Saturday, November 12, 2005

Excerpt from "Net Bomb"

Net Bomb

Once upon a time (within my living memory) institutions and their managers tolerated a little harmless "G.I. griping," thinking of it as a safety valve. As long as an employee just "bitched" and didn't try to get people to actually do anything, it was provisionally okay. But now that things generally are much more unstable, the owners and managers and their flunkies and lackeys are much more aware of how tenuous—and how foolish—their own positions are. They yearn to see themselves as bold, innovative commanders of commerce, but they secretly fear that they are both replaceable and ridiculous; so the need within them to salve their hidden insecurities by seeking out and punishing signs of dissent among their underlings has intensified, and computerization makes this ever so much easier for them.

People don't seem to grasp why the rules and dress codes and all the other utterly arbitrary things they get so picky about are so important to them. Well, it's easy. All the idiotic edicts that come down—where managers are encouraged to rule by paranoid whim, forbidding anything that makes them the least bit uneasy—serve the System's purpose by continually reminding us who do their dirtywork that our thoughts, goals, desires, notions count for nothing and should be stricken from the record if they aren't 100% "on line for the bottom line." It’s for the same reason that militaries whack off the hair of the newly inducted—to impress upon them that their preferences as to how they like to look (or whether they want to remain alive and uninjured) do not matter one little bit. That's why "top" management will almost always, unless bureaucratically cornered, back the rules and decisions of lower management, even if those rules and decisions are astonishingly pointless, petty, and lacking in any semblance of sense. It's because they all know, down deep in their cells, that the slaves have to be constantly reminded that we have no real choice but to be slaves. An edict may in and of itself be so stupid as to be laughable, if one still has the courage to laugh, but the overall effect is to empower those who control the slaves and disempower us who are the slaves. Allowing managers to practice whatever sorts of petty bullying they can devise keeps us in our place—too psychologically destabilized to think clearly enough to plot an effective escape ... or a hostile take-over.

Once you understand this you can see how everything that makes things hard for us makes it easier for the System and its supporters. The "global labor pool" not only increases profit in those institutions for which profit is the primary drive, but it further disempowers us workers. In a situation where good workers are somewhat scarce, then we have a modicum of bargaining power. But if everybody is competing with third-world peasants for whom a pennies a paycheck is a big step up, then we have no negotiating leverage whatsoever and must accept whatever terms and working conditions they choose to impose on us.

They loathe having to treat us as "human beings" when they believe wholeheartedly that we are there for nothing more than to act as components in the machinery of their advancement. They have resented every concession they have ever had to make to "employee rights." They don’t want to treat us as human beings because that diminishes their image of themselves. That’s why the hypocrisy of their efforts to be "nice" is always so obvious, if you have the nerve to see it. They think they deserve to be able to act like military drill instructors and, more important, they believe we deserve to be treated that way, and anything short of that is, to their way of "thinking," a hindrance to their effectiveness. They can’t manage worth a bean and believe we’re to blame because we want to be treated with a modicum of consideration and decency.

The current hiring practice of running computer checks on potential employees to scrutinize every possible detail of someone's prior life and eliminate anyone with anything on their record that might seem even slightly untoward also increases the System's power by delivering the message that only those who live "acceptable" lives will be acceptable as employees. The fact that someone had, for example, financial problems a decade ago has no real bearing on the kind of job they would do, but giving institutions the power to eliminate job seekers for such irrelevant trivialities keeps all employees on their toes on the straight and narrow, afraid to step even slightly out of line for even a moment, for fear of losing out when their tiny transgression pops up on somebody's database. The slaves feel as if they dare not make even the tiniest gesture of noncompliance because everything is recorded and accessible via the Internet to those who may someday pass judgement on them. Every two-bit personnel clerk now has Big Brother near as the nearest mousepad.

The personal computer and its various networks and Internets may not be evil, but they have made all this possible—the power and control they have given people who do not have the wherewithal to be entrusted with power and control has had an evil effect.

And therein lies the brilliance of my plan—if it works right and escapes from the confines of this Local Area Network into the Internet and through all the E-mail and hyperlink pathways, it will make everyone terrified of their computers, and the global networked institutional environment will lock up, and no one will know where the Reset button is. On top of that, the population downsizing that our planet so desperately needs will be off to a good start. Those who are left will either slaughter each other in a struggle for survival or—miracle of miracles—figure out how to cooperate and create a non-oppressive, non-stupid society. Either way, the spine of the System will have been snapped—at least for awhile, to give us some time and thinking room. The human race will either reach its finish line (and a case can be made by any real hard-core environmentalist why that would be a good thing) or the kind of cooperativist communitarian civilization we need will develop out of what remains, and who knows, perhaps even networked workstations may come back into common usage, with kinder, gentler software.


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