people' rather than academics have had the leisure to look back on their lifestyle and wonder ‘Why? Where are we going? Why do we want to go there? Who decided we should go there? What are we going to do when we get there? How will we know when we do get there? How much is enough? How much is this journey costing in material, moral and mental terms? Why do I think this is the best route to the destination ? When can I stop driving and just be happy where I am?'
These are fundamental questions in a society which could comfortably tick over with much less time spent in work places. We seem to have largely got rid of organised religion and placed ‘Increased GDP’ and ‘Work’ on a pedestal in its place. Perhaps we should now get rid of the damn pedestal altogether and take a long hard look at what it means to lead a good life.
There’s one job in the news where they really earn their money. Astronaut. Astronauts are the people who are taking us on our first big steps from the cradle.
I am not sure how much money they earn for sitting on top of a big toothpaste tube filled with several hundred tonnes of explosive fuel. I am sure that not one of them had salary among their job choice criteria. And I’m pretty sure they don’t do it for a corner office with a coffee machine. This is a job for people with passion, commitment, guts and a sense of history.
But can you imagine sitting there facing the sky with the clock ticking down?
Robert Behnken : Elon been on the grass again?
Douglas Hurley: Before or after he drew this thing on the back of an envelope?
Robert Behnken : We really shouldn’t worry. Anybody could call their kid X Æ A-12. Perfectly normal.
Douglas Hurley: You know the guy who designed our suits did the costumes for “Batman v Superman,” and “X-Men II” ?
Robert Behnken: I am reassured.
What a squeaky bum, buttock clenching experience.
And then you hear ‘Nah. Stand down- the weather’s a bit iffy. We’ll do it again on Saturday.’
Make this your best ever Thursday 28 May 2020.
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