January 26, 2011

A VISUAL EXPLANATION OF WHAT THEY MEAN BY "COMPETITIVE", AND WHY IT IS NOT WITHOUT ALTERNATIVE


I know, I know.... but this was in the 1920s, and we are so much more advanced today, you know, with all of our gadgets and email and office jobs. Then let me ask you this (and by that I mean ask yourself), when you look around your offices, how much space is there still left for human error? How close to the bone has your work structure cut? Ask yourself this. If you are sick, ill, can you afford it? Can the company afford it? You may take pride in the knowledge that they cannot, but don't delude yourself.

They are - like in the production of so many products that are faulty - counting on a complex formula that makes it even cheap when you fail. After you have burnt out. How often have you taken work with you? To your home? Because there simply wasn't enough time to do it all in the office? How often have you replied to work-related emails, phone calls, text messages? How thin has the line between work and life become?

It is called "adjusting productivity by layoff". In this metaphor here, it would mean the constant speeding up of the pace, until it is barely humanly possible to keep up with it. You lay off the back-up, you eliminate the margin of humanity, and if you do that often enough, you have a nice, "productive" company. As long as you know that the people you employ will ultimately burn out, will fall to the wayside, but hell... there's always more from where they came from, right?

Barack Obama told your country last night that you could "out-innovate" yourself. That innovation alone is the way to the grand and glorious golden age just around the corner.

That is bullshit. It's a lie, and considering that he is not a dumb man, unlike his predeccessor, he must know that it is. He named Google and Facebook and got applause, not mentioning, of course, that neither pays the nominal share of taxes and that Google is one of the companies that does the infamous Irish sandwich to avoid paying taxes, legally, I might add, but only because corrupt government all over the world want the prestige of hosting a big name in their country.

He has not mentioned that the core technologies of Google and Facebook (those pesky innovative parts) ar easy to duplicate and copy. Both having already been done by China, you know, that country that steals every innovation and puts slave workers, oh wait, not the right term, what is it?

Oh yes, more "productive" workers. That's it. More "competitve" workers on the "job".

Competitive is a useless word.

It is one of those words that everybody thinks they understand, because they have been taught from a very early age that - if all other things are equal - the best, brightest, strongest, more productive, more competitive person wins.

You know, like in the Olympics, where...

... uh, okay, that is a bad example, because even though they weren't caught, one only needed to look at the Chinese athletes in Bejing to know that something was very, very wrong there. Add to that the notion that most of them never actually, you know, competed with the other athletes on a day-to-day basis, but stayed inside their sports camps, getting only ready for the Olympics itself, well, there's that competetitiveness for you.

Innovation means nothing in that fight, really. It gives you an edge for just as long as you don't produce in China. But of course, every global corporation wants to produce in China, because labor is so cheap there, and by cheap I mean very often for less than one dollar a day.

That means that corporations kill their companies' futures for short-term gain, and by that I mean short-term gain of their CEOs and executives. It will look good for Wall Street for a while, and you tell your employees at home, with an apologetic shrug, that they simply cannot compete with the Chinese. Don't take it personal, it is just business.

But know this. You should take it personally. Because this is your life that is bartered away, it is your health that is destroyed by this travesty they call "being competitive". One of the greatest achievements in human history (and there are other factors in play there as well, I know) was the stability of our Western democracies, due largely to the fact that people by and large felt that they were part of something bigger, that they belonged and in turn were understood to be vital, not only to the nation but also to their workplace.

It was that achievement that made Western democracies not only a viable, but a better alternative to the Soviet-styled system that was in fact one of the last remnants of early 20th century tyranny.

These days, all of our politicians here, bought and paid for, they tell us to be like China. They don't tell us that openly, of course, it is hidden, in words like "competitive" in the words of "reform" and, my personal favourite, my very own Chancellor Angela Merkel's phrase of...

..."being without an alternative (alternativlos)".

Everything that they do, everything that each citizen should believe, is without alternative. And what does that mean, how is that different from the edicts of the past, now no longer shouted at rallys or from rooftops, clad in uniforms or in the king's robes, where people up top have claimed the same, but with different words.

"I am France," Louis XIV once said, and he meant that he was given the power by god to do whatever the fuck he wanted. "God made me king."

In other words, shut up. There is no debate. There is no alternative.

"The fates have led us here," Hitler said, again evoking a higher power, something not to be argued with, something to be accepted, cherished, maybe, but definitely not something to be defied.

But these were crude people, and their power rested upon military might and delusion. We are so much better now in dressing up the same thought process, the same demand to those who are not in power.

Now, while we are still in the age of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, the gods of those who are in their executive offices, the gods they worship, the ones they tell you now... that everything they demand from you without ever demanding anything from themselves...

... is without alternative.

Tax cuts for the wealthy are without alternative. Competing with China on China's terms is without alternative. Becoming more competitive and lose the achievements of the latter part of the 20th century is...without alternative.

Don't believe them.