Saturday, September 21, 2013

Your Job

Whatever you think your job is, it is actually this: the action you must repeat in order to get paid.

You can get a lot of entertainment out of this, reflecting on the shades of meaning in job, or paid or repeat, but the concept is straightforward. With children and some others, we guarantee them some minimum, but they still learn the "jobs" that will get them extra attention, or escape from harassment, or resources in the larger world.

This came to mind in the context of Bethany's report about the conference her brother attended. (Comments in "Slate" below.) I know the lad, and he's got a pretty high ability to put up with crap and nonsense if the end goal is justice.  So if he was feeling the pinch, the rest of us would have been wailing and gnashing our teeth.

Yet if these people are representing others at the table - if it is their job to obtain resources, including "voice," for their group, then their actions make sense.  The stated purpose of the conference is to solve some problem, and on paper, that's the job. But that's not their job. The action that they have to repeat is to obtain voice, dollars, publicity, sympathy for a group of people.  If they don't they won't get hired again.  Or their group will have insufficient resources to keep them on.

It sounds very grim and cynical when I put it that way, but I hope it isn't.  It is very hard for human beings to sustain charitable feelings.  If you are in a group that has genuine need that it is dependent on others to receive - and justice would be one of those things that the powerless deserve but may not be able to obtain by their own efforts - then appeals to sympathy or conscience are one of the legitimate tools. 

It is a more legitimate tool, and much harder, than stirring up resentment against other groups. Resentment doesn't need a lot of encouragement to sustain itself.  Once established, occasional reminders are enough to stir the fire. The reader will note that this easier tactic is the more common. The appeal to compassion can be the bait, the enjoyment of hatred the hook.

What her brother witnessed may indeed be an example of progressive stack. In theory, I don't see why this would be a controversial technique within the Occupy movement.  It's just affirmative action applied to discussion-space, after all. There's good biblical precedent for it, too.  (The Seven all have Greek names.)

Yet I don't think the controversy comes from hypocrisy, of the other listeners only objecting because now it is their ox that is gored.  There would be some of that, certainly, there always is.  But I think the others sense that the technique of appeal to resentment rather than appeal to conscience is being used, and they don't like it.  In victimisation competition, you can't easily call people out on it. So the attendees get to jockey for space, which is a never-ending battle, and the purported job goes undone.


Sam L. said...

We are smaller, less powerful, more oppressed, and more aggrieved; therefore, we should stand first is line.

Is that what you're saying, bunkie?

james said...

Pournelle's Law. I think you are being quite generous to the Ubi est Mea cliques. This sort of thing smells like focus on the organization rather than the purposes of the organization. I don't know their hearts, but I see the fruit.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

First in line would be workable. But what seems to happen is the attempt to send everyone else six places back, so that there is no one near your group. At some point, everyone has to agree that someone else has claims similar to yours. If not, we have all seen what happens with the game "Musical Chairs."

Hey, maybe all those schools that are eliminating tag and dodge ball should switch to musical chairs. It does teach an important lesson for non-profits.

Anonymous said...

Bethany's report about the conference her brother attended. (Comments in "Slate" below.)


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Comment #2 in Slate Sorority Slam, five posts ago. Sorry to shorthand that before.

Luke Lea said...

As I advised my college-age daughter, the trouble with work is that it is so damn repetitive. So be careful when you choose what you want to do for the rest of your life. Mick Jagger never suspected he'd still be singing "Can't Get No Satisfaction" when he was 70. Serves him right I guess.