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20th Anniversary Rendezvous - Anne Herbert

If there is a God, why are there crummy little jobs? If we made up God, why can't we make up something better than a worldwide interlocking network of crummy little jobs?

What if everyone were thinking? By thinking, I mean not the process of deciding which is the right answer on a SAT test, but noticing the situation you're part of and noticing what you know about it and chewing on what you notice till you know more.

To do many jobs, you have to turn off all the switches of yourself except one the filing switch, the hitting keys on the keyboard switch. Noticing the whole situation on a job and having an idea about it and telling the boss the idea often leads to being condescended to, being sneered at or being laughed at. People encouraged to have ideas will have others and one of them might save a lot of money, reduce human suffering or make filing easier. Even a pleasant office may be filled with a great flat pressing feeling when you think of saying something about doing things differently. The very molecules of air conditioned air seem to say, "Shut up and do your job."

A friend of mine said it was scary to her to hear someone say on the news that the reason the Polish government is having trouble now is that it educated people well, so now they think and the government is challenged. That scared her because she thinks we don't educate people well in this country, we don't educate us to think, and the government isn't in trouble.

I used to think school didn't give people any learning by doing, no preparation for real life activities. Now I think many schools do provide continual learning by doing of the most basic adult activity enduring boredom. In school you learn to endure boredom which you will need to do many jobs. No explicit advice is given on how to endure boredom kids are thrown into an ocean of it and improvise for themselves how to swim or how to live on though drowned.

Sometimes I have crummy little jobs. Sometimes I don't. When I don't boredom is just a word to me, and not a world of: "Will I run screaming from the room now or in three minutes?" When I have boring little jobs, I think, "Let me out of here," by which I mean, "Let me out of here." I wanna be a consultant (which I occasionally am) and get paid to think and talk and ask myself the question, "Am I bullshitting and would anyone notice if I were?" I want to leave my work mates to wither on. / want out.

You never know about Utopia. P.T. Barnum said he knew only 50 percent of his advertising worked, but he didn't know which 50 percent. Some Utopian ideas stay as impossible as they seemed when first dreamed, but others just up and happen and utopianly dreaming them is the first step toward a better life for actual folks. What if everyone thought and brought their unique wisdom to the world as part of their daily routine? How could that happen? What would be some results if it did? Send your answers to the address at the end of this article. 

Now it seems that for things to go on, there must be many jobs where people stuff their hearts and minds and souls into a psychic space the size of a soup can and count the minutes till five o'clock. But work structure is not something inevitable but something we choose day by day.

Take five o'clock and the whole "40 hours a week is full-   . time" idea. That used to be Utopian until the people with the crummiest jobs made it real, made their crummy jobs eat up less of their lives, and be done in less horrifying conditions. People did some good work on their working conditions it might be time to work on working content. The people united are frequently defeated but not always.

When I am in one of my crummy little job phases and whining at my friends about how boring it is and how I don't know how people live so small all the time every day, my friends almost always say things like, "Some people like dull jobs. They're not bored. For them it's a good job." Some people like deprivation? Is this how educated people before us spoke of serfs and slaves?

I speak from a position of privilege in lots of ways. One way is that I figure I can always go out and get a crummy job and be a file clerk for as long as I can stand it. Some times and places, when a crummy little job is announced, 2,000 people stand in line for a chance at it. That's depression, and I utopianly think maybe it would happen a little less if more smartness were unleashed, if organizations and whole countries didn't find it so easy to get on a dumb course and stay there until it really, really doesn't work.

If people added their wisdom to their daily routine, the old US of A might be in better economic shape and the old planet might be in better health. Catastrophes large and small, fast and slow are caused sometimes by people who have been made fun of for asking questions, who were taught their first year on the job or their first year at school to not wonder about the whole thing, just do what you're told and go home.

My current crummy office job I got through a friend who has worked at this place for years. As I struggle through the boredom minute by minute, I ask my friend, "How can you take it?" She said, "I'm over sixty. I couldn't get anything else." She isn't less bored than I; she has fewer choices. I may get a fairly good writing job soon, so when I quit that particular vale of boredom, do I leave my friend there in the spirit of "Tough luck for you?"

What are educated people for? For ourselves we are educated partly to get ourselves out of the worst jobs our society has. We are educated partly to escape having to work at a job where you have to turn off all the switches in your brain but one. We aspire to the jobs where you only have to turn off half the switches in your brain to endure the day's work.

I think educated people are partly to keep thinking of Utopian ideas because some of them will work. It must have been a great breakthrough years ago to think of breaking down thing to do into many simple repetitive tasks. Now we've got that down anyone reading this article can figure out how to break a job down into tasks that are easy and deadly to do for more than an hour. Now is a time to think the other way, to imagine groups, organizations, cities being based on every human being being as smart as humans are in every moment.

How to do that? How to get there? How to start? I don't know. Being happy when people offer ideas because our offerings of ideas to each other sustains us, in its way, as the plants offering of oxygen does it's a life making process not to be sneered at. Thinking about how learning could be all the time happening easily might help. For example, I think it might be a lot easier than we think for people to learn to read. Or, to put it another way, I think if schools taught people to talk, millions would be mute. There should be a way for people to pick up reading as they pick up talking. I think subtitles for some TV shows that have the same words the characters are saying as they are saying them might be a good way for reading to ooze in like so many other knowings do.

What do you think? I think dumbing ourselves down must have been a survival technique for a while, or seemed like one. But I think we could stop faking, and enforcing, a mental limp now. How could thinking become common, daily, encouraged, rewarded? If you have any dreams about this, questions or comments, or any of this reminded you of something you almost know, write me a letter. Marianne Faithful once said, "To make good work, you've got to connect head and heart and cunt." And allowing for local variations in genitals, I think she's right. Which makes it good work to change, now that many jobs don't involve any of those three important things but just some dumb activity done by a person made for much more than that.