Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor was one of the books on deck recently. The book was more a pamphlet - incredibly thin and no more then 70 pages or so if that. [SHIT. I can't believe it's 5 PM already. Got caught up with the Latin Jazz station on my Pandora account and totally concerned about keeping the kitchen clean, my stiff back, fighting the temptation to do anything else but write and I can confirm that waking up at noon didn't help. How the the hell am I ever going to make a "real" job work?]
I won't spoil the read too much by saying that within it is a criticism of religious indoctrination while investigating themes of government and freedom. I bring it up because I had a moment the other day at Metro PCS where the argument of the "free" had finally penetrated my consciousness.
Disclaimer, I hate "bosses," Boss culture in America today is largely part of the grander problem. Too many of them are assholes and it's not like the humble workers with justice and integrity in their hearts don't exist. It's that they're often too humble to step forward and claim leadership. So without proper advocacy and existing leadership willing to dig out the diamonds in the rough, you have an exponential increase in the amount of assholes stinking up the planet.
Ambition is something we all have but not everyone gives themselves license to execute their ambition when it comes at the cost of those around them. The problem: leadership implies a far greater level of service. As a menial, you focus upward. As a leader you are indebted to the customers you serve and those who serve you to maintain a strong course with all-around benefit. This means nurturing your community as often as it does keeping a firm grip on your agenda and these opportunities are hard to craft the appropriate agent for. So when an asshole arrives convinced of his/her own importance, they exude enough confidence to appear the most appropriate candidate.
This is my generalization. PRO TIP: You want the heroes who refuse the call because they understand the burden and then you want to convince them if they don't take control, the world will cease to exist as we know it.
In any event, I never hear about great bosses or even leaders in "real" job settings. They all have a "cover my ass" complex that prevents them from the flexibility needed to live and work among other human beings. Because they are the example promoted by the company, they give in to a preferred-status self-appraisal which will always be a false projection. I have a perhaps mystical view of equality and as long as I maintain it I'm apt to treat the traditional "boss" figure like it's due for a knuckle-sandwich.
So there I am at Metro PCS and I'm listening to the workers talk about some training and examinations they've taken and the conversation indicates this is for career development within the company. It' kinda went something like:
Her #1: "Girrrlll, you know I was handlin my business. That mobile exam I was like 'beep, boop, boop, beep! It was that Mac training I had to take, like, three four five times. Like dang!"
Her #2: "Yeah riiight?! So hard. My brain hurteded!"
Her #1: "Hyuck, hyuck!"
Here #2: "Wak, wak, wak!"
I was sitting there waiting for help. One man was being helped at the only open register and about 4 other workers were engaging or listening in on said conversation while my queue went from two minutes to four minutes to six minutes. The bill pay kiosk next to me was the alternative but some very perplexed adults were fussing with it since the time I walked in the store. I remained patient because the world is absurd.
I went through a range of emotions that ended with something I found I could marvel at. The first was annoyance. It wasn't that I minded the chatter or even being ignored at first. It was that the levity in the environment came from the emotional freedom derived from knowing that the job was, at the moment, a suitable vehicle providing so many typical life needs such that any compelling seriousness otherwise was of no consequence. A career in mobile sales? Sure, why not? I felt foolish for all my designs and my desires. Put on a uniform, I thought, and get on with it. I suppose I felt jealous and pained by their comfort.
Then I recalled the Grand Inquisitor and thought about how we define freedom. Must freedom from worry come from submission to an institution? Does a pursuit for financial freedom mean slavery and suffering beneath an ideal - akin in a way to martyrdom?
Am I free, when committing to blogging and filmmaking and video game broadcasting and fiction, even though I am stuck in the home I grew up in with a college degree that has sealed me in a level of debt I had no business taking on? Who is freer? The average Joe at Metro PCS filling the time with simple humor and the regular company of others also conscripted or myself? And what is the value of freedom if one the one hand you give up your freedom to make someone else wealthier or you preserve your freedom just to shuffle around in hubris and existential melancholy? Not everyone is ready to be the mascot of the American dream. Even given the opportunity to sell drugs, I had to decline because I really believed you had to be much cooler to pull it off!
I also thought about my work in a community leader position in my final years at college and realized the painful truth that the reason students couldn't comprehend my desperation for activism is because . . . they were happier not comprehending it.
What I marveled at before I was finally attended to at the store were the smiles and the easy humor of the workers. They belonged to a place. They had options to move forward. They helped each other (and covered for one another). They had standards they could understand and criticize and rules they could bend or enforce. They had a system in which they could quantify their value and identify a limited freedom that they could argue compensates for some quality of life which is better than an unproven standard where the weight of the modern economy is on them.
The film program at school forces everyone to eventually, even if briefly, abandon the illusion of safety. It forces students to strain their employment contract. It forces students to contribute more to team work and eventually lead those teams while, without question, making significant and costly mistakes. It forces students to analyze their own complacency and for that reason I'd say that the college experience was worthwhile. That reason doesn't hold up on a practical level at all but it's a way for adults to conceive of one day inheriting this Earth and making it better for the next generation.
It's just a shame the truth doesn't quite make itself known until all the trouble has already happened and that was the inherent challenge to working with this community. Now I'm considering rebuilding it as a non-profit outside of school and primarily communicating its services and opportunities to alumni.
The lure of slavery is so real. We need employment the way we need to know that something is out there beyond the cosmos and deep within us. That something holds a clue, if not the answer, as to the reason of our own creation. Consciousness is practically a cosmic element but what does it serve in a universe that is self-sufficient and constantly fluctuating in a dance all it's own? Our nature to explore the truth of physical reality and our ability to manipulate matter with design in mind is awesome in a universe with seemingly no other intelligent agent. Over time we might become masters of it if we don't destroy ourselves first.
But how does that happen when power is so distracting? If you know everyone around you would rather follow than lead, what would stop you from abusing that truth if you were so inclined? Greed is a symptom of complacency. Everyone wants to do what they want to do. But when their options are designed by you, then manipulation becomes currency. How could anyone with an equally conscious bearing resign him/herself to an entire life of manipulation?
We're not talking about consciousness here though. We're talking about the the confusion of and between what we give the term "happiness" and "the pursuit of happiness?" The definition and scope of happiness differs between slave and master. And the level of ease is measured differently between these platforms. For those of us who adamantly embrace the ideal of equality and democracy and personal freedoms, we strain a great deal presuming everyone deserves a right to the truth even when we acknowledge that the truth would expose these neighbors to a life of plight and quite possibly despair.
Most super heroes are free to fight the important battles because after much internal debate, they embrace their special nature. But the special nature of independent masters is simply a willingness to embrace the truth of the duality of civilization. You can't expect everyone to rally for their financial independence and their freedoms when the work involved is terrifying to them. Not everyone can afford to question the way things are. This life is not a platform for everyone's revolution at once. So the superhero embraces the needs of fantastical distance, whereby God or some other such form of divinity or spectacle arrives, in inhuman guise, to right the wrongs these people refuse to accuse directly and would not support if a higher authority did not seem to appear and demand of them their allegiance. This is why villains and heroes tend to find such common language with one another. They both know that despite popular thinking, it's their job to do the thinking for everyone else on the scale of which sets the tilt of the world and the standard by which determines the death vs. prosperity ratio for generations to come. It's simply too much.
So where does that leave those of us on the precipice, perceiving the greater design? What are we supposed to do when the path of ease is nothing more than a lifelong disease?