Da falta de significado no trabalho

Rutger Berman, “A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work”:

In a 2013 survey of 12,000 professionals by the Harvard Business Review, half said they felt their job had no “meaning and significance,” and an equal number were unable to relate to their company’s mission, while another poll among 230,000 employees in 142 countries showed that only 13% of workers actually like their job. A recent poll among Brits revealed that as many as 37% think they have a job that is utterly useless.

They have, what anthropologist David Graeber refers to as, “bullshit jobs”. On paper, these jobs sound fantastic. And yet there are scores of successful professionals with imposing LinkedIn profiles and impressive salaries who nevertheless go home every evening grumbling that their work serves no purpose.

Let’s get one thing clear though: I’m not talking about the sanitation workers, the teachers, and the nurses of the world. If these people were to go on strike, we’d have an instant state of emergency on our hands. No, I’m talking about the growing armies of consultants, bankers, tax advisors, managers, and others who earn their money in strategic trans-sector peer-to-peer meetings to brainstorm the value-add on co-creation in the network society. Or something to that effect.

So, will there still be enough jobs for everyone a few decades from now? Anybody who fears mass unemployment underestimates capitalism’s extraordinary ability to generate new bullshit jobs.

(…).

Our definition of work, however, is incredibly narrow. Only the work that generates money is allowed to count toward GDP. Little wonder, then, that we have organized education around feeding as many people as possible in bite-size flexible parcels into the employment establishment. Yet what happens when a growing proportion of people deemed successful by the measure of our knowledge economy say their work is pointless?

That’s one of the biggest taboos of our times. Our whole system of finding meaning could dissolve like a puff of smoke.

(…).

I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived.

Provavelmente, o mais patético líder político contemporâneo

Durante a última campanha eleitoral nos EUA, foram surgindo muitos apoiantes e acólitos de Donald Trump que, de certa maneira, se assemelhavam aos apoiantes de Obama que acreditavam que o primeiro presidente americano negro seria uma espécie de enviado divino com a missão de resolver todos os males no planeta. Claro que o entusiasmo pueril em torno de determinados líderes políticos (numa linguagem weberiana, alguns podem ser classificados como carismáticos), assim como a diabolização de outros, fazem parte da essência das campanhas eleitorais. Passada a campanha, quando o eleito é confrontado com a realidade política da governação, muitos dos seus eleitores acabam, inevitavelmente, por ver as suas expectativas frustradas, ao passo que muitos dos seus detractores, mesmo que não o admitam, acabam por perceber que o mundo não acabou e que a vida continua. Como ninguém está imune a este tipo de emoções, uma certa dose de pessimismo é, portanto, uma saudável recomendação para quem prefere afinar pelo diapasão da temperança. Por isto mesmo, não acreditei que Trump fosse um anjo ou o diabo, preferindo aguardar para ver no que resultaria a sua presidência. Quem tem acompanhado a política americana ao longo dos últimos meses reconhecerá que talvez fosse difícil fazer pior, salvando-se, no campo da política externa, como honrosa excepção, a mensagem que enviou à Rússia e à China por via do ataque lançado contra a Síria. Mas após o polémico episódio de há uns dias, em que Trump tweetou um vídeo de si próprio a esmurrar alguém com o logo da CNN no lugar da cabeça, estou convencido de que, embora não seja um anjo nem o demónio, Trump será, provavelmente, o mais patético líder político contemporâneo, um adolescente que, para mal dos EUA e do mundo, se encontra no mais poderoso cargo político existente.

Do excepcionalismo americano

David Frum, “The Souring of American Exceptionalism”:

America’s uniqueness, even pre-Trump, was expressed as much through negative indicators as positive. It is more violent than other comparable societies, both one-on-one and in the gun massacres to which the country has become so habituated. It has worse health outcomes than comparably wealthy countries, and some of the most important of them are deteriorating further even as they improve almost everywhere else. America’s average levels of academic achievement lag those of other advanced countries. Fewer Americans vote—and in no other democracy does organized money count for so much in political life. A century ago, H.L. Mencken observed the American “national genius for corruption,” and (again pre-Trump) Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index ranks the U.S. in 18th place, behind Hong Kong, Belgium, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany—never mind first-place finishers Denmark and New Zealand.

As I said: pre-Trump. Now the United States has elected a president who seems much more aligned with—and comfortable in the company of—the rulers of Turkey, Hungary, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines than his counterparts in other highly developed countries.

That result forces a reshaping of the question of American exceptionalism.

“Why was the United States vulnerable to such a person when other democracies have done so much better?” Part of the answer is a technical one: The Electoral College, designed to protect the country from demagogues, instead elected one. But then we have to ask: How did Trump even get so far that the Electoral College entered into the matter one way or another?

Thinking about that question forces an encounter with American exceptionalism in its most somber form. If, as I believe, Donald Trump arose because of the disregard of the American political and economic elite for the troubles of so many of their fellow-citizens, it has to be asked again: How could the leaders of a democratic country imagine they could get away with such disregard?