[OPE] intermission: value of knowledge

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Fri Nov 13 2009 - 23:35:35 EST

I was never really an Abba fan in my youth (I'm 50 now), I guess because I
regarded the music at the time mainly as a sort of jingle, a ditty, cheap
sentimentality, teenybopper stuff, lacking much emotional range or
intelligence. The song I liked was "Thank you for the music" which I felt
expressed the group best, and which was musically great, to my ear. My
opinion changed considerably, however, when I observed masses and masses of
folks dancing happily to Abba music. And, remarkably, people are still
playing Abba even today.

Why? Because their music conveyed a healthy, wellmeant sincerity and
emotional generosity, a kind of (maybe naively and lightweight) tenderness,
love and care - attenuating the aspect of desire - particularly from the
feminine side, which is often lacking in modern pop/rock music. We seem to
live now in rather cynical times in which pop/rock music sounds more like
noise, violence and blather, or concerned more with psychic shadows, with
in-your-face thanatos and eros, or I-am-smarter-than-you-think themes, if
not simply unabashed porn functionality - more a sort of heavy and intense
apology/dramatization of an inability or unwillingness to live good and
healthy lives, a lament without much of a critical edge, an emotional
exhortation. In truth the Abba genre did not last, but people are still
playing it nevertheless. Ah, blonde or brunette, you're damned if you do,
and damned if you don't, follow your heart...

If you think that, despite Walter Benjamin's writings, this is all
irrelevant whimsy compared to the orthodox Marxist-Leninist doctrines which
are supposed to be aired on OPE-L, consider for example this factoid about a
real workplace.

Here in Holland, the Rotterdam City Council decided recently, that its
14,000 public servants better think again, before they... ahem, utter
cynical comments to colleagues. Because before they know it, they may now be
reported by informants to a tattle phoneline. Public servants can from now
on report colleagues who, in their view, undermine the emotional atmosphere
at work, not by farting, but by uttering just the wrong sort of comment!

Sounds totalitarian? Well, this novel venture to improve enterprise culture
was a practical response to the finding, that cynical comments are a
frequent source of irritation, and that public servants were sick and tired
of "negative energy". By offering the opportunity to make this problem a
formal and explicit point of discussion, and actively intervene in behaviour
modification, the city fathers hope to turn the "tide of negativity" and
restore "esprit d'corps" to council staff. They shall assume charge of
supervising where the limit of conversational energetics will be drawn.

Personally I have been employed many years in the entrails of local and
central government, in two countries, and in that time I have witnessed
colleagues at times manipulating others (including myself) interpersonally
in ways so sly, subtle, cruel, offensive and morally corrupt, that it went
beyond my own idea of acceptable norms altogether - something which, insofar
it didn't make me puke, caused a certain macabre scientific fascination on
my part with studying how the pathology of the phenomenon works, the moves
and tricks, and their psychological roots. Will a helpline solve the
problem? Who knows, probably not, it is likely to be perceived as a safety
valve, or as just another "evidence-based" act of policing, the premise
being that colleagues cannot, and should not, sort out these problems among
themselves, as adults, but "tell on the teacher" who will then intervene by
dispensing moral lessons on how people should behave.

It's probably more the absence of strong, convincing and mature personal
leadership - a personal and moral authority based on recognized personal
competency, and a willingness to analyse what a problem really is - which so
often leads to the infantilization of adult behaviour - mystifying the basis
of authority, confusing the process by which behavioural norms become truly
convincing, and substantively ignoring or devaluing what people have to say,
while pretending to take them seriously. The basic message is, agree with
our norms, and reap the rewards, or don't, and be penalized in every way we
know how...

It is just that, in reality, a lot of the work that the cadres and managers
are actually hired in to do, consists of unilaterally turning the work
processes of operatives, which they do not practically understand, upside
down, according to a new schema, and then "redescribing" the work process
creatively with an ever finer maze of rules and procedures, which however
cannot be consistently applied in practice... whereupon the cadres and
managers, having grabbed the cash, sprint to the next career opportunity,
leaving operative staff to sort out the fracas. Eventually progress is made,
but at an exhorbitant cost, not because superior insight is expensive, but
because simple human insight, commitment and skill was lacking so that
people could usefully participate.

Of course, for every cost there is an income, but it takes little guessing
who are the greatest beneficiaries. They are the people who are not around
anymore now to shoulder the consequences of their own idea. The "economy of
time" - really the principle of time dilation - is, that if you agree with
me, there's lots of time, but if you don't, there isn't. Now watch you hoist
yourself by your own petard, or fall over your own rulebook.

There are certainly good managers and leaders around possessing real insight
and organizational ability, but they are alas few and far between - often
the managers recruit people that jell well with their own club, rather than
people who can really do the job that needs doing - and the iron law of
bureaucracy is that people are eventually promoted or demoted to their own
level of incompetency, according to the prevailing power stakes and
nepotistic machinations. At a certain point, somebody then decides that you
can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, whereupon the whole cycle
starts again. All this causes frictions and irritations, of which nasty
comments are merely the most palpable expression. And then you just might
want to plug your MP3 in your ears, and play Abba instead. Or something like



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Received on Fri Nov 13 23:39:35 2009

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