Automate and Profit Take


Copiers have replaced scriveners and a better job of it they do. And less hassle too; no unions or OSHA, no benefits or raises; plus when cheaper to replace than repair, that’s done without guilt. The new Wall-Streeters are not at all like the narrator/employer in Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street,” lawyer he may be. They see no gain by charity, even if it’s to “cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval.” For them it’s only automate and profit take. It’s all a game, a game of numbers: winner takes all. There is no second from the bottom line.

Remembering that Bartley’s boss moved out rather than confront him, you know it went to the landlord–a link up the capitalist food chain– who finally “…had Bartleby removed to the Tombs” and it is he illustrated here visited by baleful machines. But the real finale for the landlord/capitalists won’t look like this; the real machines will be no more threatening than pictures of smiling friends returning gazes, nicely framed, and sitting on desks. The end will be thus: Their now smarter-than-they phones will reply to their digital commands, “I would prefer not to.”

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

An aside: 20 yrs. ago when images like this one “appeared” in my head, I–a scrivener–copied them out on paper with a pen or a brush. When done they were stacked in a closet. They are still there, I just checked a couple of days ago. Now a very complex machine mimics that pen on paper, and instead of the closet, I –a scrivener, still–have a blog.