I pay lazy bastards I don’t trust

I sent this e-mail recently to Mr. Monk, Chief Executive of investment firm VSA Capital:

Attn: Andrew Monk, Esq

Dear Mr. Monk,

Essentially, your opinion is that, unsupervised by you, staff are lazy cheats:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58662455

This is the great justification of management.  “The plebs are all dishonest scoundrels at heart, and you need to keep an eye on them.

Were you ever to admit to yourself that not everyone is a waster, and that there are lots of professional, self-starting people out there, you’d de facto be also admitting that your own position is largely unnecessary.  And that would never do, would it, considering how much you’re paid for what little you actually do.  Most of what you do is supervising work carried out by other people.  It’s largely pointless and un-necessary, though of course it soothes your ego.  Pretty difficult to “peacock” in an empty office, isn’t it, squire?  Your real work – strategic inputs and final decisions – while invaluable, could easily be carried out on a part-time basis.  You’ve been doing this suspicion-derived, fake-work aspect of your role for so long that you have normalised it and consider that it’s “necessary”.

Read the article from which this quote is taken:

Remote work lays bare many brutal inefficiencies and problems that executives don’t want to deal with because they reflect poorly on leaders and those they’ve hired. Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have succeeded by being excellent diplomats and poor workers, along with those who have succeeded by always finding someone to blame for their failures. It removes the ability to seem productive (by sitting at your desk looking stressed or always being on the phone), and also, crucially, may reveal how many bosses and managers simply don’t contribute to the bottom line.

Full article here:
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/work-from-home-benefits/619597/

You know, or ought to know, the old truism: “if you think someone is trustworthy or untrustworthy, you’re right”.

And it begs a fundamental question – do your staff have nothing specific to do?  In my role, I have a list of tasks as long as my 2 arms, and deadlines screaming at me when they must be done by.  My colleagues know when these deadlines are.  To figure out whether I have been slacking off, or not, just look at how many deadlines I hit. Just measure my damned output, for fuck’s sake.  Whether I’m sitting at a desk in my home office, or at a desk 120 miles away in our office, makes no damned difference to my colleagues.  All they care about is that stuff gets done.

If your only, or primary, way of checking whether your staff are actually working is by directly observing them, then might I suggest that your business is very badly managed, and you ought to consider firing yourself, instead of perpetuating an outdated obsession with obsolete, stupidly-expensive and inconvenient city centre offices that contribute fuck-all to the bottom line and which mainly serve as an architectural fig leaf for inept and unproductive managers to hide behind.

Fortunately, you, and people like you, will soon be retired, and the corporate world will be managed by people whose thought patterns aren’t mired in the last century.

Best of luck,

Hoppy

Line of Black poplar trees (Populus nigra) at sunset, Surfontaine, Picardy, France.

I subscribe to a poem-a-day e-mail.

You notice 2 things:

  1. how all the old poems have heft and musicality and flow, and are animated by an urgent necessity; and
  2. how all the new poems are the after-dinner punning posturings of bourgeois cruciverbalists, addicted to faculty japes and insecure complexity as compensation for the “dust in all their hearts“, as the Psychedelic Furs reminded us in 1982 (this is the slightly-slowed version):  

Whereas, the hardest thing you will ever do is to be coldly accurate, shorn of inherited cultural triteness, and neatness.

What words think you, for you?  How do you avoid being a cipher?  What is the word? 

Disgusted, I read, and re-read, all the old ones.  Like Hopkins:

Binsey Poplars
felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew —
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Or Basho:

In Kyoto,
hearing the cuckoo,
I long for Kyoto.

When Basho was writing this in Japan, 331 years ago, in 1690, our idiots were dusting each other at the Boyne. Theme is analogous to the German concept of “Sehnsucht” (roughly: <“objectless yearning”>). It probably is my favourite haiku.

Are you an untrustworthy idiot?

Here, some poor woman had to <sue her employers> in order to be allowed to adjust her working hours slightly so that she could finish at 5pm to collect her children.

The managerialist mindset is obsessed with forcing you to travel miles to switch on your laptop in a noisy and unhealthy building which they needlessly maintain at vast expense; and they insist that you must adhere to the rigidity of factory / production line hours, even if you are a mere knowledge worker who can work at any time, from any location which is quiet and germ-free.

Thomas Klikauer, in his book, Managerialism – a Critique of an Ideology, sums up managerialism (emphasis added):

Managerialism combines management knowledge and ideology to establish itself systemically in organisations and society while depriving owners, employees (organisational-economical) and civil society (social-political) of all decision-making powers. Managerialism justifies the application of managerial techniques to all areas of society on the grounds of superior ideology, expert training, and the exclusive possession of managerial knowledge necessary to efficiently run corporations and societies.”

At some point, you realise that you’re not dealing with reason. It’s an autocratic ideology, and a particularly corrosive one, under which employees are viewed as untrustworthy idiots who need to be alternatively bribed and reprimanded.  Just like the way our teachers (with good reason) kept a tight rein on us between e.g. the ages of 12-16 (because we were wired to the moon); but subsequently, when I was aged 17-18, doing A levels, and again at college, all reins were off, they just trusted you to do the work and not to be a waster. 

Quite the shock then to be an adult and to be once again treated as if you were a waster.

Niels Pflaeging nails it in his wonderful presentation – note esp on p21 for a distillation of the prevailing management mindset – their very existence as a parasitic class depends on the persistent normalisation of the view that you are an untrustworthy idiot:


Followership Skills

I saw a discussion recently in a London law newsletter. Someone wanted to know why, in the British army, officers invariably were upper class / posh. Why were there not more working class officers? Some bloke unwisely ventured to suggest that that was because (in essence) “posh blokes were better at leadership“. You can imagine the ensuing pile-on in the comments section, as said bloke was trampled underfoot by a stampede of very high, and very woke, horses …

Remember that leaked Eton College entrance exam (aimed at 12 year olds) a few years back:

One of the questions therein read as follows:

The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the Government has deployed the Army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have been stopped but twenty-five protesters have been killed by the Army. You are the Prime Minister. Write the script for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in which you explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral.

Cue much PC indignation from the social and tabloid media peanut galleries re the above question, but I was impressed by it. Obviously, I’d much prefer if all schools had access to comparable amounts of funding, but I couldn’t see much wrong with the exam paper per se. Requiring young people to think about leadership and ethical choices from an early age? Not providing neat, simple, patronising answers? What’s not to like? And, of course, making it appear natural that they could in fact be the PM …

It goes without saying that most working class people will never encounter a learning culture which is capable of respecting their potential to the extent demonstrated in that question.

Many kids in British state schools are seen as problems to be managed. The culture is sit down and shut up and suck it up. It produces, at best, narrowly competent bourgeois drones. Bit much to expect leadership qualities to appear by magic in someone who, from their earliest days, effectively has been trained merely in followership.

Nowadays of course, the rise in group-think / cancel culture means that people are ground down, not just by their education system, but also by their woke peer groups. Before you open your mouth, you need to check if your opinions are approved by the zealots.

Re the young zealots, Brooke Allen is a 60-something American academic. Writing in The Hudson Review, she noted the deleterious effects of the rise of woke group-think on young people in education:

Then I took a job teaching literature at a small liberal arts college. When I arrived there in early 2011 the place was wonderfully refreshing after Columbia. Instead of earnest pedants imbibing and regurgitating rigid doctrines, I found a campus full of open, intellectually curious, enthusiastic, charming young people. Everyone participated in class discussions; they all studied what they loved.

By 2015, it had completely changed. Students were restless, easily offended, whiny. They were also passive and helpless. Everyone, for reasons I couldn’t understand, was always accusing everyone else of being racist. (Some faculty members indulged in this activity too.) People became unreasonably prickly if you called them by the wrong gender pronoun. It seemed that every single one of the female students was a survivor of rape or sexual assault (very loosely defined). Many students claimed to suffer from PTSD, though so far as I knew, no one had been on a battlefield. Plenty of others complained of anxiety and seemed to think this was a sufficient reason to skip classes and written assignments.

The article is <here> – it’s worth reading. She joins the cultural dots between the likes of Foucault, Derrida and Lacan and today’s woke warriors – how the fashion for absolute ethical relativism facilitated, ironically, the new intolerance, and how it ushered in:

“... a left-wing moral community, rather than a purely academic one: an intellectual organ more interested in advocating a particular ought than attempting a detached assessment of is—an attitude we usually associate with churches, rather than universities.

Obviously, posh people are every bit as likely to be as crap at leadership as anybody else. However, and this is the key difference, from an early age, a posh bloke will have been imbued with the confidence to at least give it a good go. By contrast, someone ground down in a state school to “know his or her place” is far more likely to stay passive, and peevish.

This confluence of 2 disastrous influences – pedagogical didacticism and woke religiosity – creates a culture which is inimical to leadership and to rationality. Hence the continuing dominance of the upper classes, not only in the officer class, but throughout society in general.

The Road to Freedom

The Road to Freedom“, trumpets a popular Irish newspaper’s e-mail, as it reports on Ireland’s phased abandonment of covid precautions:

Heh. In the interests of balance, here’s a road to freedom:

Here’s the freedom:

Enjoy!

I used to like the songs I didn’t like

As a kid, I often liked the songs I didn’t officially like.  I certainly wouldn’t have bought any of these or admitted in conversation that I even gave them time of day (oh no!). They were fairly typical ’80s chart dance / pop tunes, but they all stuck in my head, for various reasons – “guilty pleasures”:

10cc – Dreadlock Holiday:

Flash & The Pan – Waiting For A Train:

Human League – Don’t You Want Me:

Joan Jett – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll:

Visage – Fade To Grey:

The Vapors – Turning Japanese:

Imagination – Just An Illusion:

Blondie – Heart of Glass:

Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?:

Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive:

Yazoo – Don’t Go:

XTC – Senses Working Overtime:

Laurie Anderson – Oh Superman:

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams:

OMD – Maid Of Orleans:

Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling:

Lotus Eaters – First Picture Of You:

Elkie Brooks – Fool If You Think It’s Over:

Sade* – Smooth Operator:                                     [*the ’80’s coolest crush]

Fun Boy 3 + Banamarama – Ain’t What You Do:

Tom Tom Club – Under The Boardwalk:

Kane Gang – Smalltown Creed:

Soft Cell – Tainted Love:

Pigbag – Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag:

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message:

Yello – Lost Again:

Kraftwerk – Das Model:

Xmal Deutschland – Incubus Succubus:

Theft? Not at all

Shock – I’ve found another new band that I really like! Nurse!

On hearing these old tracks from a band from Ohio called “The Serfs” (such a properly old, chippy, name too – cf. e.g., The Ejected, The Expelled, The Damned, The Exploited, etc) I reflected, somewhat gloomily, that this probably dates from 1979 to 1981.  It is in the same sonic bracket as Gang of 4, Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, and early Devo etc.  Why is there no good new music?  

I was well fooled – it’s from 2021!  Does this next sound derivative?  Sure.  Is it actually derivative though?  Almost certainly not.  Once you mix a certain intelligence and a certain attitude, it often ends up sounding like track 2 below, “Dissection“:  

It really kicks in, doesn’t it – excellent! The guitars have something of the punch and the energy of The Undertones. The other track, 3, “Debt World“, is more electronic – I find it very relaxing.

I also bought their album (from Detriti Records, Berlin) – vinyl only:

– and, in a fantastic “medium subordination twist”, with a download code on the vinyl.

Born Yesterday

Fascinating and readable <article> in The Atlantic, by Peter Brannen, covering climate change events back to the earlier stages of the Cenozoic era. I hope you can access it. You may not be able to, unless you’re a subscriber to The Atlantic. The article is so good though, that you ought to subscribe. It’s the most intelligent climate change article I’ve ever read.

The sobering aspect is that, incomprehensibly remote in time though the Cenozoic era is, it’s still relatively recent in Earth’s approx 4 billion year history:

As Brannen points out:

“All of recorded human history—at only a few thousand years, a mere eyeblink in geologic time—has played out in perhaps the most stable climate window of the past 650,000 years. We have been shielded from the climate’s violence by our short civilizational memory, and our remarkably good fortune.” 

Handy 2-minute refresher on earth’s timeline:

This simple <interactive version> is also useful (click the arrow rightwards to scroll through Earth’s history).

At one point in his article, Brannen notes, biblically:

” ‘Soon the Sahara would green again, Jericho would be born, and humans would start writing things down. They would do so with the assumption that the world they saw was the way it had always been. ‘We were born only yesterday and know nothing,’ ….”


Eternal Return

Sometime in the ’80s, I was at the dentist’s. As the chair reclined, and my feet heaved into view, my middle-aged dentist greeted my shoes like long-lost friends:

Winklepickers! Good God, I haven’t seen them in 20 years!“, he exclaimed, surprise, nostalgia and happiness all jostling in his expression.

Winkle-what? I was disgusted – to my youthful mind, I was wearing “pointy shoes” (all the way by mail order from Melanddi* of Carnaby Street, London (the small indie store where the indie popsters and fans alike all got their daft shoes), via the small ads in the New Musical Express), they were the most happening thing around, and how could this middle-aged guy possibly know anything about them?

*Melanddi’s “shops were crammed full of high fashion shoes and clothes for men and women. It was also crammed full of the pop groups of the time.  Most importantly, it was crammed full of “The Dedicated Followers of Fashion”, our customers.” Link <here>.

Of course, The Beatles had been wearing winklepickers from before I was born. Bit of a lesson there, for my arrogant younger self.

Nothing new under the sun.

I’ve long thought that, in pop music, there are no new worlds left to conquer. Pretty much everything had been done between 1920 and 1990.

Don’t knock recycling though. If it’s good, it’s good. In 1985, the post-punk thrash of “Wipe Out“, a very short “song” by The Stupids always put a smile on my face – you can always trust a song which starts “1, 2, 3, GO“:

Last week, on <Dandelion>, I was just as cheered to hear an echo of the Stupids in a “I am not a machine”, a song by South Korean band, the Drinking Boys and Girls Choir:

Pandemic or not, the future is good if bands are still making noises like that.

Beware Overstated Job Ads

It is forbidden to dislike your job. Growing up, I thought “passion” was reserved for girlfriends-on-pedestals, or maybe football or politics or punk rock; but no – to be normal nowadays, you must “have a passion” for your bloody work.

This inevitably leads to job ad dishonesty on an Orwellian, nay estate-agent-y scale. Think about it. Lots of jobs are a bit crap. That’s OK – we all need £$€. But if we’re culturally obliged to “lean in“, to be “engaged” or “fulfilled” or “passionate” about a job, then it becomes impossible to admit that lots of jobs simply do not merit such idolatry in the first place.

Modern world is full of these straitjacket jobs.  Their primary feature is that they think that everybody they hire is untrustworthy and incompetent and must be tightly controlled. 

I was spammed with a job ad recently, for a “Legal Onboarding Senior Analyst”. The hiring party wants a “dynamic, proactive and decisive person” – for a role where, ironically, actually exhibiting any of those characteristics would get you into serious trouble.   

With all the “dynamism” and “proactivity” attributes, and the general corporate logorrhoea, it was hard to know what the hell they wanted, but eventually I figured it out – it was essentially data entry.  

It’s one of those jobs where, potentially, everything you might do, could be wrong. 

You do mundane repetitive admin tasks.  You have no agency or flexibility whatsoever in how you carry out your allotted tedious tasks.  You will be scrutinised by some jowly git with piggy eyes whose existence depends on being able to demonstrate how many “errors” he’s catching.  Kind of person who would be somewhat improved by a daily slap around the ear.  S/he will undermine your mental health.  You will question the point of your existence, but you will have a fancy business card, a reasonable salary and your  folks will be proud of you. 

With age and experience, you learn to translate the codswallop of job ads into their soul-destroying reality.  I’ve often thought of doing a job ads de-bunking website, where I take typical job ads and tear them to pieces, as a service to the young and the gullible.   

You’d be better off, as Frank Zappa said, “working at a gas station” (in Utah).