miércoles, 7 de abril de 2010

Work and productivity are anti-Revolutionaries

Yesterday, I had a work meeting at another company at 10 am. My mom was kind enough to give me a ride till there. Trouble was that she left me about an hour earlier. Luckily- I thought - this company I had to visit is strategically located: just a few blocks away from a very popular shopping mall so I thought I could go there and try to find that book I’ve been looking for a while. But then I remembered, it came back to my mind like those things you know but they are dragged inside your routine and escape briefly from your knowledge: Shopping malls can’t open its doors till 11 am, due to a government decree.

Not so long ago I wrote a long whining postabout this decree that forces shopping malls to only open its doors from 11 am till 9 Pm. I explained there how important shopping malls are for us Venezuelans in all possible senses. I merely complained about the decree because it made shopping malls close early; but not because of its late opening time. Soon after I wrote that, the government “fixed” the decree, allowing some business like movie theaters and restaurants to remain open after 9 but the opening hour was not changed. The shopping mall was closed, and every single business in the street: bookstores, boutiques and so on, were also closed. I walked about four blocks not in a ghost city, because people kept passing by, probably going to their offices and stuff; but in a closed one. Government claims this decree is for saving energy, but to citizens like us who needed to make the long waiting time somehow productive seems like a big lost.

On the week before Easter, Chavez proclaimed out of nowhere, another measure to save electricity; the three work days before Easter time became Holidays. He probably thought that people would preach him with rejoice, after all he gave us all three more days of vacation. Perhaps a few secretaries smiled but I don’t think the most of us really praised the decree, specially the ones who owns any business – big or small – ; and the ones who have non changeable due dates for a project, the ones who are working partnerships with organizations abroad that did not stopped working during those three days and the list goes on and on and on. A friend of my dad, who works on the construction field, was worried about the due dates for his projects so he opened his office despite the decree even through it meant to pay his workers twice its day salary. I don’t know the details of this story, how exactly it happened. All I know is that he was fined and forced to close his office on Tuesday (the Holy Week and the new Holidays started on Monday, 29th, March).

Back to my unproductive walk yesterday, while waiting for my meeting, I finally found one business open: a small bakery (when the shopping malls and business decree was “Fixed”, food businesses were put outside the rigid schedule); I bought an orange juice and then kept walking throughout the same closed but not empty streets, counting the minutes till it was finally time for my meeting, and thinking only one thing: how this Revolution has banned productivity. It seems to me that working is not necessarily a revolutionary value, as incredible as it sounds.

I can’t understand the logic behind it. The energy’ saving argument does not suffice my sought for an explanation. And the fight of this government against productivity and hard work can be seen everywhere, it is not just about some “saving energy” decrees (the effectiveness of those decrees had been questioned by many; it is not a matter of this entry to explain it any further, or to quote those critiques). The war of this government against productivity can be seen in their many threats against entrepreneurs and their many limits to their work, can be seen in a speech that promotes invasion of the private property and that more often than not, when those invasions do occur, it support the massive illegal act. It can also be easily seen on its many attacks against private property, including illegal expropriations of lands and companies for years now. Venezuela is a risky place to do business, that’s obvious. But what people doesn’t tell you is that it is now also a risky place to work at; not because of the obvious rampant crime and stuff but because of government measures determined to limit the time you can dedicate yourself to work and your freedom to decide for how long you want to work.

Some might argue that it is all about communism, all communist are like that etc. But people often use the word “communism” as a general insult or to name every thing that threats its life conditions. Just to make it clear, I don’t like communism: not the “intellectual” one found in Marx, Engels and later, for some, Lenin; certainty not the “real” one represented by the former Soviet Republic, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and so on. But it is not obvious in the values of any revolution – right or left, self proclaimed communism or not – this despise for hard work and productivity. Usually what can be found is a war against established work forms, or economical models but always offering a choice to replace them – of course, we usually don’t like that choice but that’s another topic. If I read Marx and Engels correctly, I recall their works as being critical against labor conditions and exploitation, but not against work itself.

I could go farther in this, but I have no desire to explain all the factors of this trouble in one entry. Many I believe are cultural ones. For a big extent, my country is lazy and cheers every extra day of free work. Sometimes I’m tired of working too, and I just want to sleep till noon but every one of us understands that we have to make our living, that the best way to earn some money and from there some opportunities, and from there, some life is by working. I recognize that I’m not the hardest working person ever. I’m combining my work for this post with a last minute retouch of a report I must deliver tomorrow and I did not finish on time so I’m not going to give you a moral speech about how lazy others are because I’m part of this stat.

Next thing I know is that I’m ruled by a president who thinks that the best way to save energy is to not work so hard. Or to not work at all. And his thoughts are making me work harder than ever, especially if working means to stand against all this madness. Because next time I complain about working, I will think of my long one hour walk in a closed country, in an unproductive country, in a dead world of people wondering around with nothing to do, I will think of the total disillusion I felt during that hour, the hour on which work and productivity was simply gone. And a bit of... just life!, seemed gone aswell.

About the image: "Exito" is a supermarket net recently expropriated in a controversial government move. I found the image here. Not copyright Infringement intended.