Freedom in the workplace

Posted: 20/11/2011 by zandtao in Democracy, Education, Freedom, Insight
Tags: , , , , ,

“For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown.” taken from Chomsky on Anarchism.

I want to begin by examining the limitations of this anarchist freedom as described by Chomsky. “Bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him”, I like this as a starting point, and I like the emphasis that it is a “vital concrete possibility”. In other words it is all well and good to say that we are free to develop naturally, but if it is not a concrete possibility then that phrase is meaningless sophistry. In fact for such a concrete possibility to be an actuality this search for freedom has to be a primary motivation for a society. What does this mean? This completely alters the ethos of our society at present. In the current society the dominant ethos is that of profits for the few (1% is the current terminology for this superclass). So the interests of this natural development is limited by these desires for profit. For freedom we initially need sustenance, to obtain this sustenance we are required to work. In some ways this work is reasonable as people need to work together to help develop the potential for all to be free, but the purpose of the work is not working for each other but to enable the profits for the few. In fact the current social ethos is to enslave people to the need for work by requiring taxes and other moneys above and beyond the need for their personal sustenance. The argument given is that that taxation is to build social resources such as infrastructure, if that was the case that would be reasonable, but in reality the purpose of taxation is to get the people to pay for this infrastructure to enable businesses to trade and make a profit. Whilst there are social benefits to paying for industry’s infrastructure the ultimate purpose is that the profits are increased and they then become assets for the few – often money lying idle in bank accounts. If those profits were returned to society to enable peoples’ freedom this might be an acceptable ethos of society, but the reality is that this is not the case. People are forced to work for wages that enable the profits of multinationals whose money is then syphoned off into the personal bank accounts of the few. Whilst it might be purported that industry is making socially useful items the reality is far from this.

Let us begin with food – a sustaining basic. What has happened to the way BigFood produces food? They have added toxic substances to preserve food, they have added substances such as excessive sugar, MSG and aspartame that heightens taste but which are damaging to health. Even when scientists have determined that these additives are damaging to health, BigFood continues such production and attempt to deceive people that there no problems. If a person’s health is damaged there can only be limited development to freedom whilst individuals fight disease with all energy etc that takes. In the case of aspartame Coca-Cola knew of the health effects of using aspartame but they continue to use it in their diet products and used their influence to ensure that there was political support for their FDA approval at presidential level. As more people become aware of the damages aspartame can do, they rename it AminoSweet. And what about GM products? There has been an outcry against these products but still the company promotes their sale and there are political maneouvres by governments to support their sales, yet in India people commit suicide because of GM.

And what about dealing with disease? Does BigPharma help us with dealing with disease? Far from it, they market supposed cures at exhorbitant prices – sometimes covered by insurance schemes, but for the poor unaffordable. Doctors learn their medicine at university. They leave university where their only access to drugs is through the pharmacy reps who market the latest cures produced in their company labs. See Pharma Whistleblower. But what about healing through food? Whilst there is strong evidence for this, BigPharma uses its profits to belittle the approach. This is particularly true of degenerative disease where lifestyle change is needed for cure but instead BigPharma markets supposed cures that rake in the profits with little chance of success. Cancer is a particular example of this as can be seen through movies such as “Healing Cancer from the Inside Out”.

As for other expenditure what happens? Money is spent to create a consumer desire, and then the for example the latest technology, car or mobile phone, is touted round, and people develope the desire to purchase these items, without the advertising would they buy them? If society was seeking freedom from consumer purchases would there be this advertising? Would society be trying to create the demand? How many definitions of freedom would include the freedon to own the latest technology? How many definitions of freedon include ownership of 4by4’s by citydwellers? On a personal level this consumer society does little to promote freedom but does much to create wage-slaves and make people indebted to the system.

Perhaps we might argue that our education system educates for freedom. Teachers begin by learning that educare means leading out, and idealists might see that leading out as a raison d’etre for education – and that education unfortunately fails. But in reality education succeeds in its objectives – maintaining the status quo with rich increasing their wealth and the poor working to pay for what they can get. This is not education for freedom – discussed more in Matriellez.

So society is not working for freedom of its members, the simplest way to describe it is wage slavery. So we need to examine the socio-political conditions that would lead to freedom. But where do we begin with that? Do we establish a notion of freedom or do we simply ask for conditions that can lead to freedom? This is difficult as what is freedom? Let’s try to establish what freedom is and then see if we can determine conditions that could possibly lead to that.

Here is where I go Buddhist or start talking Krishnamurti. Freedom is a situation in which we sustain our bodies, energy and mind enabling our selves to flourish. By living to our true selves we are free from needs and desires, and our wings can fly. Or to use Chomsky’s description “bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him”. There is another spiritual point that fits well with what Chomsky says – we are Unity, One Earth, One Planet, when it comes to “turn(ing ourselves) to social account” that has to be a reality if we are Unity. In the earlier part of the Treatise (this is a blog entry but in some way will be added to the treatise later) where I have discussed the “Three Tenets of Zandtao”:-

Improving the mind

Harmonising our energy

Taking care of our bodies

the measures for sustaining body, energy and mind have been developed. Through meditation there is a possibility that our selves can flourish. This has also been discussed earlier in the treatise. If you have reached this stage in the Treatise then you are likely to be more sympathetic to this spiritual approach to Freedom, I am not so sure that the political tradition of anarchism will be so enamoured. Whilst, in the Treatise, I have spent much time developing the Three Tenets, there is no contradiction with Chomsky’s “bring(ing) to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed” human beings. And if Unity were accepted then we have “social account”.

Educationally this can begin to be approached through Matriellez’ approach although the establishment of a Freedom curriculum would require many more nuts and bolts. The real difficulty lies with the 1%, quite simply freedom cannot be achieved whilst we don’t have democracy – whilst the 1% employs us as wage slaves. It is in consideration of this wage slavery that anarchism as a society of freedom examines political structures in the workplace. Freedom in the workplace requires a workforce being given the opportunity to flourish. This cannot occur within existing hierarachical structures, where one job is considered more important than another – thus rewarded by increased salaries. This process intentionally creates disunity through competition, measuring one against another rather than approaches to work together for the benefit of each other. So whilst attainment of freedom is a useful tool for dismissing current organisation in the workplace, replacing those structures with approaches such as cooperation will not enable Freedom without a society committed to the ideal and recognising the personal or spiritual approach necessary to begin working towards Freedom.

There is also the converse. How much do those on spiritual journeys similar to the ones described earlier in the Treatise recognise the importance of appropriate structures in the means of livelihood? How many on spiritual journeys seek to bring their compassion and insight into workplace production? How often is production tacitly dismissed as greed and materialism, and Freedom seen in terms of Nirvana an etheral state of mind attainable outside the structures of production such as in a monastery or as a mystical recluse? There is an imperative to marry the two traditions seeking greater clarity on Freedom through the spiritual tradition, and a greater involvement of the spiritually aware to recognise that a significant part of humanity’s lack of Unity is determined by the political structures of the 1%. If the 99% were not wage slaves maybe they would have the time to investigate possible Paths to Freedom.

(added to freedom page)

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