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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Productivity, Efficiency and Dreaming in Technicolor

The morning dog-walk is a refreshing exercise--getting away from the stuffy house and chores, abandoning (briefly) the mind-boggling backlog of reading-material, flushing out the lungs, recalibrating the brain, and doing nothing newsworthy or contributory to the GDP. Beyond the primal pleasure of the act of walking, and giving the frisky mutt a bathroom break (scoop!) and letting her lunge at cats and sniff at anything and everything and God knows what, we have no agenda or obligation at all.
   But the city, of course, impinges on aforesaid brain. I idly recheck familiar houses, note old paint and new vinyl siding, survey the degree of rust on cars, scan weed-to-grass ratio, scout irregularities in the sidewalk and pavement, estimate the droppings of litterbuggor canadensis (vast), gauge the possibility that a passing female may be a hooker (and contributing to the GDP, unlike my lackadaisical self) assessing that possibility with an almost-unconscious set of criteria ranging from skinniness to motility...
   The morning I began this essay, I was spurred by a jarring disconnect between my easygoing routine (and a familiar sight on the stroll; more on that in a moment) and an earlier radio-report of someone, possibly Prime Minister Harper or Finance Minister Flaherty, urging Canadians to be more productive so we can be competitive in the global marketplace (stop them if you've heard this one).
   So, um, not that we should go back to building log-cabins, trading furs and eating pemmican, but... exactly HOW productive do we need to be? $3,000 per capita more? $10,000 per capita? Maybe 2.3% more productive than the Chinese in their less-suicidal factories??
   Increased productivity always SOUNDS good, in an abstract, editorial sort of way, which is why our beloved suits chant the mantra, I suppose. And if you add the imploring faces of some Third World... sorry, developing-world victims (or local street-people) to kick-start the mantra, you may even feel some of the urgency that our ever-alarmist politicians and business-suits strive to promote.
   But let me flip the mantra around, for a little Nietzschean perspectivism: if we (and by "we" I mean residents of the industrialized West) are so productive and efficient that we need maybe only 7% of our workforce to produce our basic food, clothing and shelter needs, what do we do with the remaining 93% of the, um, loiterers?
   A few, of course will be needed for "management"...

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in progress (allegedly)