11.6.20

Dialogue: The only thing worth being is idle and rich


So what is it?

What's what?

What do you want to be when you grow up? Actor, businessman, artist, footballer. What is it?

Well, I'm nearly 50 so I think if I was going to grow up I already would have. But, no, none of those, all those jobs suck.

Well, what do you want to be, then?

Oh, there's only one thing worth being.

Being?

A member of the idle rich, of course. Everything else is nothing but a job. I don't care if you're a general, a president, a movie mogul, a famous writer, a rock star, a successful Hollywood actor, or a pro-golfer with ten majors under your belt – all of those things are nothing but stinking jobs.

And jobs are bad? 

All paid work is degrading.

All of it? 

Yes.

Even, say, running a charity for crippled orphans? 

Degrading – going on your knees all day begging the idle rich for money, that's the true heart of running a charity, or running for office for that matter. More people than you'd think spend their days begging the idle rich for money. Professional panhandlers in sharp suits abound.

But aren't the idle rich...um...morally degraded parasites?

Commie.

You called?

But I can't disagree. But the reason the idle rich are considered degenerate swine...

Because they are.

Don't interrupt, like I was saying the reason they are degenerate swine is because not everyone is a member of the club. If everyone was idle and rich there'd be no problem.

Except that we'd all starve to death and no one would take out the garbage.

True. We'd need fully automated luxury space communism first. Basically that's what FALSC is, elevating everyone's wealth until we are, for all intents and purposes, idle and rich.

Do you think it would be good for us? I mean if everyone was bone idle? And their every whim was met for the asking?

Well, the attention economy would take over for those who need the vigour of competition to motivate them. But whatever psychological problems FALSC might kick up would be minor compared to the problems want and lack of fulfilment cause now. Do you really think working in an insurance company for 40 years is less psychologically damaging than getting what you want? Or being a poor, single mother who isn't exactly sure where the money to feed her kids is coming from next week? FALSC is a paper cut. Our current society is a maniac with two chain saws. 

Even if I grant that, though, how do we get there from here? 

Hey you asked me what I wanted to be, not how I planned to get there.    

2.4.20

Any job you want

Unhappiness is doing a job you don’t like, and worse being denied a job you do.

I’m not talking here simply about everyone wanting to play football or be a Hollywood actor. Plenty of far more mundane fields are saturated. There are a hundred university students majoring in architecture or marine biology for every job available in those fields.

So is that it? Do we throw up our hands and simply say ‘the market rules’, and if the market says that only one person in a hundred who wants to be an architect can be, then the other ninety-nine have to lump it? 

That would depend on your view of what society is for, I suppose. Is society meant to create winners and losers, where the winners become god-level rich, while the rest make do (or not)? Or is society a way of maximising human well-being? The greatest good for the greatest number or the masses as fodder for the ubermensch?  

I’m in the maximising human well-being camp, but if that really is our goal then, so far, we’re doing it wrong. And clearly, if society is a method for maximising human well-being then not being able to do the job you want is a bad thing. Doing work we don’t like is detrimental to mental and physical health

A universal basic income (UBI) would partially solve this problem. Many more people could pursue their dream profession without having to worry about economic ruin. 

But a UBI isn’t going to let anyone who wants to become an astronaut or an airline pilot. Any job that requires large scale infrastructure is still going to be rationed. That problem can’t be solved by anything short of luxury space communism (ie the Star Trek economy).   

But a UBI also wouldn’t solve the problem of job satisfaction. Does it matter if you get to be a musician if no one but your dog ever listens to you play? What point is there in writing papers about your local marine ecology if no one ever reads or acts on them? 

The attention economy would, in this scenario, partially replace the money economy. 

But many jobs don’t need the attention of others, a beautifully flowering garden is all some of us need to be happy. For them a UBI would be sufficient. 

I still believe ‘any job you want even if no one ever knows about it’ is a hundred times better than the alternative, ‘any job you can get or go starve in the street’.

So that’s one argument for UBI, and a better one for luxury space communism. If you ask me, an economy where everyone gets the job they want can’t come soon enough. 

10.3.20

Dialogues: MFA (Author)

Are you going to do an MFA?

Nah, they don’t teach the right stuff.

What? Like how to write? You get to spend two years perfecting your craft, what could be better than that?

Like how to be an author. Writing is easy, all you need is desire, time and something to write with, being an author though…Lovecraftian nightmare. 

What’s the difference?

Authors are published and paid, writers tend to the obscure and unpaid. 

So nothing to do with relative artistic merit, then?

Nothing at all. There are plenty of good writers and scads of awful authors. It’s the world we live in.

So an MFA should be about turning writers into authors? Not perfecting their writing?

Well, you could spend an hour or so in the afternoon worrying about good writing, I guess. But yeah, if a university wants you to pay through the nose for an MFA then it has to help you get paid.   

So what should they teach?

You mean if I was running an MFA with the goal of producing authors not writers?

Yeah

Every day you’d have to write a new query pitch. We’d take great books, genre books, bestsellers, trash and treasure, and we’d write elevator pitches, pitch letters, and synopsis. Pitch The Hobbit, pitch To the Lighthouse, pitch Jurassic Park, pitch Harry Potter, pitch Mansfield Park, pitch the bible, pitch your grocery list, pitch your favourite TV show, pitch your aunty, pitch what you had for lunch. After two years you’d be able to write a pitch for anything. We’d do field trips to literary festivals and sci fi conventions to practise our elevator pitches, we’d literally pitch random strangers in elevators. We’d pitch on social media, we’d terrorise twitter and inundate instagram. We’d be 100% 24/7 pitch monsters. 

Sounds awful.

Yeah, it's sales and it is awful. Reduce Nostromo to a hook and 200 words? Disgusting, shameful really. But making money always involves some sort of pain and degradation. And that’s why most writers will stay writers forever. They’d rather be obscure than go into sales.   

Anything else?

Oh sure, there's way more to being an author than just being able to convince an agent or publisher to take you on. Let's see, oh right, I'd teach them how to spot the signs that your publisher or agent is about to go broke and abscond with all your money. Every author has got one of those stories. Then there's how to work with unreasonable editors and book designers, marketing flacks, and journalists. You can avoid some of that misery by going independent – the main difference there is having to pitch the audience direct. So social media marketing, working conferences, mailing lists, oh there's tons of stuff you have to be good at if you want to go independent.

Dear god.

Blogging, tweeting, instagramming, even (hold your nose) facebooking, and being able to instantly jump on whatever new platform might come along. Pressing the flesh, hand selling, kissing babies, being nice to complete jerk offs because you need a review, hell, it's like being a politician. 

Hell is right. I think I'll stick to writing.

Many do.