And thinking on this fearful government campaign against the concept of shirking as James would prefer to understand it – a concept we could just as easily describe as idle thoughts, imagination and deliberately unfocussed creative and lateral thinking in general – makes me wonder if our government doesn’t have a couple of prejudices driving it:
- Thinking idly must be the preserve of the idle rich – because it’s one of the most sure-fire ways of getting richer.
- Thinking idly must be the preserve of the already powerful – because, as one sure-fire way of understanding how the world really works, it’s bound to lead the plebs to reconsider their assigned positions in society.
What I didn’t realise was that there is science behind what is happening. Watch this video, first – it’s only ten minutes long and will change your life for sure.
As you will see if you follow my instructions to the letter, unthinking work responds positively to the attractions of monetary payments. They dangle a larger carrot in front of you – or threaten you with a larger stick for not working harder – and, verily, you end up working harder. But when it comes to using your brain to think, more money actually makes you perform worse! Time and time again, the data proves the latter. An astonishing – and apparently counter-intuitive – conclusion.
Are human beings, in reality then, hard-wired socialists by nature?
It’s certainly a thought, anyhow.
Naturally enough, this got me thinking. I worked for about seven years in a large banking corporation. My experience in one department there led me from relatively thinking tasks at the beginning to evermore desultory and meaningless data entry six years on. The trends were absolutely clear: the dumbing down of processes and their corresponding procedures was an instinct which was manifestly part and parcel of corporate life. The question was: why?
I always assumed it was an urge to reduce training costs, limit the impact of staff turnover and make it impossible for any one worker to be in control of sufficient intellectual property which a move into another company might prejudice.
The dumber the processes the workforces have to carry out, the fewer of those processes – and their value-adding implications – they can take away with them out of malice or pique, for example.
But in the light of what we’ve just seen in the RSA video above, it would seem that there is an intuitive (maybe even conscious) conspiracy sustaining itself to take out of a thinking society such as ours – trained for decades, as it has been, in the constructive cocoon of compulsory education to cogitate better and more profoundly than ever before – all the relevant and value-adding opportunities to use our cognitive and self-motivating side to be precisely that.
So instead of substituting a stick-and-carrot system designed to make simple and repetitive tasks function at least minimally well with an alternative system which would fit exactly with our thoughtful and educated latterday brains, large and small companies everywhere have decided – whether deliberately or instinctively – to jettison all attempts to take advantage of our minds and, instead, return us to the drudge of manager-driven wage slavery.
In a thinking society, where almost everyone has been taught how to imagine, create and laterally devise, this is why they’re dumbing down all the processes: it’s a power thing, after all. A desire to keep a hold of those old hierarchies. A need they have to maintain the control that externally motivated work has over the worker bees it commands.
And what’s even more curious is that as we continue to find ourselves carrying out more and more meaningless tasks in our work time, in our leisure time we’re blogging and videoing and writing to our heart’s content. What’s more, with mostly very little monetary reward.
Whilst we’re pushed towards evermore robotic work experiences, our need to think and cogitate cannot be suppressed. Just as, in fact, our democracy is removed from our politicking, so our desire to search out and practise democratic process moves into online and other virtual manifestations.
However hard you try to remove freedom of thought and cognitive opportunities from human beings and their daily experiences, you are bound, I think we can all agree, to ultimately fail.
And whilst we humans are pushed towards – and back into – meaningless work, and whilst our robots become cleverer and more ingenious, no wonder our politicians feel the need to criticise the thinkers: to criticise them roundly, describe thinking as shirking – and let it be understood that those who wonder are wasting their time.
After all, imagine how difficult it might be to rule over a nation of people far cleverer than you.
A nation of people who thought stuff without the petty reward of the only thing that separated you – with your concentrated wealth – from them.
A nation of people who didn’t believe stuff in accordance with what you gave them or withheld.
A nation of people who did what was right because doing what is right is what keeps them alive.
That, in conclusion, is what we now have in the United Kingdom.
Too many clever voters who think better in their spare time than their leaders are now managing in their paid time.
Curious, isn’t it? Curious how historical hierarchies always seem to fight to reassert themselves.