tetchy tech (or a story of asshole nihilism)


I’ve had quite a few downsides and run-ins with tech over the past few weeks, impacting really negatively on my ability to work on my MA.

I know they tell us we should take ownership of our reactions.  But this is a way of saying what we feel is ours to own, and we have no right to own anything else that happens.  Instead, maybe resigning ourselves to its reality is about as far as we can go.

The whole world an asshole as the man said?  (It was almost certainly a man …)  I don’t know.  What’s clear is that a lack of oversight on processes end-to-end is crapping the life out of us.

One fairly recent example.  The housing trust maisonette where we live is on the first floor.  It shares a fairly new downstairs door (at the foot of equally shared stairs) with our lovely neighbours across the way.  They are, by the way, the best neighbours you could ever hope for.  The best.

The fairly new door was a replacement for the previous fairly shabby door.  However, the functionality of the shabby cousin was far greater than that of its replacement.  Let me explain.  The latter has very nice frosted windows, is made (I think) of white PVC, and has a letterbox.  All to the superficial good.  And therein its true idiocy.

To all intents and purposes the door now looks like it leads to a house, not a shared flight of stairs and on to two dwellings on the first floor.  A cursory examination of postal legislation would have revealed that where there is a letterbox, even if shared (the two flat numbers are clearly present, by the way – something I neglected to mention above), postal services have no obligation to go any further.  No one in the housing trust who sanctioned the now fairly new door ever thought to look at end-to-end process, it is clear.  Over the past two years or so our shared experience (ie that of our lovely neighbours and ourselves) with the wretched “first point of delivery” in question has been dreadful: multiple lost deliveries from couriers various as packages got left in full view of the street; muddy and damp letters and post when they do arrive; untold numbers of re-deliveries required as the delivery people knock at the bottom, get no immediate reply, and scurry off; and multiple unfulfilled assurances from Royal Mail to not do what the next shift of postal officers always ends up doing.

Overall a much worse service – and intractably so! – than when we had the old and shabby original.

And all due to the fact that someone, somewhere, in a procurement department miles away from the issues, thought that a brand new door with letterbox and two numbers would be a vast improvement for the security and safety of everyone and everything concerned.

End-to-end process analysis is rapidly becoming a lost art: lost to the ever-increasing specialisations of our world, where we are strongly, systemically, encouraged to dip our heads into ever-decreasing circles of knowledge, and thus find ourselves failing altogether to see the wider connections.

And that is what brings me back to the world and its asshole.  So maybe such extreme nihilism is unwarranted, and maybe such vigorous resignation is unhelpful, and maybe we do need to take ownership for our own reactions above and beyond what happens to us on a daily basis.  But even so, and even when said, and even when accepted, there remains this reality: good people are doing shit things because shit systems and lines of command and control and overarching strategies and perhaps, simply, a general lack of interest in or understanding of what is going on is more the rule than the exception.

Write the beautiful new door with its shiny letterbox and flat numbers to a broader audience of work, leisure, consumerism, business and political activity and it begins to become so much easier to understand why asshole nihilism is becoming the default position of so many citizens.

‘Question is: how do we work out together a way of shrugging off the vicious circles which are currently embracing us in no congenial way at all?  How do we move on from simply having to own asshole nihilism on this dreadful daily basis – and dealing with our tragic and broader bereavement from intelligent behaviours – to actually making environments and worlds where our first response doesn’t need to be one of wiping up spilt milk but rather, much more handsomely, drinking its sexy and freshly churned warmth with an intellectual joy that befits the 21st century?


when mad is good not bad

The human brain is a marvellous instrument of joy and expressiveness.  Through it we laugh, learn, share, make, fuck, love, like and thrive.

But sometimes things go askew.  And sometimes they go askew by themselves, and sometimes they get pushed in the direction of askew.

And when those who get pushed realise not only what’s happening but also who’s happening, sometimes more than askew is committed: sometimes grand injustice, too.

In order that this must not happen to all the intelligent people who share this rock, and when I say intelligent people I mean everyone I’ve ever met, we must surely do everything in our power to communicate and understand and like and love each other more fully.

As Michael Collins, a wise person from Ireland, once famously said: “Let us be judged for what we attempted rather than for what we achieved.”

And that force of individual and collective will is surely something we all should emulate if we are to ensure realities are shared not denied; truths are exchanged not hidden; lives can thrive not survive; people can become the intelligences they were born to become and not the sadnesses of spirit and broken existences we so often see.

“Nothing about us without us,” they do say.

Another clarion call: “We will remember.”

And finally, I would myself humbly suggest: “When mad wants good more than bad allows, question your understanding of mad.”

Whatever my story really is, whatever the injustice or inexactitude carried out against a dear acquaintance and – if in my case – my own person too, the real takeaway needs to be one of future solidarity in community and society and culture and politics and art and education and business.

Let us not waste the life of a single individual.

Measure us by our ambition.

And strive to thrive.


in the shadow of football’s pharaohs #FIFA #TTIP #biz #democracy

I’ve nattered on about hierarchy, leadership, pyramids and all sorts interminably.

But this is no wonkish, philosophical airy-fairiness of a subject.

Couple the re-election of Blatter as the head of FIFA, world football’s governing body, with the stats below, and you’ll probably begin to see what I mean:

I wonder if the FIFA crisis, surely reasonable enough to describe it so by now, won’t in the near future be seen as the corporates’ Berlin Wall.  All the grand transnational sponsors standing by as hundreds die; millions of kickbacks apparently kicking back and forth over the bodies of enslaved workforces – who find themselves, quite despite themselves, grimly constructing huge edifices to the greater glory of football’s Pharaohs.

No movement from any of the latter, either; no expression of regret; no humanity expressed at all, it would seem.

So why don’t any of them make the first move?  They must know some terrible backstories.  They must realise what’s been going on.  They must know the truth.

And that’s probably the reason.

This is the tipping-point that tips in favour of footballing omertà.  Once you’ve gone so far, it’s impossible to back out.  It’s the law of increasing guilt.  It must be terrifying – in particular for huge organisations which feel so exposed to public disapproval.  To public – and very public disapproval.

The Berlin Wall looked so insatiably permanent once upon a time.  Then literally overnight it collapsed and imploded, like puff pastry awaiting its fork.

Will FIFA and its corporate sponsors match this dynamic – or will, instead, they end up being the wall Berlin was never able to ultimately sustain?

Right now, I’m unhappily unsure.

TTIP is the corporates’ last-ditched attempt to achieve global control over burgeoning citizen-democracy, that is clear.  Yet the idea of world government via economic practice shouldn’t shock us too greatly – it was, after all, what drove the guildspeople of medieval times to create communities, municipalities, threads of relationships of this and that nature.  From the local village to the global village, it shouldn’t have to be a terribly scary move.  Clearly, the fact it is shows that something at base is wrong with implementation.  Where a long and honourable tradition, much accepted throughout history, should all of a sudden terrify nation-states of educated peoples … well, it’s obvious something ain’t functioning as it should.

Looking specifically at the case of corporates’ dreadfully blind eyes with relation to FIFA’s behaviours, and more generally at some of the wilder accusations circling around the TTIP process, one does begin to wonder if the challenge doesn’t more generally lie in corporate capitalism’s inherent lack of democracy.

Whilst guildspeople and artisans in ancient times voted to support each other, perhaps against rather broader and more powerful forces, corporate capitalism now owns us all.  Yet power brings no humility; the ability to do anything no sense of responsibility.  We only have to look at what Qatar and FIFA have been getting away with – in full view too of the world’s assembled media – to realise there’s something very very wrong.

The solution then?  Perhaps capitalism’s one remaining taboo: hierarchies and structures of internal and interfacing organisation which allow for multiple voices and votes; which don’t, instead, overpay some CEO gingerly atop one of those pyramids I alluded to at the beginning.

Get it right?  Probably not your fault – but you’ll accept the kudos all the same!  Get it wrong?  Blame someone else; they’re bound not to be powerful enough to effectively fashion what becomes received opinion.

It’s manifestly not a healthy state of affairs for any organisation to find itself in.

Do we, then, need more democracy in biz?  If TTIP is to move forward, without a doubt.

And if TTIP falls at the last hurdle, or doesn’t consummate itself exactly as it would prefer, simply for the benefit of business’s own healthy ability to renew from within, a democracy of sorts will need to begin to establish and seed.