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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bill Woods has nailed it.

Thank you Bill, thank you Daily Telegraph for publishing and thanks to Black Swan for sending in the link.

Time to stop preening and get back to work

YOU can talk about new year resolutions until Shane Warne gets a wrinkle but it's time we recognised all our resolutions are part of a greater inconvenient truth: Western civilisation is adrift on a rising tide of bullshit.

Back in the '70s (the good old days) during hours of physical work with my old man he was fond of dropping phrases like "say nothing and saw wood".

It upset him greatly that I chose to go to university instead of remaining a carpet layer.

Dad believed in productivity, not talk, and he feared I would turn into some flabby weirdo who did nothing but smoke dope and quote Proust at dinner parties.

Many such people are now running the nation, a nation losing the ability to "do" things because we are too busy talking about things. Creating a "brand" has become such a fundamental part of our lives it is not just about how corporations do business but how governments approach policy - and how we approach each other.

It's reached a critical mass Joseph Heller's Captain Yossarian would have understood all too well - the more we sell what we do, the less time we have to actually do it and the less we have to sell.

Self-promotion in the workplace has been around for decades but was usually confined to irritating wankers who were laughed at by everyone, including the boss. Now it's become institutionalised.

What damages us is not just the vomit-inducing self-indulgence - it's young people being encouraged to spend less time on productivity and skill and more time on fostering "relationships" with those who can help their careers.

"It's not what you know but who you know" used to be a cautionary one-liner. Now it's the rule.

Maybe it's because our big businesses have for so long been encouraging American corporate tom-foolery like abseiling and other self-awareness mumbo jumbo at the expense of work.

It's all about "positive affirmation" and "building your brand" - reciting dozens of well-worn mantras stating the bleeding obvious. Remember, before you get a life coach you should first check to see if you have a life.

Bosses are saying: "I gave that guy the position because he really wanted it. He was in my office every day telling me he was the best candidate. I admire tenacity."

I don't. Who was doing that idiot's job while he was in your office every day? Why weren't you doing what a manager is supposed to do - know your employees and what they're capable of? What happened to humility? It's the Australian way. We tend to cringe when our sporting heroes don't show humility and yet we are destroying it everywhere else.

Then there's the more subtle "Claytons worker" - the person of limited ability who always looks busy, creating a whirlwind of activity to fool us into thinking they're actually doing something.

Where is the reward for those unfortunate enough to be so efficient that they make it look easy, or are so genuinely busy that they haven't the time to self-promote? There is none.

Our society runs on high-octane hype. Everywhere you look there is something or someone on display saying "buy me", "believe me", "watch me" or "like me".

At least there has always been a healthy scepticism about products. What we can't cop is institutions, political parties and people vying for our attention with the same cunning tricks used by marketers.

We all have a right to explain and justify ourselves at times but the problem comes when the squawking becomes more assertive, less credible and less productive.

Politicians are spending hundreds of millions of our dollars, not on infrastructure, but promoting their "brand" - policies and proclamations designed only to fill their sails until after the next election.

Sporting bodies are more concerned with promoting the elite, terrified of losing market share to rival codes but neglecting the base - community development and encouraging young people to take up a healthy hobby.

Charities are increasingly forced to promote themselves - all manner of gimmickry to raise awareness using money and time they'd prefer to spend on helping others. They are helplessly caught up in yet another "marketplace".

Have we consumers become so lazy and ill-informed that we can't make our own value judgments?

Yes. Marketing has also become an obligatory process in our personal life. "Networking" used to be a business objective. These days it has morphed into something more subversive - fake relationships cultivated by fake people in the warmth of that vast greenhouse called social media. We crowd our Facebook pages with desperate attempts to show a perception of ourselves. Twitter is cluttered with pretentious pap designed only to create an "impression" that people will like, in order to buy what we're flogging.

Our words have become as credible as Gerard Depardieu's Russian citizenship but then it hardly matters as long as everyone is playing the same game. We have been consumed by the pretence.

So, if you want to really "cut through", maybe it's time to say nothing and saw wood.

 



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