Bukowski’s Letter to Martin Against 9 to 5 Jobs

August 16 marks the birthday of Charles Bukowski and I’d like to share his letter to publisher John Martin. Martin encouraged Bukowski to write full time by offering him $100 a month for life if he would quit his job and stick to writing [1].

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,

Hank

via Open Culture

Petitia pe 112.ro si Raspunsul Prompt al S.T.S.

Un răspuns îmbucurător a venit astăzi de la… Serviciul de Telecomunicații Speciale. Pe scurt, după ce un restaurant din spatele blocului a organizat un spectacol pirotehnic aproape de miezul nopții, am sunat la 112. Operatoarea a refuzat să preia informațiile sau să-mi facă legătura cu poliția, preferând să-mi paseze numărul acestora. Comportamentul acesteia mi s-a părut abuziv având în vedere că 112.ro menționează „Tulburarea liniștii și ordinii publice” la pagina de urgențe. Mai mult din curiozitatea de a vedea dacă și cum funcționează sistemul, am redactat o sesizare (sau petiție, pe pagina 112.ro).

Motivul pentru care nu am sunat direct la poliție este lipsa de încredere în profesionalismul lor. Cred că instituția are mari lacune la capitolul imagine, având în vedere numeroasele exemple de corupție (e.g. 1, e.g. 2, e.g. 3, e.g. 4etc.). Având posibilitatea legală de a apela 112, serviciu făcut la standarde internaționale și monitorizat, am ales această variantă.

Motivele pentru care public mai jos sesizarea mea și răspunsul primit sunt:

  • poate fi re-folosită de persoane care se află într-o situație similară. Este mai productiv să-ți aperi drepturile decât să reacționezi pasiv-agresiv, plângându-te de pe margine că „toate merg prost în țara asta”, „oricum nimic nu s-ar schimba” etc.
  • cred că e important să-ți cunoști drepturile și să ți le aperi cu fermitate
  • cred că este de datoria fiecăruia să ceară sancționarea lipsei de profesionalism și a abuzului

Exemplu de sesizare/ petiție 112:

Buna ziua,

Subsemnatul ___, cu domiciliul in ___, formulez urmatoarea sesizare:

In data de ___, ora ___, localitatea ___, am semnalat prin apelarea 112 faptul ca ___detalii situatie___. Datorita orei si zgomotului produs, evenimentul intra sub incidenta legii 61/ 1991, republicata in 2011.

Operatorul/ operatoarea care a raspuns apelului a refuzat preluarea datelor si/ sau crearea unei legaturi cu organele de politie, spunand ca aceasta nu este o urgenta, desi situl 112.ro specifica „TULBURAREA LINISTII SI ORDINII PUBLICE” ca o urgenta http://www.112.ro/index.php?pag=10

Va solicit pe aceasta cale sa-mi comunicati in scris la adresa de email ____:

1. Un numar de ordine la aceasta sesizare
2. Lamurirea discrepantei dintre ce scrie pe situl 112.ro la capitolul urgente si refuzul operatoarei/ operatorului de a prelua informatiile
3. In baza art. 297 Noul Cod Penal, lamurirea daca actiunea operatoarei/ operatorului a fost una abuziva sau nu, avand in vedere mentionarea ca urgenta a tulburarii linistii si ordinii publice pe situl 112.ro
4. In baza legii nr. 544/2001 privind liberul acces la informatiile de interes public, masurile care s-au luat fata de operator/ operatoare daca actiunile acesteia au fost abuzive

Va multumesc,
Prenume Nume

Răspunsul primit după patru zile sună cam așa:

„Urmare sesizării din (…) când ați apelat Serviciul de Urgență 112 pentru anunțarea evenimentului descris în email, vă facem cunoscut că din verificările efectuate au fost confirmate cele semnalate de dumneavoastră, acestea datorându-se modului neprofesionist de răspuns la solicitarea dumneavoastră.

Pentru eroarea comisă, operatoarea a fost sancționată potrivit prevederilor regulamentului disciplinei militare.

Cu sinceritate, regretăm producerea acestei situații neplăcute și vă informăm că toate aspectele de acest gen sunt prelucrate în cadrul unui amplu program de pregătire profesională a tuturor operatorilor din Centrele de preluare a apelului de urgență 112 pentru evitarea pe viitor a unor situații similare.”

Referințe

Articolul 297, Noul Cod Penal, Abuzul în serviciu. Infracțiuni de serviciu – http://legeaz.net/noul-cod-penal/art-297

Legea nr. 61/1991, republicată în 2011, privind sancționarea faptelor de încălcare a unor norme de conviețuire socială, a ordinii și liniștii publice – http://www.politiaproximitate.ro/legea_61.html

Legea nr. 544/2001 privind liberul acces la informațiile de interes public – http://legislatie.resurse-pentru-democratie.or/544_2001.php

Serviciul de Telecomunicații Speciale – http://www.stsnet.ro/

Sistemul Național Unic pentru Apeluri de Urgență, 112 – http://www.112.ro/

România, Locul 65 în Topul GoodCountry.org

Simon Anholt este fondatorul indexului țărilor „bune”, unde cuvântul „bun” are sensul opus cuvântului „egoist”. Cum poate o țară să fie egoistă? Din prezentarea lui Simon Anholt, înțelegem că  statele „egoiste” au o politică mult orientată spre dezvoltarea internă, fără să existe un interes de colaborare cu alte state. În indexul de pe GoodCountry.org găsim țări ca Rusia și China la coada clasamentului, extrema de jos find Libia, locul 125.

Țările bune nu sunt neapărat țările bogate, deși în topul primelor zece țări găsim multe state vest europene. Simon Anholt explică: „Nu are legătură cu banii. Este vorba despre atitudine. Are legătură cu un guvern și un popor care sunt interesați de restul lumii, și care au imaginația și curajul să aibă o gândire orientată extern, nu doar o gândire internă, egoistă”.

O parte interesantă a prezentării este cea în care autorul îndeamnă la reflecție asupra motivelor unor politicieni pe care noi înșine îi alegem. Promovează acei politicieni o atitudine de țară deschisă spre cooperare? Sun politicile interne și externe ceva de care putem fi mândri?

România ocupă locul 65 în topul general al țărilor care sunt buni parteneri de joacă. Pe cele trei locuri înaintea noastră se află Serbia (62), Tanzania (63) și Botswana (64), iar imediat după găsim Mexic (66), Maroc (67) și Egipt (68).

Când vine vorba de Știință și Tehnologie, urcăm câteva locuri în același top (48). Când vine vorba de Cultură, urcăm din nou – locul 29. Scădem, însă, la implicarea noastră în Pacea și Securitatea Internațională – locul 75. Suntem pe locul 53 la capitolul World Order (implicare în acțiuni umanitare), pe locul 69 la capitolul Planetă și Climat, și pe locul 74 la capitulul Sănătate.  Locul care ar trebui să ne ridice serioase întrebări este cel de la categoria Prosperitate și Egalitate – 114! Aici putem aminti prezentarea lui  Bryan Stevenson, care spunea că opusul sărăciei nu este abundența, ci egalitatea și o bună funcționare a justiției.

Mesajul important al lui Simon Anholt este că noi suntem direct răspunzători de persoanele care ne reprezintă țara. Noi îi alegem și noi le oferim încrederea că vor face din România o țară cinstită, care colaborează extern, o țară cu sisteme de sănătate și legislație bine puse la punct. Așadar, înainte să punem ștampila, e important să ne întrebăm dacă acei politicieni pe care vrem să-i votăm își vor face treaba.

Bryan Stevenson on Injustice

Public-interest lawyer, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson talks about identity and injustice in the US judicial system.

I wrote some of his words that I’ve found thought-provoking.

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.” [06:34]

“There is no disconnect around technology and design that will allow us to be fully human until we pay attention to suffering, to poverty, to exclusion, to unfairness, to injustice. Now I will warn you that this kind of identity is a much more challenging identity than ones that don’t pay attention to this. It will get to you.” [13:24]

“And I actually believe that the TED community needs to be more courageous. We need to find ways to embrace these challenges, these problems, the suffering. Because ultimately, our humanity depends on everyone’s humanity.” [15:24]

“the opposite of poverty is justice” [15:24]

“I’ve come to TED because I believe that many of you understand that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. That we cannot be full evolved human beings until we care about human rights and basic dignity. That all of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone. That our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion and justice. And more than anything, for those of you who share that, I’ve simply come to tell you to keep your eyes on the prize, hold on” [20:27]

Stephen Brookfield on Experience

I thought I’d post this fragment from  The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It’s Important by Stephen Brookfield*. I like the way he explains how it is the depth of one’s experience that counts, and not the length.

Length of experience does not automatically confer insight and wisdom. Ten years of practice can be one year’s worth of distorted experience repeated ten times. The ‘experienced’ teacher may be caught within self-fulfilling interpretive frameworks that remain closed to any alternative interpretations. Experience that is not subject to critical analysis is an unreliable and sometimes dangerous guide for giving advice. ‘Experienced’ teachers can collude in promoting a form of groupthink about teaching that serves to distance themselves from students and to bolster their own sense of superiority.

*The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It’s Important, Stephen Brookfield, From Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995 (Forthcoming)

The Human Paper-Shredder Has More Than 60% on Her Side

A reportage about an out-of-the-ordinary subject stirred conversations in Romanian Hotnews online media outlet. The Human Paper-Shredder (translated), places under the lens work, law, and behavior in Romania. What follows is not a translation of the article, although an English version would be useful, nor is it a summary. This article wants to briefly analyze users’ comments to The Human Paper-Shredder, as they show some specific job-related behavior and attitudes.

The story in brief

A secretary at Assystem Romania sues the company in 2012 for being fired. She files abuse charges and wins the lawsuit against the company one year later. Assystem is obliged to pay her salary for the months leading to the Court’s decision, and has to reintegrate her back in the organization. The company obeys the Court’s decision, and gives the former secretary the task to shred information-sensitive documents by hand. She is explicitly instructed to tear them in pieces no larger than one centimeter on either side. By hand, no scissor, no electronic shredder. Although in her pre-lawsuit position she has had all the office equipment a secretary needs, reintegration brought her to a technology-free desk, having only a pile of documents and a large trash bag. She continues this eight hours a day task while filing a complaint to the National Council Against Discrimination (CNCD). The latter fines Assystem with 20,000 RON (~ 4,500 Eur) for “discrimination, harassment, and practices against human dignity (translated)”. Upon the Council’s decision, she quits her job as a human paper-shredder. The company, through administrator Roger Coat, is appealing the Council’s decision and intends to sue the former employee for defamation.

Missing information

Throughout the article, three parties are questioned: the secretary, Council Against Discrimination president Csaba Asztalos, and Roger Coat, company representative. There are two important pieces of information I have missed from this otherwise excellent article: why was she fired in the first place (she mentions an abuse), and what would her colleagues have to say about her work as a human paper-shredder. I wonder about their reactions to a colleague manually tearing paper all day. The latter I think would be of great importance to understand the collaborative work environment in Romania.

Users’ comments

Although my faith in Romanian work ethics has been restored after seeing so many comments condemning these humiliating practices, these comments win the voting algorithm with less than double over the votes condemning the secretary’s return. Briefly, the comments follow three distinct lines: employer is right, he can make employees redundant whenever and can assign no matter what tasks; employee was right to return to work after the Court’s decision of an abusive redundancy; employee was legally right to return to work, but should have understood the company’s ‘rejection’ message and not return to work after winning in Court.

Hotnews’ comment voting algorithm uses thumbs up and down feedback, negative and positive votes canceling each other to reveal a final comment score. Comments and votes can only be cast by logged members.

One of the first comments falls in the third category (although she had the legal right to sue the company, it was ‘morally wrong’ to do so and ‘morally wrong’ to return to the company). This comment has received 139 votes (Feb. 16), with a grand score of -23 votes. This means that 81 users voted against the comment (i.e. no, it wasn’t ‘morally wrong’, she just followed the legislation), while 58 users voted for the comment (they agree the secretary was ‘morally wrong’ to have sued the company and to return to work following her Court win). This places 58% of voters for obeying legal decisions, and 41% against legal decisions (she was ‘morally wrong’). Viewing this 41% makes me wonder how can these people impose their morality on another person about whom they know almost nothing. 41% of people telling someone what is and what isn’t moral seems too much in a society that wants to catch up with other more modern, liberal societies of Western Europe.

Another comment, an answer to the previous example, condemns its author and his ‘morality equals subdued/ passive/ meek’ logic. Out of 88 votes (Feb. 16), the comment score is +22. Meaning that 33 users (37.5%) have voted negative, while 55 users (62.5%) have voted positive, agreeing that rules and laws trump subjectivity.

A newer comment saying that “a contract is a contract” has received 29 votes, with a total score of +13, meaning 8 votes (27%) disagree with “a contract is a contract statement” and 21 votes (72%) agree contractual agreements need to be followed.

It’s important to mention some biases that might occur in the comments and votes: older comments are stacked at the top and receive more votes, hotnews.ro is a platform pertaining to a more liberal crowd, and parties involved in the article can gather votes against comments they disagree with (fake accounts, friend votes etc.).

Overall, the article and its comments show more than just the story of the ex-Assystem employee. It shows inaction from her colleagues (curiously, none of them has commented the article), lack of solidarity, value systems anchored in archaic presumptions, inflaming tensions about what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and employees roughing it out during times of change.

While the National Council Against Discrimination verdict is under appeal, more information is needed to understand what has led to this situation. Nevertheless, making a person tear up documents by hand, eight hours a day, challenges every argument Roger Coat brings in defense of his decisions. Assystem is, according to its website, an industrial engineering firm with “nearly 11,000 employees”. Asked if she has encountered another human paper-shredder, the secretary said no. This leads me to wonder how does a person feel when s/he sits in an office environment having a garbage bag on the desk while colleagues go about their business in front of a computer. I think it feels degrading. And I can find no argument in favor of Assystem for not using technology to destroy their documents. A search on the internet also gave me many document destroying services, none of which includes manually tearing stacks of documents in pieces no larger than one centimeter on either side.

Links used in the article:

http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-16603947-tocatorul-uman-hartii.htm

http://www.assystem.com/en/the-company/about-assystem.html

http://www.cncd.org.ro/home-page/