Sippican Cottage

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

People do get good at things.

It’s more than interesting to get a peek at someone at the top of their game — no matter what their game is — it’s fun. We watch men in pajamas fight over a leather bag with a bladder in it on a striped lawn. Enjoying watching a man fillet some fish isn’t that strange.

The best kind of reality shows simply point a camera at the unseen parts of quotidian life. How It’s Made isn’t the best show on television. It’s the best show that’s ever been on television. Whenever I hear a politician or pundit talk about a modern economy like they understand it well enough to run it, I want to burst out laughing, or cry, or both. If you can’t even keep pictures of your dick off the Intertunnel during an election cycle, I imagine being Emperor of the Economic and Social Universe is probably well above your abilities. Politicians have to take tours of factories because to them, everything and everybody in a factory might as well be alchemy performed by men from Jupiter.

There’s a disconnect between love of work and the workplace right now. Most employees don’t like where they work, or what they do all day, or where they live, but the enormous weight of regulatory, legal and financial inertia that employment and daily life is freighted with keeps them in settings they detest, working with and for people they resent. Most of even the best drag their feet to get a feeling of control over their situation. Many actively sabotage their workplace to achieve a feeling of self-possession.

The employers react to the ambivalence or malice of the workers by attempting to micromanage their activities, and by occasionally changing out the workforce like a dirty diaper instead of a group of fellow humans. One set of politicians says that management is evil; the other set says the employees are lazy and stupid, and each makes their appeals to one tribe by promising to hurt the other. Every once in a while they both decide that the American population would be more useful to them if they were all foreigners, who will do what they’re told and say thank you for a slap in the face for at least one generation before they get uppity.

The dirty secret is that there is no difference between labor and management. People are people. The general tenor of life is not dictated by the eloi or the morlocks. The general view of other humans by individuals is expressed by everyone, and the manifestation of that general view winnows people into recognizable roles that can be demagogued, but we’re all fish from the same fry, and swim in the same tepid, dirty water. Most humans just don’t have a high regard for their fellow humans any more, and they don’t really care what they’re doing at work, and don’t take much pride in themselves. And people in management have the same attitude about their employees, not because they’re unlike them, but because they’re exactly like them. Everyone thinks everyone else can go to hell, and tries to get away with everything they can that won’t result in prison or the cable TV being shut off. It’s not a recipe for workplace harmony, or excellence.

When I was young I was taught by a dead society that dignity was internal; that a man that filleted salmon for a living could be noble by dint of his effort, comportment, and his value to his fellow man; that all men were created equal, but that their worth could (and should) be judged by how they behaved in this world, especially when they thought no one was looking. I was not taught that goldbricking and featherbedding and tossing a sabot in the gears was a road to dignity. I was not taught that lording over disposable underlings was a path to greatness.

But I’m talking to a wall. And there’s nothing but writing on it.

Day: August 21, 2013

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