Fifth Column – Issue 16


A funny thing happened to me in the course of interrupting the new godhead as I wandered in an unrecognisably dignified fashion to deliver and collect things for the Party: the modern office is looking more and more like a hamster’s cage.
Stores of snacks, populist beverages and ergonomically adjusted chairs, all in place so the animals don’t need to leave their work area. And, just to complete the picture of progressive modernity, the physical wheel has become a psychical, yet tangible metaphor, in that, the constant effort to make the wheels of corporate capitalism turn, is presented as fun.
However, more insidiously, this ‘running on the spot’ is touted as a definitive work ethic and the unquestioned drive towards efficiency.
No term is fully explained – even in the limited sense – or indeed explored for any logical and ethical validity in humane terms. This complacency and the irritatingly flaccid philosophy is further deepened by the enthusiasm shown by those experts and analysts, heard far too often on TV, radio and in comics newspapers.
When was the last time you interrupted sex to talk long and hard (no pun intend-ed, honest!) about efficiency. Wait a minute, isn’t that exactly what isn’t talked about but very much inferred by the assimilation of the very idea that efficiency describes? Well, it serves as a very good example of how the term efficiency can mean different things given specific contexts. Both contexts here require a four letter word to describe efficiency: the first is a good f”%&, the second good work. However, in both cases there are subtle nuances that need to be established, so as to fully realise the connotative meaning of the term efficiency.
In the sex act, efficiency could mean a good minute or so doing what appears necessary to alleviate doubt about the relationship. It could also mean, in a slightly more clumsy way, the efficient expression of love for the other partner. In both cases, efficiency is achieved but the word itself cannot fully describe the nature of the relationship.
In the case of work, efficiency seems to mean compliance to edicts and so-called reality given to us by economists and political agents of capitalism, to make control of the costs of employing people easier to accept and ‘explain’.
Returning to the hamster metaphor, efficiency seems to mean the perpetuation of movement, as represented by the wheel, with the hamster, representing us as workers, merely aspiring to do it quicker and without any dissidence and philosophy looking into the validity of the premise of movement. Extend this further and we might argue that a hamster, being without aspiration for anything approaching humane terms, keeps going as if it enjoys the exercise, and does not at any point question why there’s another dead hamster in the cage adjoining it, who if cognisant continuity was possible for this rodent, would have seen the similar efforts of the deceased fellow prole, produce little or no change to the conditions in which he is set upon the wheel in perpetuity, excepting of course the end of work brought on by death.
With such absence of continuity of thought, we would need to be hamsters to be able to accept efficiency at face value. Water and food are vital, but for us as humans, so is context. Don’t pause, keep those paws going!

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