Monday, January 26, 2009

The Tao of Idleness

Dear George,

I got quite a hoot out of the "Styles" section of Sunday’s Times. Once again, the main stream media does a shocking expose of the obvious.

The headline that caught my attention read, “Working Hard To Look Busy.” It seems employees are engaging in a lot of useless activity just to look busy so their bosses will think they’re essential to the operation. The story explains that, “Looking busy when you’re not in order to fool the boss can be something of an art form.”


Welcome to service and finance capitalism where work has little or nothing to do with productivity. In order to explain this, Big Guy, I’ve got to run a little history past you, so stay awake!

When capitalism raised its ugly head, one of the first things it did was redefine the concept of work. In traditional agrarian societies work was task oriented. If there was a specific task to be done, such as planting or harvesting, you worked your ass off from dawn to dusk. Once the task was finished, you goofed off

The same was true for artisans who would keep their shops open until they’d made a little money. Then they’d close up and party until the money ran out.

Well, capitalists decided this work ethic sucked since they couldn’t have workers coming and going as they pleased. So, under their guidance work became time oriented. In other words, you worked a set number of hours per day regardless of the number of tasks that needed completion.

That was when teachers started bitching at their students about being on time.

In a straight manufacturing economy, work kept something of its agrarian focus since factories actually made things. However, the radical change came when corporations grew in complexity and as service and finance capitalism started squeezing out manufacturing.

As corporations became more complex, they added additional layers of management. Often time, a layer would be created for a specific project, but once the project was finished the layer remained through sheer inertia, so activities had to be created to justify its existence.

Thus was born Parkinson’s Law that work so as to fill the time available for its consumption, along with its corollary that data expands to fill the space available for its storage.

I can tell you from experience that doing something to conceal the fact that you’re doing nothing can be stressful, but, hell, you’ve known that for most of your life.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

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