[Manuscript]DEAR REAL PEOPLE!
JUMPIN' JEHOSEPHAT!! THERE'S INTELLIGENT LIFE OUT THERE!! WE ARE AT YOUR SERVICE. . .Hi! Nice to know that somebody out there breathes! The disembodied voice of Mr. Brown's secretary can say more than the trite phrases we've all been taught to mouth to each other over the phone as we arrange other people's affairs and try to keep our annoyance at being disturbed from showing. . . Aside from inflated rhetoric (only $5.95 a dozen at Peninsula Office Supply), we would like to offer our services to The Noble Cause. We have limited copying capability with our high-resolution Minolta copier, if that will help. As far as our company's resources go, this office exists solely to promote and sell tax and business information to the Fat Cats to keep us in line. So, if you need detailed information on how far either side can legally go, feel free to come up and use our library. Please call us first, as although this office has an unconventional atmosphere, occasionally someone with marginal power over our existence wanders in. Also, you'd probably prefer not to be hassled by any of our salesmen. . . As for the intangibles, Anne is an artist and I am a graphicist of a sort and we love playing with words (members of the Verbal Vice Squad), so if you-all need any help with content, ideas, embellishment, etc., we are champing at the bit. The extent of our periodical publications, with a possible audience of our Main Office (back East, of course) depending on how radical it gets, but we're itching to dig in to the elbows. . . This has been so inspiring! I don't know if I can muster the necessary saccharin to answer the phone. . . We are the Insurrection and the Light:
Anne K. and Elizabeth B.S.F.
Dear Processed World, Thanks for helping me relax a little bit about office appearances. I used to be embarrassed about needing even a plain ordinary cushion on my steno chair. Then, when they moved me upstairs and put me in front of the IBM console, it became a rubber doughnut, and now it's two doughnuts on my chair. I was about to agree to embarrassing surgery when I read your last issue of Processed World. But I'm not going to worry about appearances so much. I'm going to continue to bring my rubber doughnuts to work, and I don't care who watches me perform this ritual, my putting the doughnuts down and sitting in comfort. If it becomes five doughnuts, they'll have to raise the console because my legs are too long for a shorter chair.
Dear Processed World, My situation? I'm not even sure I know what it is. At present I am a Systems Software Clerk for a large oil company. I've been with them a bit longer than two years. I enjoy my job, it is diversified and keeps me busy. I do a lot of data entry, arranging and running reports, and miscellaneous. My co-workers have educated me in several systems. But. . . They tell me business is the only decent major (I attend a community college part-time and will have my AA by '83at last, my major being educationsecondary). They tell me I should learn COBOL and FORTRAN to get somewhere from where I'm at. I'm not motivated to. I don't want to be a Programmer. But if I say that, I appear ungrateful. Dumb broad in their eyes. They laugh when I confess my major is education. (But telling some my major is Philosophy keeps them quiet and at a distance!) Big Business is not where I want to bewith dept. vs. dept., manager vs. manager, politics and high finance. Nothat's not for me. But then I do seem to need the money. I've been divorced for nearly six years and I support two children, 11 and 10, one of whom is crippled and blind. Can I afford to drag them off on my dreams and move to Maryland or Coloradoor can I afford not to? I'd like to be involved with teaching and communication. The back to basics approach. I want to be involved in building a society my kids and I can survive in, have friends I can trust, and be with people who can love and allow others to love them. Those people seem rare to me. So many seem frightened by kindness, by love. Fear is understandable. There are a lot of confused and violent people to contend with. But running, hiding, is not the answer. What is the answer? Perhaps that is why I am writing. It seems strange to put this on paper. Strange to send it off to people I don't know. But maybe your ideas can help me. My dream is to have that BA degree before 1988(part-time takes forever!). Still, that seems like a long time to just get by. Hopefully, I can get some educating experience by teaching at my church once a week. Do I have better choices? I hope so. In any case, I'll be looking forward to your journal and your ideas. Thank you for this opportunity to write. Sincerely, L.S.Parma, Ohio Dear L.S., All of us at PW were very touched and pleased with your letter. I think the frustrations and desires you expressed are widespread which is partly what inspired us to publish in the first place. Our project, in the most immediate sense, is to help validate and encourage dissatisfaction with what this world offers us. The source of so much difficulty in coping stems more from the society we live in than from individual failure. If people stop blaming themselves, and stop trying to fit into the established models, maybe we can begin acting to change the whole set-up. It would be facile and pretentious to claim that we have answers to the situations of individuals trapped in the office world. For one thing, as long as this society remains based on profits and the power of corporations and governments, and as long as the important decisions that affect us remain in the hands of entrenched authorities and bureaucracies, the problems of survival and the difficulties in creating bonds of trust and friendship can only be partly and temporarily resolved. The pressure of earning a living already limits our choices considerably. Aside from being an outlet for our own creative impulses and desires to change the world, working together on PW and related activities has led to close friendships and a sense of community that is so lacking in most of our lives. Of course we have plenty of problems and personal conflicts, and we don't always live up to our ideals of free social relationships. . . Wherever possible, we provide support for those who are trying to challenge the order we live under. We encourage people to make use of our resources, contacts and experience.
Maxine Holz for PW
Dear PW: Your magazine has been a source of profound joy for me since I discovered it with PW #6. It's good to know there are other alienated androids out there, and that some of them are thinking of alternative futures. I have a good job as a word processor with Bank of America. Everyone at BofA these days is talking about cutting the fat and waste out of our operating expenses, and making the organization more efficient and productive. This translates as: Hire too few employees to handle the workload, don't spend the necessary funds to give them the right tools, make them come in early, work all day without breaks, then ask them to stay late and come in on weekends, too. As the only word processing operator serving approximately 20 managers, I'm constantly having jobs shoved in front of my face, invariably classified RUSH or URGENT. Each manager feels that his/her job is more important than anyone else's, that whatever I'm doing now should be dropped immediately so theirs can be done right away. In contrast with my last job, where the managers always made sure the operators took scheduled coffee and lunch breaks, nobody ever asks if you've had lunch yet at BofA. The prevailing feeling here is there's too much work to go to lunch. To stop work at any time for any reason is just not part of the company spirit. Most of the documents are of surprisingly little substance. Vague narratives about the need to develop new products and improve profits, in which great attention is focused on fancy, artistic formatting, but which contain no real meat and potatoes' ideas on how to achieve these goals are continuously churned out for endless presentations.' Ideas which could easily be expressed with a couple of paragraphs of simple text are turned into complex charts and diagrams. My constant pleading for equipment better suited for these special, difficult formats are always turned down because they would cost too much at a time when we really need to cut our expenses, yet my department changed its name four times in the six months, a very expensive process, since all the stationery, e.g., letterhead, business cards, note pads, etc. bearing the old department name must be destroyed and new ones printed. Never have I worked anyplace where anyone is so frantically busy and working so hard at doing nothing! I'd personally love to distribute PW and help sow dissent among the other workers at the orifice, but I find it's very difficult to have any conversations with anyone at BofA about important things, like values, politics or alternative lifestyles. Seems everyone is really paranoid about losing their jobs, so the conversation is limited to mundane talk about the weather, sports, how busy everyone is, or plans for the weekend. I do my job well, I guess, since I'm one of the very few employees who didn't get laid off despite my junior status in a recent series of departmental budget cuts. Nobody seems to suspect that inside I'm seething with boredom and secretly subscribe to Processed World. As with everyone else at PW, the paycheck keeps me from being another one of the homeless, sleeping on heating grates, and lets me have a little spare time and money to do things I consider worthwhile. I would love to hear from anyone at PW who has creative ideas for alternatives to the corporate orifice drag, especially more about worker-owned collectives, or harnessing computer and automation technology in the interests of the people, to eliminate boring, mundane work for humans and create a society of abundance and 100% unemployment for everyone. Sincerely,
Dear PW, You sure fill a slot for me. I'm 52 now, been working since I was 10, about 90% of the time in offices and this is the first time I've seen somebody tackle head-on the real nitty-gritty of life in these paper factories from viewpoints I can empathize with, though I should qualify that a bit since I've been working freelance, a peculiar shadow-land betwixt and between the normal categories. It has its own, often horrendous disadvantages and problems but I've decided I much prefer it to the 9-to-5 office wage slavery. I gathered that I missed a lot of discussion on one of my favoriteuhtopics, Sabotage, but wot the hell. At the risk of possible repetition: Generally speaking, everybody who works for wages is being fucked over. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, leaving out all questions of ethics (we know who promulgated them, don't we?), it makes simple common-sense to get back from the employer whatever you can. He's still going to come up winner, but you can even things at least partially if you have a creative mind. The main advice I can offer is the old saw: Don't get mad, get even. The key here is keep your cool; allowing your natural rage to take control means mistakes and mistakes mean you get caught. Once you get on the inside of any office work situation, you will begin to see the holes in the system and how you can profit by them. And when you've exhausted all those possibilities, it's time to turn to creative monkey- wrenching. I will leave it to the theoreticians to argue about the dialectical nuances of sabotage. Basically, there is one overwhelming reason to do it: it makes you FEEL GOOD. Igor like Sabotagemake Igor sweat. And I'd love to see a good detailed hard-line how-to booklet on the subject. Matter of sharing informationno? On the question of unions, I've found that often you can counter the (very natural) distrust most people haveparticularly those in officesof unions by simply going back to basics. Instead of insisting on affiliation with some Big Union, start your own. Admittedly you won't have the power of big organization behind you but you won't have to put up with all the shit either. If there's crap, you will have created it yourselves. This is particularly true in small shops where you can sometimes operate in total solidarity without ever forming any kind of formal organization. This also frustrates the boss when he tries to bring in NLRB and other bureaucratic, delaying, organization- busting appendages on you. Again, small shops have advantages. One boss confronted with six people in an office who have secretly agreed to back each other up and down the line is in a rough position since he has nothing concrete to counterattack. It's also a hell of a lot easier to engage in some of the more necessary forms of warfare with The Man such as blackmail, working purposely in a stupid manner (the original meaning of Sabotage, incidentally, though the meaning has been changed by common usage), etc. Not that you can't get chewed up even so. That, to me, was the real message of the very interesting film Blue Collar. Let's face it, that's where it all startswith YOU trusting one other person where you work, then the two of you agreeing, after careful consideration, to trust a third. . . and so on until, with any luck and a little patience, the yous are at least a majority, by which time solidarity should have extended to helping each other in ripoffs, covering for each other whenever necessary and cooperating to nullify the activities of company finks and supervisors. Mainly, you have to start somewhere. Got to go (freelancing means, among other things, that you always have either not enough work or too much workI've yet to figure out which is worse).
Wage Slavery Type I and Type II, sort of like Herpes simplex. Sure, they're both capitalist wage slavery, i.e., the product of your labor benefits only a privileged class. I planted flowers in the garden of a mansion, with over 100 rooms (over 13 bathrooms, they bragged), so other rich pigs could come get their new home drekorating ideas. Subject-verb-object-subordinate clause. . . forget the subordinate clause for a change. . . I planted flowers. That's Type I. Type III type contracts, to enable shopping center and condominium developers (the Owner in legalese) to maintain control over their land while extracting rent from their tenants, to enable them to steal land they covet through condemnation proceedings. OK, so in this case, it's basically the super-rich accumulating capital from the rich, but they got theirs from the not-so-rich, who got theirs from the poor, the wage slaves, the tenants. Oh, and my boss is getting his cut; you can be sure he always includes a clause providing for attorney's fees in case of any suit or legal action. And oh yeah, we (we secretaries) get cut flowers once a week, the office is just full of flowers, but they can't fool me, those lights are fluorescent and they're robbing me of vitamins, that's not the sun, that's not fresh air, that's not dirt on my hands, it's typewriter ribbonwage slavery Type II, type 3, type 7 hours a day, and your body rebels, says move, don't bind me up like this. Is that a faint, despairing voice inside my brain saying the same? When I garden, the exchange is between me and the employer. When I type, the government has its hands all over me, my paycheck, my address in its computer, state, federal and of course the whole corporate bureaucratic apparatus as well. And the court has granted me 4 and 1/2 month continuancethank goodness for the finite nature of this interlude. And how did I, a subversive, a rad, a red, get where I am today, asked the interviewer from Processed World. An agency sold me. I needed money for noble pursuits (is that a contradiction?), so I went to an agency and asked the sugary paper woman to sell me, just like Gidget. And I don't even know how much she got$150- 200 I would guess, for a couple of phone calls and me. How smoothly I fibbed to cover for my job record, maximum length of employment: 4 months; how smoothly she fed me the words she wanted to hear, reassuring her that now I was ready to settle down for a year or two. The personnel worker and my prospective boss asked me more about my fiancé (part of the cover story) than they did about me, except, of course, was I going to quit work and have babies soon.
Hired immediately, starting salary $1,300, more than I've ever earned. I'm good, I know I'm good and that knowledge is going for me strongonly in the long run I've GOT to know that I'm good for more than this inane, insane secretarial stupor. What does it do to a person's self-esteem to do this all one's life? Ask my mother. She won't tell you, but talk to this clever, quick- thinking woman about doing something independent and she just doesn't believe its possible. Subordination to men all her life, husband and bosses. The next generation can provide the antithesis:
Hello Friends! I got a great deal from the friends I made at Processed World. . . namely the feeling that I was not alone in my utter frustration and despair at having to be an office worker. . . However, after spending time with PW folks and going to the events, I just realized that you criticize basically everyone from the Sandinistas, corporations, the government, the powers that be, other anarchists, etc. After looking a little more closely at the main movers of PW it seemed fairly uniform that the lifestyle was strongly involved with junk food, alcohol and dope as a buffer to deal with anxiety, alienation and despair. . . In closing, I would just like to say good luck with your work. A lot of the criticism you profess is justified, but I mean really, man you could stand to lighten up a little! Best wishes, C.W.Washington, D.C.
Ed.: Alcoholics and pot heads, OK, but Junk Food?!! Never!!
Dear comrades-in-arms, A friend who highly skilled in office sabotage gave me issues 4 and 5, and Christ on a bicycle, I don't think I've been this grateful since I was first taught to read! Having just lived through a year-long horror story that I'll send to you someday, I was particularly enchanted by Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game (although Gidget neglected to mention the financial power incarnate in the shit-job of mail clerkhow sweet is is to whisk away to the washroom and flush checks!). Me, I'm a secretary with some word processing. Till the beginning of this month I worked in a permanent job with a computer consulting companythen after many attempts to force me to resign, my old management gave up and fired me for BAD ATTITUDE. Yippee! Now I'm doing temp for a university. The only bad thing is, now that I know the most effective ways to fight back, I'm working for a good employer, dammit. In real life though, I'm a writer. Just wait until I'm well-paid and I'll send you lots of bucks. This is better than the Cancer Fund. (Also, considering the VDT risks, potentially more effective. Let us attack all problems at their source.) May you cog be ever toothless,
CONFIDENTIAL CORRESPONDENCES Dear Processed World, Just what do these guys do anyway? I mean these fat ones, wandering around the office with their vests unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up, making sick jokes with the secretaries (like, Did you hear the one about the stenographer who goes into her boss' office and says, Boss, I've found a new position,' and the Boss says, Great, let's try it!'). And they stand around all day talking about their children, their cars, their patio cement that's cracking, or the card games they play sitting in their Winnebagos. Once or twice a day they disappear into their cubicles. Three hours later they waddle out belly first with a notepad clenched in their fists. The results of their hours of managerial productivity: a three paragraph memo ready for typing. Deciphering is what we really do. We take their child-like scrawls and correct the spelling, make verbs agree with subjects, create paragraphs, interpret various arrows and inserts, and make something out of it you could actually read (if you wanted to). We return the masterpiece for approval and they spend another happy hour reviewing. The door opens again and out they come, the memo finally ready for distribution. That means a score of xeroxes distributed to files, binders, CC's, and personal scrapbooks, stuffed in envelopes, drawers, and in-boxes on three floors. Just about when we're finished they suddenly appear again, an apparition hovering around our desk, clearing its throat. . . could they make one small change on the memo? And off we go again, retyping, re-xeroxing, re-filing. One of two of these executive documents a day seems to be the limit of most managers. But our job helping them maintain this extraordinary level of productivity can leave us exhausted at the end of the day. Obviously they don't want to admit how important our role is in making their attempts at communication legible. What I want to know is. . . what do they do? I mean, what are managers supposed to know we don't? It doesn't include spelling or basic writing skills. Remember those spelling tests they give you at employment agencies and Personnel Offices? Good thing they don't give tests like that to managers! I, for one, think it's time to stop covering for the Boss, using skills we aren't paid for. Correcting grammar and spelling is editing and that's the job of a communications specialist. Laying out letters and creating formats for reports is the job of graphic artists and forms control officers. And those jobs all pay a lot more than ours do. I'm suggesting that we simply stop making all those corrections for them. I did at my job and I was surprised to discover that my manager didn't even notice! Now I regularly send memos out systemwide with sentences like Thank you for your patients, and Newer construction are listed for rent, and Local environs are well appearing. If more of us do this we can clog the corporate communications system with their own gobbledy-gook. Then, sooner or later, someone higher up, like the president, will notice that all the memos he receives are written in sixth-grade English. He'll throw an executive fit, call an executive meeting, issue an executive bulletin. . . and look for a consultant. And that's where we can be the recipients of corporate misappropriation and extravagance for a change. We can market the skills we've stopped using on the jobs to the lucrative world of consulting. Processed World could form a subsidiary corporation to give us part-time employment consulting corporations who don't understand why their communications are proto-literate. It's just taking advantage of an old principle, create a need and fill it. (Of course, our corporations will have to pay us so much in salaries that it never makes a profit and we can all use the loss as a tax shelter. . .) No more free rides! Let the Boss dot his own i's. . . if he can. A 1,000 office workers who know the secret of 1,000 incompetent managers can be a powerful force. Corporation communications are already meaningless. Let's make them illiterate, too, and help cut the final ties of the corporate world to reality! Let them drown in their own words. Sincerely,
Dear PW, Enclosed find a delightful piece of nonsense courtesy of the airline news magazine. No need to use such vulgar expressions as, You'll have to work faster. Now you too can render gems such as, Referencizing fiscal responsiveness has facilitated necessary input-orientation scheduling overbalance-wise, thus replicating, motivationally speaking attitudinally-derived factors with respect to the underlying prolificness. Doesn't that sound grand! Of course, slams on enforced illiteracy have been done before (though never often enough to my thinking); the point to get across is that language, no less than computer science, is a technology used against us. Orwell's concept of a language structured so as to eliminate thought processes has always been for me a very profound and dangerous observation. So remember, Kids, We do it all for you!'
PW: I read with interest Work's Diminishing Connections in the information-age electronics industry with its wandering workforce transiency. I consider bicycle messengers to be the street component of the geography of information-age work circuits. Until there's an affordable technology to replace us, we're the best bet to hurl letters, packets of paper, architectural plans, film, etc. across midtowns. NYC messenger activists are getting constant reports of bike messenger industries popping up in major North American and European cities. It is a relatively new and expanding business (although I've read that Chicago has had a biking scene for decades). What we share with the new electronics workers is the on-the-road transiency, lack of organization, a certain independence and relative easy mobility from one company to another. Our transiency is quite wild. The PW article mentioned a 26% turnover rate in the electronics industry as compared with a 13.2% rate in workplaces as a whole. No one's done any studies about NYC messengers, but from experience I'd say a 70% turnover rate may be conservative. Reasons for this are dangerous and fatiguing conditions plus a complete lack of worker rights, since we're often technically self-employed and not employees (total bullshitbut that's another story). Another is that it's a wide open type job where one can more or less come and go as you pleaseand we do! It would seem an impossible trip to organize. Almost, but not quite. For a few years now NYC has had the Independent Couriers Association (ICA). It's been successful by acknowledging the limitations of organizing; that there is simply too much apathy and transiency to keep a group going by being based on traditional shop rep, committees or unions. While the latter is a nice fantasy, for most of our existence we've been a city-wide group of individuals working for generalized causes. Our holism has also helped. While we've gone against the companies for not providing workers' compensation insurance, we've also hit the city for regulating us and police harassment, plus we've linked up with groups promoting bicycling and alternative transportation energy schemes. Our work in all areas gives us added purpose. While the transiency in the industry is reflected in the ICAmembers come and go constantlythe ICA has hung on because a few interested people stick with it. So organizing among transients is possible. The ICA would love to be in touch with other messengers or those that know of other messenger organizations. For instance, we've made friends with Philadelphia bikers who said they'd write for our newsletter. In return we'll print them up and send them a batch. Rough Rider, ICA
(Also check out Road Warriors and Road Worriers in issue 15)
Excerpt from Why I Can't Sleep by Bridget Reilly I wasn't listened to when I needed to be. That is really the root of it all. Convicted without a trial. "Give me a CHANCE! for Chrissake! I'm only human! I only have 2 hands! I can only do things so fast!" They expected more of me than I could give and they punished me for not being able to give it. They screamed their demands into my ear till I was so nervous I couldn't think straight; my hands were shaking so I dropped what I was carrying; I couldn't do what they demanded because I was too nervous. And they said it was my fault. They didn't listen to my defense. "If you'd be easier on me I could do it better!" They would just rejoin, We have no place for softies here. If you're not taught enough to handle the job, we'll find someone who can. YOU CAN BE REPLACED, YOU KNOW!!!" Being able to work under pressure is considered a virtue in the employment marketplace. How many times do you see that in the Help Wanted ads? Able to work under pressure." I was too slow." I would give this as a reason why I couldn't remain a member of the proletarian workforce. And they would rejoin, You're just making excuses. If you really wanted to work, you could find a job." I was just making excuses for not wanting to work"! I have news for you people: I NEVER SAID I didn't want to work! I said I didn't want to crawl around on all fours and eat shit and say Yes Sir to some jerk with half my intelligence. If that's what they mean by working, then no, I don't want to work. But truly people, I had thought working was something very different from that! And incidentally, who does enjoy eating shit, I want to know?! "Oh well, they say, sometimes we have to do things we don't enjoy. Life isn't all a picnic. It's a sign of maturity if you can accept this." Oh. So now I'm immature if I refuse to have my dignity attacked 40 hours a week. No one enjoys having their dignity insulted, of course, but mature people learn to put up with a certain amount of this in order to keep a roof over their heads. That's always the bottom line, in their way of reasoning": "You gotta have a roof over your head." 20th-century bourgeois logic. And how many years have I chafed under their accusations of being a failure for not being able to conform to this ridiculous system of theirs? And look what it has done to my cerebral capacity, my creative power!! And who cares what it has done?!!! I say it is a crime to break down a person's psyche this way, Dammit Dammit Dammit!! PEOPLE YOU ARE GUILTY!!!! And the blood-sucker know as our landlord is their current representative. You know, the one who is trying to collect the rent I am no longer able to pay. The price of the roof over one's head. Now do you understand better why I fear him and his kind? They will convict (evict?) me without a trial and feel quite righteous in doing it. Because it is all in the name of the System which their little minds have been trained to worship. Because they don't see ME at all!
I am a person who cares for life! is my last unheard cry. Does this count for nothing!?!!!!!"
Hello there. . . I love to cook and act in the theater and ride my bike a great deal and I write poetry and I work in an office downtown. I was introduced to Processed World by a cynical body-builder. She's also my boss. I work under the table for the U.S. Court. Isn't that ironic? Isn't that typical? I like working here because I can talk dirty to my boss, because I don't have to comb my hair, because every once in a while I get to drink a beer while I busily type away, because I get to watch the bums outside the window rummage through the garbage. You see, our office has a locked door and a mirrored glaze on the window. We can see out. . . but they can't see in. It clarifies perspective, and when you know where you are it makes observation valid. Enclosed are some observations about the processed world with which we are intrinsically entombed, about he processed food we suck, and about the processed art we buy, about the processed airwaves that tiptoe and then pounce on us from boxes of all shapes and sizes. I'll be watching from behind my office window. I'll be eating a carry-out sandwich. I'll sing in any color I please. I'll insult corporate whores and big business bozoes. Your toy and mine,
PW: I used to be a technopeasant. But I was unhappy. My daugher did not have a cabbage-patch-doll-clothes-universe. My wife used generic eye shadow. We were unable to even dream of a completely oversized, underused house in the Lafayette Hills. Now I have a desk-terminal-business-cards-BART ticket (with magnetic strip)-brief case (with papers)-a friend who thinks Marcuse is a boutique in Carmel-shirts with alligators on teatie- Saturday afternoon at The Mall. Garbage in Mega-tons. . . Well you must excuse methe coffee truck is hereI'm going to get a glazed old fashioned and a transparent cup of coffee. . . B.P.Concord CA