Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Corporatism and the Decline of Canadian Civilisation

It seems like everyone that I speak to as of late is exhausted, like they've hit a "wall". True, many of whom with which I converse are Teachers, and as we enter the final couple of months of school, things are hectic compounded by the year thus far (and remember, I teach special needs at a junior high!). But it's not just my colleagues who feel this way. People in a plethora of other professions have been saying the same thing – that they are feeling worn out. Granted, this is Edmonton where we have just endured a long, harsh winter, and we now find ourselves at the time of year where you are out in shorts and a t-shirt one day, the next it's hovering around freezing with snow. While all these are contributing factors, I don't believe that they are the catalyst of this professed fatigue.

I think that the way we work is the main culprit, forcing this fatigue on many people. No matter the profession, it seems that most middle class folks are working harder and longer in corporate structures that offer little in return. As prices go up, wages do not keep pace, yet is seems the hours of work required and demands also are escalating.

Corporate structure is a central component of this issue. The whole corporate structure sucks the humanity out of us and… well, just sucks. I've worked in many different corporate cultures, and they all seem to be the same. Things come down from up top, filling the peons plates to overflowing with little consultation from or consolation for them. As well, organisations attempt to control their employees via a central office, further detaching themselves from what's happening on the ground. Sadly, the employees tend to take this, offering little opposition as they have been manicured through the corporate structure, realising that it is usually the "yes" folk who advance and the talented, free thinkers who are the first to be made redundant or are punished for their outspokenness. Often when one takes a stand, the others will both admire and be terrified at the same time of their taking on the system, and shy away.

This carries on through society as well, where we see the toll taken on creativity. Compare the architecture of 50 years ago to the box stores of today – identical and much like the cubicle offices many of us work in. The Arts have gone from being an integral part of life to something that is either on the Bohemian fringe or for the elite. Independent businesses have conceded to chain stores.

Scarier still is observing our bystander mentality. I've seen people walk past an elderly person needing help, ignoring their plight. I've seen people call for help and people just walking by. I've also seen the fascination of casualty vampires who gape at the misfortune of others once the authorities have arrived. We, ultimately, see what is happening and shy timidly away.

I also find the general conformity of society to be increasing, whether through fashionable trends or "isms". Canadian politics is a prime example of this – yes men telling us what they think we want to hear so that they can be elected as national CEO's. It appears that we are all walking with sticks up our bottoms in an effort to conform and be acceptable.

With this has come fear and the decline of debate on issues in general. Again, this is a corporate mentality of fitting in and not wishing to rock the boat. Honestly, President Obama was such a breath of fresh air, even though he's not my leader, in that he proclaimed things that many people were thinking, but were terrified to say. Honestly, when is the last time we've had firebrand leaders who were willing to state "this is who I am and what I stand for – if you like it, then vote for me"?

The result of all this corporatisation has also lead to people being dissatisfied, and that wears you down. We are not encouraged to show passion or to be expressive. So this goes unnurtured, leaving many to search half-heartedly for more in life. And the corporations take advantage of that too whether through the marketing of self-help books like "The Secret" or through prescribing anti-depressant medications. There's billions and careers being made on this stuff!

This ultimately permeates in every aspect of our lives – relationships, family, etc. Why do so many have extramarital affairs? Because they are looking for that rush, that passion. When with someone for a long time, existing 45+ hours per week as a drone in our jobs, it's hard to come home and find a spark – especially if you are trying to raise children. Trust me, it's hard coming home after a full day of teaching to a family. Many parents, throw in the towel, allowing the TV and video games to raise their children, resulting in the dysfunction and underachievement that we witness today. It's an effort to spend an hour or so doing homework and reading to my child, but it is my obligation to her as a parent, I love her more than anything and that's my inspiration. Most families simply give in to what is easiest, however, which I can understand to a large extent, but can not condone.

Then there's how we socialise. Many folks are on the computer all day at work, and then socialise on it all night. The Internet is such an amazing tool that could be a massive hub of creative activity, but, ultimately, the majority use it to send updates on Facebook stating "so-and-so is wondering whether so-and-so will be voted off American Idol". People are social, pack animals. This is how we established our civilisations. We require that face to face time; to be in the presence of other living human beings, making eye contact, etc.

And just like we are policed at work with expectations of conformity and "professionalism", we live that way outside of work as well. Just look at how we function – the legislating of social regulations, the campaign to live forever, etc. We have so many ideals forced upon us that soon we will all be existing in bubbles. We need laws, but we also need the freedom and ability to choose. We are easily distracted by various campaigns such as anti-smoking, the while remaining silent about industrial pollution, the oil sands, etc. because to be critical of these things is to rock the boat, peeve of the corporations and, in the end, be threatened with job losses. I understand that living healthy is a positive thing, but we all seem to think that we must live puritanical lives and this will help us live until we are 100. Honestly, how many of us really want to live to be 100? I don't want to die, but I don't want to be old, suffering from dementia whiling away forever in a body that can no longer enjoy life. This terrifies me. I love life and am grateful for it as I know I won't live forever. Thus, I want to drain every ounce out of living while I can. When the tank is empty, then I'm done. I wear a helmet when I bike, a rope when I climb, and so on, but, at the end of the day, if I care to indulge in a bit of vice then I will.

Everyone remembers a moment – in school, at a meeting, a social gathering – when we've been bored. This is what the corporate lifestyle/culture is doing to us. We are all exhausted because we need stimulation – we are bored or burned out most of the time. To escape, some submerge themselves in vice (as opposed to simply indulging a bit for pleasure), turn to hard drugs, cheat on their spouses, etc. In the end, just like a holiday, we still return to that grind that is becoming or has become our lives. Personally, I hate the notion of "holidays" as that suggests an escape from life. As stated earlier, we don't live forever, so every moment should be special, not just a week every other year, relaxing by a pool. I don't want to escape my life, I want to live it!

How do we do it? How do we provoke change? There's many ways. We need to make the places we live stimulating by avoiding the cookie cutter set up the suburbs, and having unique places to go and things to do. We need to make face time with friends. We need to leave work at the end of the day having worked hard, but not to the point of being burnt out. Then, in the evenings, we need to socialise with our friends and families – play board games, go walk the dogs and have coffee or a bottle of wine together – not run ourselves ragged with a thousand commitments. Read instead of watching TV, or, if you do watch TV, have standards. There's nothing wrong with a bit of brain candy, but if that's all you feed it, then, just like our bodies, the results will not be very healthy. Not all the time, but at least a couple times a month you need to push yourself outside your boundaries/comfort zone or even do something that scares you. Enjoy things responsibly. Develop opinions and challenge them. Volunteer. Be active. Stand up for yourself. Say what you mean and don't pander to ideas that don't seem right to you (political correctness is rife with this!). It's your life. Remember, you may live to be 100, but what's the point if you haven't really lived at all? Travel. Be considerate of others, but don't be ruled by their opinions. Write letters to the Editor. Start a blog to express your ideas. Be giving, loving and compassionate. Do not fear authority, but rather demonstrate that authority is responsible to you. Fight for what you believe is right – at the end of the day, you need to like who you see in the mirror!

I admit, I have always existed on the periphery of society. I was a punk rocker when it was an underground thing. I read torturous books and philosophy for fun. Oftentimes I am a shit disturber in the organisations of which I am part, who usually becomes disenfranchised by the silence of the lambs and eventually leaves. Perhaps I am arrogant or just plain stupid. I do know that I have a lot of frustration and feel like screaming at the world when I see the waste. I let my passions and emotions rule me quite often. I am bizarre, a freak and someone who cares very much for people, yet I want to shake them, flip the bird to authority and begin a revolution that could never exist. Perhaps my inability to conform is an illness. But this is the reality within which I exist. I believe the world can be better – a world of peace and fulfillment. I want people to be happy. So, in doing my part, I offer the words which I have written. Do as you will with them.



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