I’ve been hearing for twenty years that the future of the USofA belonged to “knowledge workers” – people who are visionaries who break outside of the usual boxes we live our lives in.
Sad that it’s all bullshit.
Call me bitter if you want, but I’ve been putting this theory to the test lately. I’ve made it no secret that I’m tired of consulting and want to have a real, steady job. Since I’ve done so many different things in my life, it made sense to look for jobs that required not only a broad set of skills but more than anything required a visionary. I’ve gone after jobs that required imagining a new frontier and the ability to take the organization over the line to a new land.
You’ve guessed by now that it’s gone badly, but you have no idea. In every case, what they’ve looked at is a mental checklist of experience that those in charge of hiring thought was applicable, and looked for someone that would fill that with mechanical precision. Nevermind that skills can be contracted out or learned – the person at the top was supposed to be at one with the machine.
This has caused me to re-think what I can and can’t do in this economy, and I have to tell you that I’m rather useless. It’s not for a lack of trying, though. The problem seems to me that while a university degree of some kind is required for nearly anything that pays well, that degree in and of itself is not a measure of someone’s creativity and intelligence. Neither is plugging into a system and cranking along with the usual standards of getting by and healing to the latest management fads.
There are a lot of people that really aren’t all that bright who are in charge of things, and they can’t the likes of me breaking in without going through the “system”. It would upset the natural order of things. It would tell everyone that moving through the right channels and keeping your mouth shut may not get you ahead. If I am accepted for what I am, the whole system could break down. I am a threat.
That may seem a bit extreme, but consider this: Our state government is a mess. Our bridges are falling down. Our whole middle-class way of life is very much under threat. Is anyone genuinely outraged? So far, not much has happened in the way of real protest. The people who are in positions to organize and change things aren’t interested in rocking the boat at all. They hardly even seem concerned. That’s why people like me, a person who sees the world differently, is an even bigger threat than the ossified structure we live under – I know that our world is run by a number of incompetent people, and I’m not afraid to say so.
I wasn’t always this bitter, of course. When I went to college, I became a Chemical Engineer largely because I wanted to make stuff. It seemed that to be useful to the world meant that you had a product you could point to, something that went from being an idea to being real. I lost that job to layoff 4 years ago. We don’t make stuff in the USofA anymore. Looking at a colorful Curious George doll made in China that was recalled for its Lead content, I have to wonder what it is that we do. Couldn’t we have made that here, to high standards? Of course. But what we do is to give the dolls to our kids, and that’s that. We make money to afford this by being a cog in a very large machine, and we are not supposed to challenge that machine. The paper printed to make this happen goes overseas to other people who do the making part. We do the consuming part. And no one dares make waves about how silly it is.
I feel a bit better sometimes when I realize that this isn’t just about me. It’s a serious problem not having the right bureaucratic skills to make it in this economy, but I’ll find some way to survive despite everyone else’s best efforts. What bothers me is that it should be rather obvious that this is all falling down around us, and no one either cares or is even remotely able to see it happening. The Middle Class Life� that we inherited is far from real. A bridge falling down was only the warning sign of what’s to come.