You should blog — he said.
Don’t lose all these thoughts on facebook — he said.
Ok, here it is. Reposted from one of my facebook rants.
[roughly edited] —- random, late night, disconnected, sleep-deprived-but-still-need-to-stay-up-and-finish-work- thoughts — beginning…NOW. a la drunk brian rim style (thanks for the inspiration homie, but I’m not drunk just sleepy)
1. a few months ago a friend posed an interesting question — why do we value efficiency? isn’t it only really useful within a capitalist context… a somewhat uncritical and vague normative ideal of growth? the question confused me a little bit at first… As someone who is energized by getting shit done, it seemed quite absurd to question this deeply internalized value of achieving/accomplishing X goal using the least amount of resources, & wasting the least amount of time…
but really, only because we live in this physical world, where getting something ‘done’ implies the use of scarce resources, implying that whatever is ‘done’ is physical in nature or at least requires some sort of intangible yet perceived scarce commodity like ‘time’ or ‘money’.
I think I responded with something along the lines of… efficiency not necessarily having an inherent value in and of itself, but more so as a useful means of achieving something… but I’m rethinking that now and wondering, if the process is in and of itself fulfilling then why do it ‘efficiently’? Why do we do anything?? Ultimately, I mean… Success? Pride? Procreation? Happiness? There’s is that quote… ”happiness is not a destination but a journey”… assuming ‘happiness’ is the goal… can we ‘efficiently’ become happy? Or should we be happy while we’re doing whatever we’re doing ?
2. Switching gears but kind of related — I was ranting/contemplating to another friend the other day about the value of “hard work”. I realized I never really questioned the idea of WHY we should work hard… I just kind of learned implicitly (and explicitly) that working hard was good in and of itself…
I later learned this was in part due to the “Protestant Work Ethic” which implies that the more material stuff you accumulate, the more god likes you (or something along those lines…)
but anyways. it’s funny, because, wasn’t there a time when we thought all this technological innovation would actually allow people more leisurely time? Enable us to connect with our communities and our families more? so we could sit around an debate and discuss the issues of the day? explore grand ideas about the world and our existence on it? wasn’t the notion of “work” at one point simply to meet material needs? Yet, now, despite the proliferation of computers and smartphones (and thus increasingly higher levels of productivity), there seems to be a growing normalization from the 9-5 to 9-7, to 9-9, to 9-12(am)….I’ve an alarming increase of people in my personal network who’ve expressed sentiments of burn-out despite still being in school or having had just entered their first few years of the formal workforce…. we’re more “efficient” and educated and competent than ever before… yet still working ever longer and ever harder…
3. my professor today questioned the idea of “resilience” as a development paradigm… suggesting the concept been co-opted to justify the continuation of the status quo… i.e. let’s identify the endogenous factors of what has made this community so wonderfully ‘resilient’ in light of a natural disaster, or financial crash, rather than focus on the actors perpetuating global warming towards catastrophic tipping points; or the international institutions/policies making markets more insecure (respectively).
4. from an individual level, this reminded me of the uoft student who was praised and applauded for having graduated with an extraordinarily impressive GPA despite having lived at homeless shelter to get through the semester…. praising his ‘resilience’ as a student rather than focusing on the astronomically high tuition rates for international students which prevented him from buying basic necessities… implying that an undergraduate education is a necessary (private) economic good to invest in, for the purpose of future (economic) returns, rather than, oh I don’t know the development of one’s mind and contribution to collective knowledge…
This despite “knowledge” and information being what economics would define as a “public good” due to its qualities of being non rivalry (when “consumed”, doesn’t reduce its quantity); and non excludable (when “consumed” doesn’t prevent anyone else from accessing it) — thus society benefits from enabling its access rather than artificially creating scarcity and inefficiently trading it in the market.
This is much more aptly explained by Bernard Shaw’s quote, paraphrased — If we each have one apples and we exchange, we will both have one. If we each have one idea and we exchange, we will have two!
5. But perhaps the problem is exactly that…. similar to notions of efficiency, and hard work; education and university has become framed as more of a “means” to an end. I don’t actually want an apple… I just don’t want to be hungry.
So while I’m derping around somewhat critically yet complicity participating in this rat race, the resilient, hard working, efficient-loving me doesn’t know how to reconcile a somewhat rational desire to reject these deeply internalized notions because in and of themselves, they don’t inherently mean anything of value… Simply prioritizing some means without a real purpose or direction.
But of course, there is the very real pressures of meeting material needs in the foreseeable future which unfortunately requires a somewhat “marketable” degree/skill set — of which the only ones a social science degree can really offer is ‘resiliency’ amidst thesis-writing crunch time, and perhaps decent writing skills (which given the lack of coherency in this word-vomit I clearly have not developed).
I guess it also makes one think about the inefficient questions of our time!
not sure if any of that made sense.
oh well, back to work