Mark Cantrell, Author

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Posted by Mark Cantrell on October 24, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Coffee and cultists in the Uncanny Valley

THE other day I was having a quiet coffee in a cafe down the road from Manchester Piccadilly station, when a conversation caught my attention - there were corporate cultists in the building.


A few tables from me, a couple of blokes were having a business meeting; the place is often used by suits for this kind of thing. Now, I'm not a one for eavesdropping conversations (unless it piques my interest, of course) but if these corporate bods want to hold a private discussion they really shouldn't be holding it in the public domain.


The two men were clearly managerial types; no doubt senior figures in some kind of 'creative economy' enterprise, since they both wore the uniform of the 'casual' workplace. From their talk, there was nothing casually relaxed about their managerial philosophy. No, that was pure off-the-peg corporate. Of course.


These guys were clearly the right stuff. Committed team players, prepared to go the extra mile, and passionate about the business, yadda yadda yadda. I'm sure you know the type - it's something we're all expected to be. Service with a smiley face; not an emoticon out of place. Welcome to life in the corporate Uncanny Valley.


Anyway, from the sounds of it, one of their underlings was not the right stuff; competent, capable, no complaints about the quality of the work, as far as I could discern, but... There's always a "but" with these managerialist commissars, isn't there?


Turns out the guy "lacked passion". Shocking stuff. But there's more: "He just does his 37.5 hours and then he's off."


A damning indictment. Can't say I rate the poor sod's chances, but I felt like shouting across: "Good for him!"


Frankly, there's just too much of this cultish mentality out there. It's a cover for a freeloading, something-for-nothing culture, demanding ever more of our life and time - for free.


In the 19th Century, factory workers fought long and hard to cut the working day down to size.


In the 21st Century, both their white collar descendents, and the professional middle classes alike, toiling in the modern 'office factories', seem determined to embrace the life-consuming hell of those long and painful hours their forebears fought to escape.


More fool us. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to resist this strange tendency to 'go the extra mile', to remain at our desks long into the night, to sacrifice weekends, to smother our lives in the endless demands of work. The alternative is to follow this path of drudgery into a society that more closely resembles some kind of unofficial gulag than anything remotely civilised.


If you live to work, well good for you - I trust you are engaged in an occupation where it is appropriate and worthwhile - but don't you dare seek to impose that on me or mine. There is nothing wrong with working to live - your 37.5 hours and done.


To quote (so I'm told) William Morris: "Try to organise me into a barracks and I'll lie on my back and kick."



Mark Cantrell,


23 October 2013



Copyright (c) October 2013. All Rights Reserved.


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