Monday, March 27, 2017

On Privelege

I have my suspicions about "privilege". But since I rarely get told about my privilege it isn't really a pressing concern for me. But I will say this for privilege as a pejorative - a man doesn't have to move past 16. And 16 is just an estimate, an intuition I've held for a long time when as a younger man by a decade I noticed how sophisticated office politics isn't. Furthermore, just how much dead weight corporate culture is laden with are generally people employing the tactics that made them successful at 16 to collect a salary.

After rubbing my eyes and eyebrows for a moment in thought, the explanation I would furnish for why this is, and why it is problematic is very complicated, but the result is very very simple. You get essentially juvenile teenage boys dressed in ill fitting expensive suits playing the part of somebody important who in the reality of the value chains of that organisation is completely expendable.

Consider the 'heroes journey' in which an identifiable character known as the protagonist has a calling to leave the safety of home and go on a quest. they face some challenges and fail, get trained up by a mentor or whatever and then achieve some kind of personal growth that allows them to overcome the challenge thereby completing their journey to heroism.

The privilege that men both enjoy and suffer by, is that by removing those challenges that necessitate learning and growth, they don't need to. So my intuition that a guy doesn't really have to move past the development they achieve by 16 - is that I suspect by 16 most males enter the 'adult height' range. At that point people start to take them seriously, and really for many men, that is all you need. You don't actually need to validate being taken seriously - that's the privilege that I will speak out against.

Labor regressions have shown that height is the biggest determinate of corporate success, with 90% of CEOs above the average population height and less than 3% of CEOs under 5'7" (which means if there are 1000 CEO vacancies open in the world, my height would limit me to being considered for 100 of those positions) and its that kind of thing that has me say at 16 for many men, the struggle to be taken seriously ends.

And I say men, but I mean boys. Because the privilege allows them not to actually develop, or mature. People treat them because they look the part. Their achievements and qualifications are largely cosmetic. In Rudi Guiliani's darling days of post 9-11, I actually read his book 'Leadership' and in a fine example of where it doesn't pay to go ad hominem - he astutely pointed out 'many confuse polish with professionalism'.

Which is why, sitting in a car listening to my friend talk about his current occupation as a marketing consultant I did not feel him embellishing at all when he claimed his job consisted of 'telling 40 year old men they didn't know how to do their job' My own experiences cannot falsify the implied statistic. Which is to say, numerous men can get very far in life without ever having to learn how to do something actually productive.

Although the Vice media trailor for 'Hypernormalisation' got a lot of airplay on my social media hive mind, I don't know anyone to have actually watched it. The trailer itself though alluded to the phenomena of 'fake jobs' this is no particular insight, when compared to Keynes' observation that in the future one challenge faced will be actually finding things to do, made back early last century. There's also great articles on the subject like 'On Bullshit Jobs' and 'Driverless' on of all places, an art blog. But the hypernormalisation trailer did connect the important dot that your fake job exists to facilitate your real job which is to shop.

It's a wealth distribution problem. For example, if you owned a huge technological marvel that controlled all the fresh drinking water on earth. An entirely automated system, you would presumably be the richest person on earth. Rich enough to satisfy all your own material needs. In fact you wouldn't even need currency anymore. Because you could charge people whatever you wanted so you could just say 'make a dozen lamborghinis for me' etc. but you would only need the world's population to be very very small, to satisfy one despot's needs and the rest to basically subsist in the hope of overthrowing you one day or some shit. Most people don't dream of such a lonely world though, and hence you come across the consumer goods known as the 'commons'. I want my beaches to be populated by beautiful people in revealing costumes, laughing and playing with eachother, not ragged peasants trying to use crude evaporative techniques to desalinate some drinking water. I want to go to vibrant cities and relax in places where the social environment communicates relaxation to me. I want to stroll through parklands and see old couples taking loving walks together to fill me with hope.

So as a water despot, you distribute some income to other people, can't be everyone because you need to maintain the heirarchy you are at the top of, but also can't be too few. So why not just employ people like you, who identify with you and aspire to be you with generous wages and arbitrary work duties to appeal to a sense of fairness, that wages must be earned.

I'd contend this within the microcosm of corporations leads to the widespread phenomena of dead-weight juvenile middle manager men. And I don't mean juvenile in terms of pit farting and calling their friends wankers, and pulling on the hair of the girls they like (although for all I know, that shit may be happening), I mean juvenile in the sophistication of their politics - demanding performance using threats and intimidation, kissing up and kicking down. That basic shit of simply recognizing a vertical dominance hierarchy.

It is my direct experience that you can be a 40 year old father of 3 and not realise - there are different personality types, and different people hold different values. That you can negotiate deals rather than pulling rank. That opinions and speculations can be formulated into hypothesis and tested... etc.

So if we return now to despots, and think of a ironclad dictatorship, like North Korea. Dictatorships are cheap to run, cheaper than democracies. In a democracy you need to satisfy the basic needs of the majority of the population (or the crucial minority, as per how the electorates are drawn up) whereas a dictatorship only needs to satisfy the portion of the population sufficient to violently oppress the remainder of the population - aka the military, police, intelligence etc. It's not great for the flourishing of agricultural and manufacturing sectors, but it is very very cheap to run. Which is why Democracies would generally prefer to deal with tyrants than other democracies if they could.

Corporations are not democratic, they with very few exceptions top-down. The CEO can tell the Executives what to do, he Executives can tell the managers what to do, the managers can tell the Supervisors and the Supervisors can tell the people that do actual work.

Men can make it into the cushy administrative-managerial positions with all the skills they need to succeed at 16. And this hurts everyone. They are simply sufficient to oppress the frontline staff. Such that you can employ as few people as possible on the cheapest and least committed contracts. That is the efficiency aimed for on behalf of shareholders. And it is efficient.

If you can get 20 people on a minimum wage off the books while retaining your clients, then it is cheap to pay some sack of shit 3 times that wage to do nothing but kick failure down the line and fire staff underneath them.

In any industry I predict you'll find this, it's just how the whole thing is designed - profits are maximum when marginal revenue = marginal cost. Publicly listed company executives are obliged to maximise profits for their clients, so their job is to lobby in order to get fixed costs changed to variable costs (casualisation of the work force) minimize those costs (lower minimum wage, abolition of penalty rates) and maximize marginal revenue (higher output, voluntary overtime)

nature is very inefficient, and so is society. Middle management bloat is an expected phenomena and ideally, a good company executive could have a redundant number of talented executives practically on the shelves to take over for them at a moments notice. But instead the bloat is filled out by talentless men that have been promoted due to seniority, personal affection or relationships - cronyism etc. Reviews cursory and arbitrary, they may not even be qualified to do the job they hold.

This is a problem that bothers me. The solutions are simple, the political will is not.

The first is to shift the taxation base to land. Land as a catchall term for resources, not human resources but anything that is natures bounty or is access to publicly provided infrastructure. Namely taxing economic rents. I'll write about this in the future, but the magic bullet has been known for over a century.

The second, isn't simple, but it will certainly change things over night. That is AI. The moment machines can think they go from being capital to labor. That's the end of the great problem of automation. If a machine can introspect it suddenly has a choice between labor and leisure, and forget the AI singularity, there is little evidence to support that theory given that we don't understand human consciousness, the AI labor movement will be very confronting for our economy.

Anyway, I agree, in this regard privilege is problematic. The frictionless career paths afforded men, and tall men in particular are to the detriment of all, even the men who are primary beneficiaries. Because much like the laborer with the mindless manufacturing job held for 40 years discovering that the plant is being shut down, a middle manager with no real expertise and no real growth or social skills is just as likely to find themselves facing down the barrel of structural unemployment. They are fragile to economic shocks. They possess no real transferable skills, if any real skills at all. They are simply some kid who walks around telling smaller kids what to do. Often, I've observed managers whose instructions are completely ignored, because they lack the expertise to even determine whether their input is acted on.

Fuck those guys.

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