Monday, July 13, 2015

Whipping that Mule

Work (what we do, what we produce) is so very disconnected from what we need that we often end up with mismatches.  A musician who takes a job shuffling papers or a builder serving drinks at a bar.  These mismatches can flourish and even be sources of growth, but there is a big margin of error.  They can also be life-sucking.  Being alive right now for many of us means choosing to have the life drained from our veins when the sun is out because we wish to support what we do "after-hours".   For many of us, what we do after-hours has less commercial value than it needs to have to allow us to keep afloat in the economic ocean.

Wait, that's a bad metaphor.  "Keeping afloat" is passive, but this economic ocean of ours is not designed to maintain our wellbeing, so "keeping afloat" really means "struggle mightely".  For many of us, passive floating won't cut it.

This is why the true challenge - gone largely unaccepted - is to create efficiency in a very ineffective world.  [Well, the world is actually very effective, just not in maintaining wide-spread wellbeing.]  

Food systems, financial systems, work systems, religious systems, art systems all need the attention of those who are designed to float passively in them.  Those people need to redouble their efforts around one simple idea.  The idea is so simple, actually, that its scary.

Make it very, very easy to do the right thing; and very, very difficult to do the wrong thing.

Think of how simple that is and yet how hard it is to do.  I have personally taken on this vow as an avocation at work.  I know the jobs on my team were absolutely nobody's childhood dreams.  That does not mean, however, that how these people spend their days can't be easy and fulfilling and socially valuable.  Complex systems administered by disinterested people is a recipie for defeat, and yet they are all around us because our economy treats the people who play those roles like livestock.  Actually, you could make the case that absent the slaughterhouse, our society might actually treat livestock better, [but again, another thought].

If our leaders saw us as valuable, they would want us to succeed and they would create these easy/right-hard/wrong systems.  Instead, we get "you need to pay more attention or we'll find someone who will" - the 21st century equivalent of whipping the mule.  Just like the mule, the people playing these roles are more and more powerless to say back to these leaders "well, maybe if you made it so that I didn't have to be functioning at a super-high level every moment, we'd all be better off".

This is one of the complaints against the unionization movement here in America.  It curtailed the mule-whipping, but failed to produce enough of the easy/right-hard/wrong feedback.  So, we've chosen to go back to whipping that mule.

The funny thing is, someone thinks they won a battle.

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