Musings Of A Wandering Mind

Today Is Easter Sunday, 2020.

For most of us alive today, it is an Easter like no other. Instead of dreading the long commute to mingle with family we may or may not want to see, we’re all stuck at home. Stuck at home for at LEAST one or 2 more months. And even if that order gets lifted, were at least a year away from what most of us would call normalcy.

You know . . . returning to a school we may hate. Going back to a job we might despise. Attending familial events that we may or may not like attending.

The ordinary will return in short order, worry not. Not soon enough for the many stir crazy extroverts of which I try to avoid at all costs, but none the less, you WILL mingle with the mates soon. Hockey will return. All will be well in your world.

As the world burns, this will be a bad memory by mid 2021 and ancient history by 2022.

For me, however, this pandemic has provided a unique opportunity of sorts. Though it has not changed my real life all that much (I work in the essential retail sector), it’s proving to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. An opportunity to observe what happens when a society conditioned to consume culture is forced off the juice cold turkey.

Many people before me have observed and shared far more detailed commentaries about the death of creativity in modern society. However, I doubt the ramifications of this trajectory has been any more pronounced than they are at the current moment.

Before now, every size of locality from the city right up to country has suffered through disasters. However, no such disaster has ever amplified quite as globally as the COVID 19 pandemic. Nothing has ever as effectively shut down all of society’s distractions as COVID has.

And the result has been interesting to observe. Seemingly millions of people that don’t know how to pass a month, a week, A DAY without the rituals of normality. And not the day to day routines either. I’m talking about the shiny distractions that make it all seem worthwhile for the many. Everything from major league sports, movies and popular culture, and everything in between.

It all serves a purpose.

For decades, education systems around the world have valued conformity over creativity. It’s an obvious formula really, since you don’t need creativity to work in a factory, stand behind a cash register, etc. In fact you do not want too many creative people in such positions since creativity tends to also indicate the ability to think freely and analyze. Which is the last thing that an employer with an emphasis on focusing on the bottom line needs in an employee.

To keep the machines running and the economy humming, you need cogs. Punctual, reliable, conformist human robots that can be relied upon to keep the earnings flowing. At least until they can be automated away by far more financially effective robots.

There is a reason why we have all filled in these type of worksheets throughout our progress in our various educational systems.

Though the last time I saw a variation of the 5 minute quiz was in grade 8, I still remember it to this day. All but 2 students actually followed the directions as specified, which naturally ended in a scolding for the rest of us.

As the zoomers say nowadays . . . “Okay Boomer”. I don’t miss that teacher. Unlike many I encountered before or since, he fell out of love with his job years ago.

Either way, it is interesting how a pandemic exposes many things about society. Inequality is certainly highlighted in various ways. But in a sense, so too are the priorities of the society. Though arts and entertainment are far from what any emergency manager would list as a societal essential or priority, I would disagree.

Consider a recent workplace evaluation I got (which is likely not all that different from those received by many others). A big (and undisclosed) part of the position is living up to the standards and values that INSERT GENERIC CORPO HERE represents. And of course, the inevitable Though SO-AND-SO displays good performance in the area of STUPID SHIT HERE, he could achieve more by pushing himself a little harder in his daily routine.

I could. But I don’t really give a shit. These goals always mean nothing to me and everything to those managing me.

Many of us live this existence. It is the reason movies like Office Space and Fight Club are cult classics. Not to mention the modern-day televised adaptations of show characters choosing to thumb their nose at the status quo (Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot).
As much as I love these adaptations, however, they are still a part of the overall problem. With the exception of Mr. Robot (which is filled with educational cyber awareness tips), most of these are just tales spun up by the wealthy and privileged which appeal to the masses on account of the reality of many of the situations.

In a world wherein half of ones life consists of regimented conformity, the availability of passive distractions is just as important. Where life is lacking in direction in terms of meaning, the mindless helps keep the void filled. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves, alcohol and drugs also play a role here as well. It’s all about keeping the mind occupied.

What this pandemic really is, is a dry run of what is around the corner for a good chunk of humanity. A state of permanent obsolescence for much of the workforce that consists of machines of meat.
COVID 19 may be temporary, but we are still collectively starring down the barrel of a gun. Though COVID 19 serves as a shotgun in itself, how our various nations react also serves as a chance to experiment with methods of dealing with this new reality.
It’s a reality that has already begun to touch areas of the fossil fuel industry, particularly in Canada. Though the increased obsolescence of heavy fuels also presents an opportunity in itself, little hope is to be found on that front as the collective status quo continues to bury its head in delusion.

As illustrated by this meme.

I have touched on this topic before, in this very context in fact. I remember that project well since news kept coming out both during its creation AND after it was published that illustrated my point. The future for fossil fuels generally (let alone heavy fuels) is on the decline. Even Jim Cramer can’t help but acknowledge the changing winds of the energy industry.

The only place wherein this information has not penetrated is in bitumen rich Canada. Where even politicians that should know better are pandering for the sake of the votes. Kicking the hard changes down the road for someone else to deal with in the name of temporary gains.
The population wants false hope, so they get it in spades.

The day will eventually come when the reality becomes unavoidable, however. Just as Covid 19 eventually became too much of a problem for even Donald Trump to ignore, so to will the eventual recession of the oil patch. And just as my American friends fear what lies around the corner for their country in the coming weeks of Covid 19 induced economic collapse (thanks to a failure of leadership to adequately prepare!), I fear that the same future is at stake for deluded oil patch proponents.

Considering that the Canadian oilpatch constitutes a tiny fraction of the overall worldwide workforce, the picture only grows grimmer when one zooms all the way out to encompass the whole of the automation threat.

Believe it or not, this does intersect with how this piece started. Even I didn’t expect it to take this turn, but such is what happens when the words start flowing.

In a world of conformity, the lack of personal meaningfulness (?) is fairly simplistic to appease. For many, employment in itself serves this well. As do children. As does the rest of the flashy, ritualistic cocktail of culture, religion, and otherwise distraction that permeates daily existence.

There is something for everyone. No critical thinking or creativity required.

Where this goes wrong is when we eventually find ourselves in a state of permanent unemployment. Permanent unemployment currently means a drastic cut in one’s earnings. That cut in earnings often times also means less (if any) access to things that previously made life bearable.

It’s a big problem in a population that has been conditioned for little more than conformity and easy shepherding, as both right-wing radio and the spread of all manner of internet misinformation and propaganda illustrate. Though the solution so far has been mainly just to ignore the problem and keep on eroding the safety nets of the downtrodden even further, there will come a time when the problem can’t be ignored any longer. Where the lines representing both unemployment and civil unrest intersect, I don’t know.

It’s a problem that even some of the wealthy are starting to take into consideration. Such is why many are open to the concept of a Universal Basic Income.
Though the concept seems simple enough, there is debate about how it will be implemented. For example, as a replacement for all other supplemental income sources, it would be far cheaper than many current nation-state safety nets. Hence why the wealthy like the option.

Though it would likely rely heavily on a wealthy tax burden, much of the money is likely to flow right back into their coffers. A particularly beneficial system for multi-nationals.

I am not really a fan of this implementation as a standalone fix to the coming crises of purpose either.

As part of the overall paradigm shift, okay. But not as a standalone.

Because you can not just throw money at the problem and expect it to go away. The obsolescence of the human workforce marks a fundamental change in the structure of human life as we know it. Failure to tackle that issue is only going to lead to both inward and outwardly directed destruction on a massive scale. Otherwise known as what we are already starting to see in different places.

Either way, it’s time to bring this to a close. Since I touched on 2 very different yet also intersecting concepts within this post, I’ll tie off both loose ends.

First, when it comes to the rapid march of society towards mass implementation of automation, the time for us to adapt is running out. Though the delusional seem to think that refusal to use such devices as self checkouts will stave off this change, I ask them . . . did it work for ATM’s?

To the politicians especially, I look at with scorn. Stable and comfortable delusion may be what the voters long for, but let’s get serious. They are not children. If they elected you to act in their best interest, DO IT!

Rip the band aid off by kicking preparations for the unthinkable into high gear. They may be incapable of seeing the logic, but the rest of us will be glad that someone was thinking ahead.

As for the second part of this, our collective destruction of creative instinct within the human cog, I have a message to all of the creators out there. Keep doing what you are doing. And most of all, don’t waste the talents in which you were gifted.

Keep your skills sharp. The collective may not yet know it, but they need your out of the box thinking more now than any of us know it.

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