Thursday, August 02, 2012

A True Believer, Not a "System" Believer

I'm working my way through an excellent book by Jeff Schmidt, Disciplined Minds - A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives.  It's basic premise is the status quo is kept in place not only by corporations, but by the systems of entry into the upper levels of those corporations, be it in the sciences, technology, or traditional business tracks.  The educational system that produces professionals for this system is complicit by its very structure.  By the way, John Taylor Gatto said as much too in his, The Underground History of American Education.  I'll let you read the book to see more, but it brought out some thoughts in me I'd like to share.

The author left out a very important facet to his analysis.  He seems to deny the spiritual component behind the scenes.  You see, I've always been a True Believer which has kept me from being blinded by "The System."  Not that I'm endorsing the series, but there is a scene in the Left Behind novels where Nicolai Carpathia is telling a lie to a group of individuals at a high-level U.N. meeting.  Only, the protagonist is immune because his Spiritual side is preventing the lie from taking hold in him.  He's watching the horrifying scene play out as people are brainwashed like Manchurian Candidates.  When the session is over, the unprotected go forth boldly proclaiming the lie while the reader and the protagonist know the real truth.  

This is how I feel.  I've never really "bought in" to the total package.  I haven't striven for the Master' Degree.  I never longed to be in a Fraternity or part of the Tri-Lateral Commission.  I don't want a membership in the Council on Foreign Relations.  Perhaps those in the business world can sense this disloyalty, much like a dog "smells" fear.  It may be why I prefer contract work to full time employment.  

I don't believe that all of the individuals that make up "The System" are consciously trying to perpetuate the status quo because of some conscious nefarious decision they've made.  They really believe in what they're doing.  They really believe that "greed, for lack of a better word, is good...", (Gordon Gecko, Wall Street).  No, we have a more insidious system of enslavement in place now.

Instead of overt slavery, we all have become slaves to our passions, our entertainment, our baser selves.  As Neil Postman argued in his brilliant book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, we have fulfilled Huxley's, not Orwell's vision.  There is no need to ban books or burn them because people simply don't want to read.  The vast majority are uninformed.  They are stupefied into believing the lies presented to us by media, by education, and unfortunately sometimes, by the Christian Church.  

Which brings me back to Schmidt's book.  I have a deep desire to feel useful in my work.  I believe this is how God made all of us.  But the structures in place reserve meaningful work only for a privileged few.  By meaningful I mean that one takes part in the decision making process and share in the profits of those decisions.  Instead, we have a system where most in the division of labor are treated as cogs in the machine.  They are resources.  They are expendable.  They don't share in the decision making and they certainly don't share in the profits.  Those are reserved for the "professionals."  

My burning question is how to effect real change in the system in which I find myself?  Different factions have their own take on it.  The "world" of course doesn't want you to see that there even is a problem.  Just go watch the NFL and American Idol.  Enjoy the pittance of freedom it allows you to maintain and drown any remaining unhappiness in alcohol or a bevy of "doctor approved" psychotropic drugs brought to you by the wonderful pharmaceutical industry.  

The pragmatists state that being true to yourself and maintaining honor amidst the corruption is the highest ideal.  You find this in the military and in the service professions.  But serving with no hope of reward is tiresome.  There's more to this side, but that should be another post.

The church has 2 views.  On the one hand, the Bible instructs us to work at whatever we are doing with all of our heart.  The instruction is that if we simply work hard enough, God will reward us in the next life.  It goes on to say that our inheritance is from God.  And I believe that.  I do. 

The other Christian view is that of the "prosperity gospel."  If you just serve God now, you will reap rewards now and live like kings here on earth.  This I do NOT believe.  Jesus is the best example as to why that cannot be true.

So if I believe that our inheritance is from God, what is the problem?  The problem is how to reconcile serving a corrupt system while trying to maintain that God will reward me anyway.  It's not quite to the extreme where I feel like I'm dealing drugs and working at dealing "with all my heart."  But, it's close.  

I feel like my work serves the status quo and keeps people enslaved to a system with which I fundamentally disagree.

So the next question is, "How do I bring the Kingdom of God to bear upon the system?"  Do we rebel like Spartacus and Martin Luther?  Or do we work within the system like Martin Luther King, Jr.?  

I've tried very hard to keep putting on a smile at work.  I try to care about people in the midst of looking over their shoulder to perform my technocratic work as a Project Manager.  But my job  humiliates them:  Make them subservient to a process of getting work accomplished instead of creatively accomplishing the same work.  I feel bad about it.  But how to change?

How do I reconcile being a Christian in a corrupt system?  How do I pursue freedom and justice for myself and others in this system?  What does the Kingdom of God look like as applied to the inner bowels of process improvement which lead only to increased profits for C-levels and shareholders (scroll down to see the first chart), but not the workers?

I'm a True Believer in God, but I don't believe in this monetary system I serve.

If we were called to be salt and light, I'm sure that meant more than simply avoiding alcoholism and making sure you were in church every Sunday and tithing one tenth of your income faithfully.  Where is the revolution?  Is it only internal?  Is it only for the personal social issues?  What about changing the way people work and live and interact?  Where is the justice for the Foxconn workers who have suicide nets outside their buildings? 

For now, I am going to continue to try and "redeem" Project Management for the glory of God.  I don't know what that looks like, but it starts with caring about people more than profits.