Going forward, pushing the envelope, smarter not harder. Are these merely ways to communicate to a supplicant workforce that your time is individualised, it is yours and it is your fault if you don’t maximise the use of your time? We worry about time poor families and households and we talk about our poor quality of life. What are these qualities exactly and there is the same time in every day, i.e. 24 hours, as there was before the Celtic Badger. What do we fill our days up with?
A friend of mine came around on an unannounced call last night and we drank tea and beer until after midnight. It was grand and it all descended into After Dark mode about the time we got to questions like these. It might be a function of getting into your 30s or related to the fact that we may well be in the middle of a the period in human history that defines us for ever more. Why do we work harder for ‘the man’? Where is human agency, creativity and the basic need to occasionally sit back and smell the roses in situations where the imperatives of capital take precedence over human behaviour?
This friend of mine, let’s call him Bernard, has just returned from a quick trip to Delhi, India. Now think Irish in India and you think “discovering myself” and “the people are sooo nice and yet have soooo little.” Bernard was there for work. On his trip he noted that the public transport and some billboards were adorned with posters with slogans such as “success is….” and “keep competitive because….”. The vision thing, success breeding success, purposeful action toward goals. The kinds of stuff you read on pictures of sunsets in a gym. These were basically encouraging an educated elite to plug into the axioms of an individualised advanced capitalism. You consume, yes; but are you doing it efficiently? Bernard thought that this was a way in which the ground for mass consumerism was being laid out in a country transforming itself, like China, into middle-class Wisconsin. The mall, the iPod, the coffee, the car. They’re all yours, if you want them but work hard.
Nothing wrong with hard work you understand but diminishing rates of return on capital means that working smarter and not harder becomes essential for capital to survive in this postmodern world. Ok, so where is all of this going? (There’s a part of me that is recording this before the dynamism goes out of it.) Bernard, Ms 73man and I came to some resolution that there is little else to it than a post-colonial desire to be so desperately wanted by a perceived elite, largely resident in London, New York and Paris. In Ireland at the moment we are shutting ourselves away from each other: darkened car windows, private education, happiness through discounted retailers in Kildare, all that stuff. At the same time we bemoan a lack of political resposibility and accountability and the continued 19th century-style regulatory governance structures. Bernard added that a South African sociologist he had read recorded the occurrence of ‘committee-likers’ in apartheid SA in the 1970s. Keep a ‘concerned’, politically aware and educated elite busy talking and banging tables and the centre can do what it wants. Are we being asked to stay busy in Ireland too? County Development Boards, anyone?
Issues like how do we care for older people and other vulnerable groups, who decides on the allocation of resources in our local communities and the increasing tailoring of education to the needs of late capitalism are not those we hear or read a great deal about any more. Apparently with the end of history, these had been sorted out. Mind the gap between rich and poor, which I read this morning is bigger than ever. Above all, mind the gap. This is disempowering and disenfranchising . TASC has found that there has been an increase in non-departmental public bodies, growing from one hundred in 1990 to over 450 this year. You know Health Insurance Regulators, Ombudsman for the Garda, the Dublin Transportation Office. Who are these bodies answerable to?
Have a quiet and caring weekend.