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The grave politics of usefulness

We all want our work to be valuable. And by valuable we mean useful. And by useful we mean that there should be a beneficiary. And if there's a beneficiary, we need to have some kind of a transaction involving money. And when that happens we call the action to be productive.

In the contemporary world, Productivity has been trivialized to transactions that are capable of generating money. A farmer exchanging seeds with a fellow farmer would be found to be part of a less productive transaction than the one where she sells the seeds. The capability and value generated are similar in these two situations but the perception of usefulness and productivity is not.

In the last century, the advent of mass manufacturing has also seen an increase in the use of terms such as productivity to explain and understand the usefulness of an action. In this context, we have etched into the contours of an average human mind that a lack of money-generating transactions is also useless or unproductive. And so we started bringing every thought and action under the lens of productivity, under the guise of evaluating value-generating actions.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So did this definition of productivity on human creativity.

Carl Jung in his autobiography Dreams, Memory, and Reflections talks about a childhood dream that was much more intense in its meaning than what he realized at the time of its inception, a meaning that he would explore for years to come. Even at the age of 82 when he wrote the book, he couldn't understand how a dream with such colorful imagery that had relevance to universal truths was even possible at an age when he had no direct way of even thinking about such things.

Creativity is the possibility of a thought or an action to occur, a thought or an action whose outcomes or value cannot be realized in the present, a thought or an action whose repercussions will not be realized for years to come. Creativity is the possibility of this happening. By consistently putting our ideas in the context of contemporary usability aka a money-generating transaction, we are destroying the possibility of such shape-shifting thoughts and actions occurring in this world. And that to me is a grave crime we all are guilty of committing.

The real motive behind the productivity terminology is to define and control every human action by bringing it under the scanner of money generation. Its real power is in reducing the motivation in individuals to give space in their minds to thoughts that don't connect to the contemporary world's reality. Its power is deepened by consistently increasing the cost of thinking and acting on such "irrelevant" thoughts. By being able to spread this essence of thinking, the power-wielders of the existing systems can continue to censor and kill ideas that just don't contribute to their economic gain but might also disrupt their status quo power. That's the grave politics of usefulness we are all guilty of being part of.


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