This is inspired by a conversation with a dear friend who doesn’t hug much.
I have a question … well, two. First one. Do we make room for creativity anymore – for the synthesisers?
(My friend was one of the creative ones who ran off screaming to do VSA in the sinking atolls of the Pacific. No question about purpose there I suppose.)
Second question. Are we now dominated by the mechanics of things – the tasks, the instructions, the prescription, the regulation, the expected unquestioning obedience, the Newtonian banality of a functionary job, hierarchical & formulaic, where dialogue and the merest suggestion of a question or a different way is treated with suspicion and fear by those whose sole desire is to ‘do’ without thought or creativity, and to climb the hierarchy one rung at a time?
I mean, for heaven’s sake; do people never read about General Haig on the Somme anymore? Do people believe in the delusion that you can raise a complex and ever changing thing like a child constantly exposed to the vagaries and varieties of life, and even *imagine* their life will be complete by institutionalisation in some mechanical box?
This is the delusion of those who are so wrapped up in making a machine of everything they see and touch that they cannot hear the music of life. They think us insane for dancing. We think them insane for not moving to the grove.
But the music is real. Listening to the music of life is part of the vision.
Vision without action may be a daydream, but action without vision is a bloody nightmare! Our country has been living more and more in that visionless nightmare – musicless! – space for decades.
The two questions – any room now for creativity, and dominance of the mechanical view – are related of course. Structure a world as if it is a machine the way Treasury and their government lackeys betrayed the public service from 1988, and you kill creativity.
I think to be creative and a synthesiser is now a disadvantageous trait in the job market.
And that disadvantage is at a considerable cost to the integrity of the whole and therefore to us all. We need thinkers who care about something out beyond themselves. A dear uncle who saw the demise of his bank from decentralised judgement to Sydney-based spreadsheet formulae explained it this way. Where in the past the A-grade people hire A-grade people, now with the increase in control from the centre the B-grade functionary who loves the presumed regularity of things is promoted and hires C-graders because the B-grader’s motivation is self and control rather than outcome. And then the C-graders hire the D-graders ……. ad absurdum.
I witnessed that shift from quality thought and an ethos of outcome (what is the greater goal) to valuing the task-tickers in the public sector dismantling of the 1980s and 90s. “You are all selfish and utility maximising asocial automatons,” said the neoliberal priests and their scary-eyed acolytes, “The world is mechanical and rational, so we will look to instruction rather than culture (there is NO culture!), and so will design the public
service as a hierarchical corporate machine.”
The rise of the Vogons and their guards. Vogons don’t dance, and they cannot produce decent poetry either.
Those with ‘merit’** will rise. And they in turn will employ people even more ‘meritorious’ than themselves. Use your imagination and roll forward with THAT sort of crap for 30 years, and what do you get?
[**Merit. Noun. Obedient. “Jane obediently performed her task and so has merit.”]
And now all our processes are out of whack. When I went and worked at a regional council I was very surprised to find that my responsibilities did not include Outcomes, only procedures and tasks. WTF? Asking questions was treated with shock.
Like … What are we trying to achieve? Que?
Why are we doing it this way? This is what we do.
Is there another way? Absolutely not.
Are we looking at our land and community/economy wrongly as some predictable ‘resource’ commodity machine. We’re technocrats. Of course the world is a machine.
Should we perhaps rethink and look at the real world of uncertainty and surprise, which might suggest we think about resilience and building human and environmental capacities and functions that allow us to cope with the irregular; you know, a few future bumps? We don’t deal in silly conceptual queries. Just do as you’re told.
They cannot hear the music. They cannot even imagine the dance. And so they march across the room, with life bumping against them in an annoying fashion, resulting in constant short-term reaction, constant in the belief that the bumps were an anomaly and the march would get them to wherever they were going. Except they are not thinking so much about where they are going …. as the march.
I found that the upper levels of hierarchy were in general incapable of deep conceptual thought.
The real creative talent was below
….. or they had fled, screaming.
Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and land use strategy.
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Enjoyed reading this Chris. But I think we should next get down below the slogans and pigeon-holing and see whether and how we can (re)balance to engage that creativity, including in organisations like regional councils. Synthesis and integrative thinking are a great start