Pwning

I pwn your arse.

Charming.

But there it is in everyday triple double U speak.

Today, walking through a fancier part of my suburb than I live in, I saw fancier houses, cars, curtains, garden furniture and street trees than I have.

I admired these things, which were on the whole lovely, as things go, then felt weighed down by some serious covetting. I wanted OWNERSHIP.

What’s with that? Why covet the stuff? Why not enjoy the view of some nice curtains even though I don’t own them. The design is as lovely for me, walking past as it would be if I was sitting inside that house looking at them. Except I would probably stop noticing them after a while, if I saw them everyday. Normalcy this is called by those positive psychology folks. We just get used to whatever’s going on. Also explains why the longer you leave the washing up, the less it bothers you.

Our kids covet. Man do they want stuff. When they get stuff, they no longer want said stuff. So couldn’tgiveaproverbialrat’sarse in fact, they might abandon the stuff in the car after the trip home from shop.

Where does it come from? This need to own? And why do we do it, when it’s so blatantly unfulfilling? I can admire a car on the street as much as the owner. And maybe see about as much of it. How much time does someone spend looking at their car? (The reasonable Australian sort of person, obviously carlovers dance to their own hoopydoo seventeen eight drumming. )

What about the unownable? Do I watch a sunset and feel sad that it’s not mine? Here’s a funny thing – recently went to the BEAUTIFUL Mount Lofty National Park. Solitary walk. The kind of place people make into jigsaws. I couldn’t bear it. Got there. Closed my eyes.

I would like to recover from this ownership issue. It’s interfering with my fledling abundant outlook.

My brain remains scrambled after birthing that music book. What the hell was I thinking?

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Pwning

Woot – Another Book

A couple of years ago Emlyn and I had mutual, temporarily pulled brain muscles, and thought writing a novel each in a month would be a good idea. Cheerios to the loonies at nanowrimo.org who put us up to this. Were our novels crap? Undoubtedly. (Although we have had enough sense/pride not look at them since! So who knows?)

Any who – since walking out on sensible work some years ago, as a marketer (preceeded by the gradual awakening of revulsion towards not only the field of marketing and corporate communication but also many bewildering and unpleasant things found in bureaucracy) have been making modest amounts of money teaching singing and directing choirs.

Over the years I have arranged a number of songs for these choirs. Had a recent project of putting in the extra, fussing time to make these all purdy and gorgeous with Sebalius. Ouch so not native clean/tidy/fussy person. Tonight I have 19 songs arranged for acappella women’s choirs, ready to go.  ooh. it’s to be my second book. And this one actually has some substance.

So, the scary thing was deciding to release it for free, thus relinquishing the possibility of becoming a multimillionaire book writer. Slim possibility, I know. Folk song arrangements aren’t often at the top of Best Seller lists. But hey, people buy lotto tickets!

Seems that the explosion of human creativity is something to jump into. onto? Whatever way you wish to jump at an explosion, it’s time to do it. And charging money, trying to find a Fairy God parent/publisher or whatever seem to be barriers to this jumping.

Go forth little songs. Now I just have to figure out the technology to send them forth. (Or more likely wait for Emlyn to sort it out for me. Uxorious, amused, patient, loving just a hint of exasperation that I remain obstinately and inexcusably technophobic in the 21st century.)

Sore head. Bed time. But I have a book. Sitting here beside me. Woot.

Woot – Another Book

The End of Money #1: I hate money!

Money
I hate money
This is the first in what looks as though it is going to become a rather long series of articles, called “The End of Money”.

My premise in these articles is that this century will see the end of money as the dominant driver in world society. “Really?” I hear you ask. “That’s quite a limb you’re going out on”. Well, it isn’t, because I really have no reputation to risk or anything else to really lose in writing about this. But in some sense I guess I do stake what I have on this, because I’m prepared to live as if this premise were true.

This article’s main purpose, though, is preliminary, and exists in the interests of disclosure. Before you read further you need to know of any biases I might have, and of my expertise in this area.

As far as expertise, it’s very clear that I have none. Rock on. Well, that’s not quite true. I don’t have any financial expertise (except a talent for acquiring banal middle class amounts of debt). What I do have is a pair of eyes and a pair of ears and some semi-reliable grey matter acting as more than just spacer material for my skull. And I try to pay attention to what’s happening around me, as much as I can access, which in the age of the internet turns out to be quite a lot, and increasing every day.

(Holy crap, the internet. It should blow your mind every day. But back to our regular programming)

As to biases, there’s one biggy.

I hate money.

I loathe it, I abhor it, if it were up to me I’d wave my magic wand today and *poof*, it’d all be gone.

We want to do good things and be nice to people, but because we need money, we have to do the non-trivial things for coin, and that makes every otherwise generous act into one of selfishness.

Every effort at creativity or greatness, at some point, seems to render back to “how can we profit from this?”, and the deeps are made shallow.

Through the glass of money, all things look scarce, all gestures and actions are quantified, everything unowned looks like it should be owned and fenced off.

The most glorious gift, existence, the time lived as man in the world, transforms into dollars per hour.

It becomes our scorecard, our ranking system, the arbiter of hierarchy and status and determines whether we feel successful in our lives.

We find that we are doing in order to acrue money, rather than acruing money in order to do.

When we do that for long enough, the body of our work becomes insubstantial. That which we should love is whittled into the merely inoffensive, and eventually to the irritating and aggravating. This is because what should be the great stuff of life, our achievements and creations and endless glorious tilting at windmills, is become subservient, a sub goal, subordinated to the making of money.

And when we do have money, we don’t know what to do with it. It has become the supergoal, so asking what it is for is to ask an unanswerable question.

Meanwhile, because accumulation of capital is not truly a supergoal at all, we feel dissatisfied, disturbed, disconnected. It is a vacuum of the soul. Marketing abhors a vacuum, so fills it with created needs. We consume, which is to say we waste. This is the modern oppression.

But who is the oppressor? Look around you, choose anyone you see, and there is your oppressor. Then, also in the mirror, and there too is your oppressor. We try to predict how others will think and feel and behave, and others do the same with us, and in this effort to predict the other we all sustain collective delusions such as taboos, systems of belief, and, of course, money.

Why do you need to make a thing or do a thing for money? Because you predict that others will expect money from you before they will make a thing or do a thing for you. Why do they need money? Because they predict the same behaviour from you.

It is possible that we can break free from this delusion. If we were all to ignore money, it would go away. Do a thing or make a thing for someone for nothing. Today. And think about it.

I hate money. It’s time to do something about that.

The End of Money #1: I hate money!

Payment reduces satisfaction and performance in work

This one’s a quick link to an article on Mind Hacks.

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/08/the_best_jobs_in_lif.html

From the article:

“The BPS Research Digest covers a recent study finding that volunteers are actually more committed than paid staff in an organisation, in line with studies showing that payment tends to reduce people’s productivity and enjoyment for the same work compared to when it’s done for free.”

I think that the use of money actually violates one of the basic social mechanisms that humans have evolved to make societies work. More on that later.

Payment reduces satisfaction and performance in work

A tale of Downshifting #1

So it’s been about a year and a half since I downshifted to 0.7 of a full time load. That is, 28 hours per week. To look at that statement written down, I can’t help thinking “how unimpressive”, but in fact it hasn’t been easy.

When I first entered the workforce, I worked part time. I was still studying, so part time seemed like the way to go. Plus, I lived in a succession of group houses, and generally had very low costs. It was the original affluence of the uni student.

That doesn’t last though, does it? Some years down the track (not many!), and Jodie and I found ourselves with a little one on the way. We married, and I continued to work part time, supporting the two of us, with a little help from the government in form of parenting allowance (thanks tax paying people).

And, you know, my career as a software developer took off, the money improved. With it came the spectre of full time work, because there is a social value that, above a certain level of responsibility, you’ve got to be full time. I wanted my career to go forward, I wanted us to live well, so I went for it.

From there, the story goes totally mainstream. Full time work, kids, bills, credit cards (!), responsibility. Or I should say Responsibility. Or possibly

RESPONSIBILITY

replete with darth vader theme music.

It’s not really as bad as all that. But it’s a weird life, and it’s hard to notice that because you’re working so many hours (full time in IT is a ridiculous, demanding thing),  and everyone else is doing it. That second point is key. Everyone else is doing it so it must be normal.

Also, at the early stages of your career, if you want a career, you really have no choice. Part time workers are seen as less committed, even though there is no data to back this up.

So flash forward to a bit over ten years later. I’d worked in a bunch of jobs. I tried managerial responsibilities a couple of times (it’s the standard career path, hey), but to me, telling people what to do sucks. I prefer to do. Management destroys the brain, I am more and more certain of this. But I digress.The important point is, I was now senior wherever I was employed.

But my career trajectory had plateaued. Here I was, senior developer / architect, king monkey amongst the monkey tribes, great sage equal of heaven. You have arrived.

It sucked.

Well it was ok. I love to code. I love to make things. But commercial software development, as so much in the commercial world, is the pursuit of excellent mediocrity. What I mean by that is, there is a striving to be as professional as possible, but the parameters of this are to do an acceptable job with always limited time and resources. So rather than reaching for excellence in what you create, you aim to do it faster or cheaper but still produce acceptable output. I realised my personal myths of excellence weren’t “I made this thing and it was world class”, they were “I made this thing, which should have taken a year, in a month, and it’s ok!”

You can find pleasure in that, to be sure, and I did find some, and still do. But what of my immortal soul? Strange question for an atheist to ask, but the soul is the thing. In more prozaic language, what of my values? What of excellence?

And there was another problem, which is the asymmetry of the employee-employer relationship. Employees are supposed to love their jobs, go the extra mile, love the company, be doing it for love, the money is secondary, to live it. Employers need to watch the bottom line, to allocate resources as required, outsource, offshore, downsize, reorganize, and employees aren’t employees so much as human resources. Can you see the disconnect here? If it were a relationship between two people, it’d be a dreadfully disfunctional one. You’d wonder “why is he so clingy, seeking approval all the time, when she’s such a cold bitch? He’s setting himself up for a fall.”

And fall, people do. I’ve seen this in IT many times. You’ve just got to look at the cross section of people working with you, divide them up into age groups. The twenty somethings are keen, inexperienced, go getters, buying all the emotional stuff that the company is selling. The thirty somethings are becoming conservative, talk about house renovations, becoming senior, self impressed but also starting to look jaded. The forty somethings are sitting in middle management, the younger ones doing well and looking stressed but engaged, the older ones starting to struggle with a changing environment and a perception that they are behind it. The fifty somethings, well, they look stressed and bewildered, and spend a lot of time retrenched. And mostly there aren’t any sixty somethings.

What is missing from this picture, too, are the ones that broke. They do break. The ones that break are the ones who really love the company, throw themselves in headlong, buy the myth, and then expect to get the love back. People with the souls of friendly dogs. But the love doesn’t come back. So they look just for a bit of acknowledgement. But they also get bitter, and they communicate that too. People avoid them. They start to go a bit off the rails. And they work harder, but their emotional issues make them work worse. And the pressure starts to pile on, people start to hate them for their neediness and anger and passive aggression, information hoarding and hiding, in a desperate attempt to be irreplaceable. And then they get fired, and they break, or they break and get fired. And they’re gone to wherever the broken people go.

Wow this post has really rambled on. In summary, the corporate career world is a world dedicated to excellent mediocrity, and wants to consume your soul and throw the dry husk on the pile of husks. In my opinion. So you either ignore it and hope it’ll be ok for you, or you reconcile yourself to immanent huskification, or you do something else. I’m trying to do something else.

More on that in a future post.

A tale of Downshifting #1

First Post

Jode and I are lying in bed chatting about this blog. What is it exactly?

We’re thinking a lot about consumerism, marketing, and attitudes towards work (ie: the work ethic), and the cult of income / money.

These things control and drive us all. I think the point of this blog is to talk about our efforts to escape that, to regain some control over how we live our lives. We’re not fregans, we’re a relatively normal suburban family. We just don’t want to live by the default assumptions of consumerism.

First Post