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When there are no Jobs

As in independent consultant and small business owner, I see how the markets and society impact productivity every day. One thing that need acknowledgement is that we are responsible for our own difficult situations. By we, I mean the tech sector companies, managers, workers, employees, investors, and consumers.

When we don’t respect education, we don’t get well-educated workers coming for jobs. When we have poorly-educated or not-very-smart employees in roles within a company (especially managers), we get inefficient and often error-prone execution of job functions, which leads to low quality products and services.

When we neglect education, we also isolate our independent personalities, “free thinkers”, highly-motivated and creative people, as they are most neglected by a lesser education system and lesser organizational function. Some say we “breed” mediocrity, but I don’t agree with that as much as I think we alienate those who do not fit into the “mediocre” group (perhaps pushing them out of view, leaving “mediocre” in sight).
At least two facets of this process lead to self-reinforcing mediocrity in our economy. As we manage companies that hire ill-prepared thinkers as employees, and manage the error-prone and lower quality production of products and services that results, we lower standards. At the same time, those free-thinkers and creatives and highly-motivated workers seek employment outside of that system.

This leads to our “Silicon Valley” experience on the one side (highly-motivated and creative thinkers seeking alternative systems of employment) with it’s exploitative labor arrangements distorting the purpose of labor away from production and towards servitude. It also feeds a lop-sided financial world driven by a winner-takes-all mentality with “go for the gold and invest” vs “hold back and try to hinder” behavior.

Like a sump, a community of lower-motivated and “entitled” workers makes up the largest remainder group. They accept work at mediocre dysfunctional organizations, and accept lower standards while seeking to make lives and find happiness.

But the consequences of this downward slide of economic civilization also include a perhaps less obvious “cheating society”, where workers who do not engage with the high climbers but who do not fit in with low-demand entitlement community of workers, do their best to “get ahead” within the system. These workers often ending up holding down multiple jobs or careers (e.g. job at the bank by day, real estate agent by night) or working as freelancers and contract workers. They “cheat” by exploiting “loopholes” in the system for personal gain. While “cheating” is a harsh word, if you look closely you might find a significant portion of their “earnings” come from exploitation of the overlaps between their endeavors, or their personal monetization of “slippage” that exists in the positions they hold.

Examples of “cheating” include personally selling excess office supplies from work on ebay (rationalized with “they were just going to throw it away”), spending company budget lines on training that is more relevant for the second job than the one that’s funding the purchase, calling in “sick” when there is an opportunity for better pay at a side job, etc. Sitting on multiple boards where there is conflict of interest or benefit derived from mutual considerations. Taking full benefits even when not needed (rationalized as “it’s mine, part of what I negotiated when I took the job”), deciding to execute a plan that is not truly needed by the company but would make your job much more fun, etc. The examples are so numerous and behavior so common we have come to accept them as “normal” or even “benedfits”, even though most of it technically is illegal or close to illegal. It often seems that the bigger the company, the more the cheating is considered “normal”. The government seems to be the biggest company of all, in that respect.

Psychologists have names for these behaviors (as do some lawyers) but for the purpose of this discussion I will simply note that when a person is underutilized and unhappy in a job, they tend to find ways to compensate and self-reward. Those “ways” are often at company expense, and this “cheating” mentality exists across the whole spectrum from worker through management and company behavior towards customers. One can even “see” how it could be extended to explain the nearly billion dollar pay of some CEOs, and the million dollar salaries of CEOs of so-called non-profit organizations. I think it stems from a lack of respect for education.

Of course “fixing our education system” is not a wholesale solution. I, personally, think our education system needs to be scrapped. I acknowledge however that I am not a qualified expert on fixing large dysfunctional systems.

But fixing “the education issue” is a solution. Fix education. Individual education, group education, societal education. Respect for enlightenment (and the process of “education”) is key to fixing the problems.

Perhaps the first step is to defend your own right to knowledge and enlightenment, an activity which will earn you access to “education”. You have a right to not be misinformed. You have a right to learn the truth (about whatever). You have a right (and perhaps a responsibility) to continually learn.

If you think about it (if you can.. meaning if you have any time to think, have any environment free from distractions such that you can think, have any way to defer the demands of everyday life such that you can freely “think”) then you may see that many of today’s “problem issues” stem from the failure of all of us to get educated and stay informed (educated):

We take too many prescription drugs
We drink to much alcohol
We take on too much risk in our leisure activities, or not enough (what happened to the middle ground?)
We “hate” too quickly
We “love” too little
We are “alone” too much, and our “community time” is too stressful/unfulfilling
We are either not busy or too busy (e.g. underemployed or overworked)
We have little peace and are becoming entrained by ambient noise – which brings us back to the top of this list

When there are no jobs, there is pain and trouble. But the solution is not “more jobs”. The lack of jobs is a symptom of the real problem, as is most of the above. The problem is what medical doctors commonly call “a failure to thrive”, in this case applied to the human spirit and humanity.

As individuals we thrive when we can fulfill our personal destinies, which were at one time the product of our unique personal combination of genetics, physical and mental abilities, and personalities, nurtured in a development environment (family, friends, society). But once we started to impose constraints, and developed them into a system of control, empowered by surveillance and authority, we started to kill “education”. Where our ultimate life paths were once determined by our individual natures, supported and influenced by our surroundings, our life paths today are determined by our ability to break free of constraints, “cheat”, or settle for a selection of entitlements within reach (using coping skills like alcohol and drugs to manage our internal discontent).

It wouldn’t seem so bad if we were “happy” with that, but clearly we are not. And whether or not we acknowledge it, when it comes to humanity, defined as “thriving in life as a human”, the status quo is not sustainable.

Education. Awareness. Enlightenment. Information. Knowledge. Satisfaction. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. Humanity.