We are defined by the people we are near as much as we are defined by who we are inside ourselves. We are near more people at work –if we have a job- for more of our time than anywhere else these days.
As opposed to –literally- our families and our friends. Our families are the few people we see most days in rather ritual and habitual roles, other so-called family members are mere electronic notes replied to or not. Our friends, not of the co-worker sort, are few and far between. They can still be good friends. But our relationships with them are not as they were when we were young; our peers exert almost no pressure now.
Work took over, pushing family and friends aside, one could rationalize it by saying one worked for one’s family and co-workers were the new friends. This ‘worked’ for a while. But work is changing. Until recently it was, as above, family- and friend-like
But Families and friends hung together in spite of it all. They still do. No longer so with work. When things get tough family and friends pull together; but at work they get torn apart. There it’s now more like a crowd of strangers running for their lives.
You’ve seen the memos, been to the meetings. We’re still referred to as a ‘team;’ ‘together we’ll remain strong, we’ll survive these troubled times, blah, blah, blah’ they say. But we are really not a wolf-like pack but a frightened herd.
We are treated as a lesser species, a means to an end because most of us work for a corporation, which is only in it for itself, which in spite of its human faces, lacks any human feelings, morality, or empathy.
The corporation is an artificial intelligence that we invented just like gods before it and computers after. And like the other two it’s a mixed blessing for us bags of water, becoming less mixed all of the time.
Shortly after the beginning there was language. Then there were voices that came from nowhere in particular; certainly not from that bag of water sitting across the fire. First we said they came from the trees, mountains streams, anywhere at all really, and then we made scale models of ourselves to give the voices homes. After all we were really all that spoke, voices that resemble ours should come from sources that resemble us, nicht wahr?
As life got more complicated the gods, as we now called the voices, multiplied and the personal god of a tribe leader was listened to by all to the detriment of one’s own god. Under pain of death, we kept our gods to ourselves, and lo and behold they became our thoughts.
Our thoughts now free from god duties could fantasize and remember. We could spacialize time. We could plan and deceive because we were now a unique point of view, whoopee!
Civilization, a social ordering, distinct from, yet contiguous with the individuals in it began to form. God-king became god and king with each building ever more complex institutions to support the two separate concepts. As they absorbed nearby gods and kings the hierarchies grew, then broke up, there were soon many gods and kings again and so on, at much loss of life.
Corporations and Our Discontents
Other institutions began to form, often to protect groups of people from king- and god-based institutions and soon these groups dominated the earth. Today we call these governments and companies.
Companies are essentially real humans telling other real humans what to do. And in the best of them all profit. Real human motives run the show; personal greed is –sort of- kept on a short leash by law and public outrage as well as to a lesser degree, personal altruism.
Out of companies grew corporations. Not really grew, they were invented to protect small groups of individuals –at great cost to other larger groups- from governments and other companies. They are therefore our second form of artificial intellect after the gods, but unlike the gods these creatures are still with us.
Unlike companies which are tools for humans. Corporations use humans like tools. They are, too, a separate and superior species from us; they treat us, when we are workers, like cows to be milked. And when we are customers, like deer to be hunted. In the end, both cows and deer are slaughtered and butchered for profit.
Some times humans introject their corporate superiors to the point of forgetting they are human. But the corporation doesn’t forget, it has no empathy with, even sympathy for us. We are all cows and deer to it; no matter what our titles are. We are all expendable. There is no second from the bottom line.
Happy Labor Day.