Friday 3 May 2013

Why am I so slow? (or "redundancy to the rescue?")

I've been writing a particular paper for a very very long time. Since the inception of the idea of the paper (which is written with a friend), it has taken nearly 2 years! My friend is very quick, and I have been incredibly slow. I simply haven't been able to do it any quicker - and that makes me think about my experience, and why I have felt unable to move any quicker. [I have to say that other friends of mine with very prestigious careers will say "2 years is nothing!"]

In many creative endeavours, it is important that time passes. 'Wasting' time serves a function. For what appears to be a waste seems to prepare the ground for the moment when something can finally be 'put to bed' and something new is produced.

Given my thinking about redundancy in my last few posts, I'm interested in the business of 'wasting' time. I think that time wasted is time spent on "manufacturing redundancy". If we consider that redundant data, or 'absence', is causal, then the production of redundant data will eventually have an effect.

Of course, there's a lot of a different kind of redundancy around at the moment. People with no jobs. The experience of loss, and more importantly the fear of loss is everywhere. "How will I pay the mortgage?", "Will I have to move?", "what about my pension?" and so on. What is the fear really? Would we be so scared if we knew our lives would change, that others lives would change around us, that we need to keep together? Would we be so scared if a new war destroyed our cities? I think it would be a different kind of fear. We would probably be terrified about the threat to life of those we love. But the loss of homes, loss of jobs is not so dissimilar in a war to the kind of economic readjustment we are living through at the moment. But what is missing now is a sense of solidarity - war affects everyone. What is dehumanising now is the sense that individuals are 'picked off' and cast out of the community. The fear is of rejection and alienation - and it appears that it might strike anywhere. Perhaps this is closer to the kind of existential fear that Camus wrote about in "La Peste"...

But how have we made ourselves vulnerable to being 'picked off'? Answer: we half did the job before the crisis hit! We alienated ourselves, we lived inauthentically, we behaved in a dehumanising way, and we were often only too happy to see other people 'picked off'. But as we treated each other, we treated ourselves. We became alienated, and as we did, we became more vulnerable.

But this is really about waste. When the redundancy letter actually arrives, it means changes. It obviously means waking up and not going to work. It means lots of daytime telly. It means time passes without any sense of achievement. It means worrying about time passing without any sense of achievement (or income!). But perhaps most importantly, it means having fewer people to talk to, and having nothing to talk about.

But is the passing of time without any sense of achievement really a problem? I doubt it. If it is characterised as a collapse in the social network, what actually happens is an attenuation in the bandwidth of one's communication channels. That means redundancy of communication goes up (we say the same thing to fewer people). But it is all part of the transition. It is part of the process whereby creativity gradually takes root again in a new way. It is not the employed who change societies in an economic slump; it is the unemployed.

But, as with writing my paper, the death-trap with wasting time is worrying about wasting time. There is a need for a change of focus on individual achievement (which is part of inauthentic living and alienation) towards a greater sense of being within the flow of history. That's where the unemployed are are at the moment. That's where the 'time wasters' could be if they stopped worrying about wasting time. In the long run, it may be a better place to be.

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