We have been concerned in this book with the why of the present crisis and with the how of a basic deal with the State. A deal with the Octopus that will give us full employment and guaranteed income, will provide support for the ailing industrial sector while we stop producing for the sake of work, will emphasize freedom and entrepreneurship and give birth to a society of interdependent Alphas: people who will be equal but will not renounce the individual drive for excellence.
Nothing less will prove acceptable and, although means may somehow vary and names be different, although we may run for it or drag our feet for another decade and suffer a little longer, something very similar to Clause #1 will be implemented in the near future. People will begin to root for change.... then Acts and Amendment will begin to roll in, and we will get a new social contract, like it or not.
This first deal with the Octopus will also be the birth certificate of
a Creative Society which will give priority to thought over toil, and to
intangible values over the material. Not because it will say so in the small
print, but because there will be no other choice: the whole structure of
society will change. Our children will be Alphas, and our grand children
the kind of people that are born in a creative society.
The race to Alphadom
The passage from the Age of Toil to the Age of Creativity is the normal conclusion of the Industrial Era, and all industrial nations must sooner or later cross that bridge. The questions are when and how... and who will get there first. Where do we stand, as a society, in what may be a race towards "Alphadom", towards a society in which new ways to work and to rule will apply? American society may have a double edge on competition as we enter the Age of Creativity.
First, our system of government has never tried for "total" control over individuals; we have been left with a significant part of our private life to ourselves, so we will simply have to increase freedom rather than start from scratch. Second, we have at least paid lip service and maintained token loyalty to entrepreneurship, so we will simply have to clarify the role of the State in production and "privatize" a bit, rather than face the problem of countries which suppressed initiative and will now have to dismantle a large part of their public management structure.
On the other hand, precisely because we made a point of relying entirely on positive reinforcement, we will feel the impact sooner of the new brash and potentially anarchical "take it or leave it attitude" that will prevail in an affluent interdependent Alphadom. Will we be able to contain anarchy until the creative society is well established, and to take advantage of our lead to become the first Creative Society?
We are not alone in the race. Curiously enough, the country that does not have yet the critical mass in terms of wealth to do it but seems to have the will to eventually take a gambit on leisure, is China. After a brief glimpse - by historical standards - at the extreme left, China is back to the social application of its traditional Middle Path philosophy, the return being itself a good example of a yin-yang alternation between opposites. We better hurry to Clause #1 and a creative society, because it is not at all impossible, in view of the late developments, that China might get there also, coming back from the Left !
Come what may, we will all get there... ready to look even further down the road. We discussed a few things about the Crisis, but very little about the Beyond, about what a creative society will bring, about what life and work will be like in Alphadom, about the kind of pecking order that will arise as new ways to work, to possess and to rule will evolve. We know that the trend will be towards more freedom and more interdependence, with State control over much less of our life. From this, we may guess that the new society will be more permissive, but it would be premature - and quite immaterial to our present purpose - to discuss whether a creative society will allow people to walk naked in the street, to sign up for euthanasia or to buy opium in drugstores.
Small changes will add up and snowball, after Clause #1, until the day we realize that - because both the part of work in Man's life and the role of Man in production will have changed - work and production have become means rather goals... Then, we will be safely out of the Age of Toil and into the Age of Creativity and the whole present social contract between the State and the individual, a contract based on work and production as the first priorities of the individual, will have come to an end.
This will be an historical change of attitude, and we will long for a totally new relationship with the State, a new framework for our collective efforts to accept the destiny of Man the Thinker. The time will be ripe to draft the rest of the small print, and whatever has been done, by then, against the ingrained habits of the work-oriented culture, will finally be institutionalized to provide a definite framework for freedom. We will live in a Creative Society, and work will still be a necessity but will have ceased to be the axis around which human life revolves.
How close are we to a Creative Society? Clause #l is around the corner,
since it profits everybody and has no natural enemies but ignorance, prejudice,
inertia and, most of all, the fallacious idea that it is simply not possible
to tell people the truth. Actually, the system is already full of powerbugs
and people like you and me, who think that the time has come for a fundamental
change but wish that the change would occur peacefully. Can we do anything
to help it along?
Rooting for Alphadom
To begin with, let's be "one-track minded" reformers. The objective is to free man from toil, and therefore to increase his freedom and creativity. If it is to be done seriously, now and not a generation hence, it must not be confused with all other ideas that fill the contemporary thought-market. A decision for creativity must not be an attempt to uphold or disrupt a specific political system: it is a normal step in evolution, not a way to achieve a revolution. It should not be draped in red, nor should it require the blessing of a particular class of society. It should derive from a consensus, and a decision for leisure, therefore, must stand on its own and be profitable to all. There should be no losers.
Solutions to all injustices must be found, but they are not all to be found in the framework we discussed here. Ethics must wait, sometimes, for logistics to catch on, and Clause #1 must be recognized as one step in the right direction, not as a panacea to all evils. A Creative Society will correct some injustices, but if its advent is bound to the realization of the objectives held by all social reformers, nothing will happen.
Work redistribution, for instance, may have an impact on income distribution but it should not be used as a way to achieve this purpose. If it becomes just another devious way to redistribute or not to redistribute income, it will fail to gain acceptance and we will be left with both bad income distribution and bad work allocation. This would make it tougher on everybody, because the jobs are not coming back; we may call what's happening leisure and prepare ourselves to enjoy it... or let it be unemployment and be very miserable.
The rules of necessity will apply. In the end, creativity will be attained in any wealthy society based on machines. We must avoid at all cost making it a partisan issue, for if ever leisure and creativity are cursed with such labels as "leftist", "rightist", "conservative", "liberal"... or what not, the issues discussed here will be side-tracked in favour of much easier fighting grounds for the simple-minded.
The march towards a Creative Society must not be linked to the Left, to the Right, or to any party or group. Let's not "party-ize" the decision for creativity and leisure. Next to this most important thing NOT to do, there are also some positive moves that may help. Those in Government, or otherwise close to power, can do their best to have us move to Clause # l as soon as possible. Those in Business or Labour can play a significant role by doing their utmost best to get away from the "produce to work" approach.
Let managers, in both the public and private sectors, feel free to challenge the communication process that often replaces decisions and action. Let them say "the king is naked !" when the creation of a new committee or sub-committee to occupy Parkinsonian leisure is proposed. Better yet, let them call hyperjobs in the open, not to denounce them, but to have people become aware of the fact that just a minimum part of the time of managers is devoted anymore to the business at hand.
It might be a good thing to promote a "work-to-produce" week, during which all business would be transacted in the early morning, all communications relevant to business would be monosyllabic or put down to paper in a minimum of words, and everything would be done to accelerate the work process, so that Thursday, Wednesday, or maybe Tuesday afternoon, with the week's work done, people might recess to chat socially, carry on with their own hyperjobs, or go home quietly.
Let's go through with it once, at least, and become aware of the enormous waste of energy that the 9 to 5 dedication to non-work means to each and every one who still toils in the job framework, either as a misused Epsilon or as misfit Alpha... while there is, for the asking, all the imagination and initiative required to take the jump into the production of what we really need.
Then, let consumers become aware also of their own power in this "consume-to-produce" system of ours. Nothing like a "Consumers' strike"; this would be too strong medicine and might well defeat the purpose and destroy the system. Just an effort to barter, and thus to understand the new rules of the games.
"Barter clubs" are already sprouting forth all around, but there is still a long way to travel. What about people on Social Security pooling their resources and offering their skills "free" to landlords for minor repairs, or to merchants for such services as delivery, stockroom duties, etc... Against which landlords and merchants could reciprocate giving them "free" certain commodities like food and lodging. Then, think about three-way deals in larger "clubs": Tommy the Plumber, doing a good turn to Bobby the Tailor, who might help Jimmy, who happens to own a truck that Tommy could use. Learn to barter services, just as well as goods, which is the way of the future. It also happens to be the way to pass the message that the distribution chain is not perfectly efficient, that some personal initiative could improve on it, and that the forgotten Do-not's could contribute.
Last but not least, for everybody from students and housewives to Chairmen of the Board, the best way to help is: pass it on! No occasion should be lost to convey the message that jobs will not be back, that the 13-figure bum cheque may bounce any minute, and that we should move on to a creative society of our own free will before a more acute crisis within the crisis imposes change in less favorable conditions. Let it be known that you are on the side of change, freedom and entrepreneurship. Say it loud and clear and, if you have the stomach for it, write it! Let the handwriting appear on the walls.
The handwriting on the walls
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lawyer, Economist, and Fellow (Human Resources) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Pierre Allard has been Director General for Manpower in Quebec's Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Vice-President (International Affairs) of the Quebec Educational Resources Export Corporation, and an expert-consultant to a score of U.N., Unesco, African Development Bank, OECD, CIDA and World Bank financed development projects in Africa and South America. Married and the father of two, he is presently engaged in Human Resources development projects in Canada, France, Morocco and the Netherlands
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