I have two jobs.

One of my jobs is to assemble sandwich parts. I cut them and take the required instructions from the customer as to toppings, veggies, and such, then it's wrap, and redirect to the cashier, where the sandwich's manufacture is compensated for in credit. I also happen to belong to an infamous chain (hint:bagels) where the customer has only a thin plastic window between themselves and the guy with the apron, who puts the thing together before their eyes. I do this. I've grown familiar with a certain kind of stupified look in their eyes as I add lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Like they think there's some kind of magic going on. Like I'm specially accredited, or licenced to make sandwiches. I began to realize this: when they do get their meal, they have no sense of either the fact that work went into making it, or the convergence of conditions required to produce it. They return to their cars none the wiser. It's something that came out of a hole in the wall.

My second job is as a computer repairman. People come into the store with all kinds of problems. Some of them are real. There's the classic lightning surge problems. People who want to upgrade to the newest thing. And people with terrible problems they don't know how to solve. Everyone who comes in has reached a point in their own computer repair where they're scared and confused enough to call an expert. But, once again, the customer tries to make your magic work at the expediture of his credit. Most often all we do is find the broken piece and replace it at full charge. But that's exactly what they wanted. Smoke and mirrors.

I've determined that our consumer culture is behind this attitude I observe in a lot of people. Nobody cares how a sandwich is made, or a computer is fixed. As long as money goes in and services come out, we're happy. Everything is running smoothly. I find these patterns of being able to tune out certain things typical of us, as modern humans. I remember doing it at one time. Before taking on the respective positions, I ordered sandwiches and sent computers through the magic box to be fixed. It seemed natural. Of course, there's nothing wrong with either the administration of these services or the people who request them. But I've found a bug in the mentality of these exchanges.

Imagine at the earliest stages of your life, you learn one thing, and only one thing. It has no words. It's your awareness of what you know, your first shred of meta-cognitive thinking. What follows? If I'm aware that I think, how do I think? We necessarily develop our operating system, the way we position ourselves in relation to the world, and handle situations therein.

I'm saying: most of us, early on, are taught about one thing. Another presence. The outside world. This outside world is the fact that provides the basis for our earliest intelligence. Because we do need something to grab on to. Because this world is incomprehensible to us, at that stage, our minds are foreign. So our understanding of the dynamic world is reduced to the kinds of things that can be quantified in inputs and outputs. We are convinced of one, all-encompassing piece of knowledge, and that we have no chance of understanding it.

This kind of mentality saddens me deeply. I have lived without it, and continue to.

We don't find this mechanization inevitably. There is an alternative. It is what you've been convinced you know nothing about. It's a comprehensive understanding of the world, built into your mind. It can't be quantified. It can't be written down. You can't name it, or find a word for it. But niether can it be stopped from being there. It provides you with a way, and it is the way you operate, even if you're wrapped up in the machine. Because nothing can stop it. You don't exhibit it by understanding, or trying to understand, but by existing. Being alive, in every sense. And then comes a personal law that will hold you until you are ready to die.

I don't mean for the logic in this node to be complete, or for it to be subject to doubt. It is failed if only for the reason that it's an essay. An attempt. Many of the words were found in the book by Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence, as well as my friend Alexis. I've had many conversations with her that've helped me turn these ideas into words. It's like those people who approach you with a bumper sticker about preventing domestic abuse--most times they've been through enough to know. I've gotten out of the mess, but, more importantly, I can remember being there. I think it deserves a story of its own.

Piter's got a bit of a harsh negative view on society today. When looked at from an anthropological perspective, the sense of 'magic' people have concerning everyday events makes a lot of sense.

According to post-modern anthropological theory, there are three types of culture, defined by levels of complexity. Briefly, the first, small-scale culture consists of people living in small 'bands', with their primary concerns being nourishment and leisure. Moving up, in large-scale culture, 'specialists' begin to emerge to service the new ruling class. Tax collectors, priests, and the like. These specialists know things that others don't. In effect, they know things so that the rest of society doesn't have to know them and can continue on with their work.

In our current global-scale culture, things have gotten very complex. There is way too much stuff out there for everyone to know. Basically everyone has become a specialist in some fashion. In small-scale culture, you or your mate or parents fetches the food. In large-scale culture you buy food from the farmer's market. In global-scale culture you buy the food from a giant chain which handles transporting it from far flung regions of the earth (farmed by people being paid peanuts). The knowledge of how to obtain food is abstracted away from people's lives.

My point is, if everyone knew how to make a cool bagel or fix computers and a zillion different things, their brains would be filled up with this mundane knowledge instead of some cool specailized knowledge.
I've heard the theory many times that specialization of labor is a good thing because it lets us develop a single aspect of the body of knowledge to its furthest extent. Nice idea, but this is not how life works. While some people do have cool jobs, like particle physicists who describe the substance of existent reality. Most people do not reap the benefits of specialization and instead spend their lives developing the most efficient way to build a Big Mac.

The argument that people can't fit all this mundane knowledge of daily life into their minds is a flawed one. People can. Everyone knows someone who can fix a leaky faucet, build a book shelf, and purge a computer of spyware while overhauling the rear hub of a bicycle wheel. AND have a day job. This is not some unique superhuman, but the inherent potential within everyone.

Ok, so specialization doesn't make life more fun or help us discover absolute reality. So what is it's anthropological function? This answer is pretty mundane: more people need more jobs. If the guy down the street fixes your shoes, then you have to find a way to pay him, and he found a way to pay his rent.

Consumerism is the consequence of both colonialism and a population boom. Running through this idea is the reality of power demonstrated by colonialism which manifests itself as control and found its embodiment in physical reality as the machine. The incarnation of control came about as a result of population growth in Europe and expanding European empires throughout the world. This resulted in large numbers of far flung peoples being administrated under the same control regime. A difficult task if there ever was one, especially when income disparities needed to be maintained. This necessitated the manifestation of industrialization. It is important to note here that the idea of control is inseparable from disparity of resource allocation.

With all this in mind, after the development of the machine as an object of physical reality it became a social object which then proceeded to influence evolving social trends and social organization itself became a machine in its own right. This process is described by Alfred North Whitehead in more abstract terms as concrescence. Right about 1900, with the rise of scientific management specialization of labor became a big fad that has yet to really fade. Workers in a factory became indistinguishable from machines and actually as technology developed robots began to replace workers.

That attitude which Piter was describing earlier, well I've seen it too. This is the ramifications of identifying human behavior with the machine such that we are all cogs. This mechanical behavior is obvious to everyone, but what is not so obvious is that it is the direct experience of a violent control over our daily life. The problem here can be identified singularly as the control archetype. I know I talked about population booms but the number of people isn't the point. The point is that the problems come when you try to control this large number of people. I agree with him that history is not inevitable. We have a choice in the matter, however it takes effort. This building of something better is fun. If you happen to be sick of being a cog in a machine, then stop acting like one. Do it yourself!

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