Of course I will return to the subject of the Libertarian Party at a later date, but it might be best to step back and assess what happens before commenting again at the end of the week. With a bit of luck, I may have some new information to bring you on a number of fronts.
I'm actually supposed to be somewhere else as I type this. Two fellas from my work, both of whom I have a lot of time for, are retiring, and so a sort of 'planned impromptu party' has been thrown in their honour for any colleagues or ex-colleagues who want to either say goodbye or congratulate them on their parole. Entertainment was being lined up for the show, and yours truly, having written an album a few years ago, was approached to be one of the said 'star performers'. Apparently the dog who breathes fire was ruled out when his fee demands went beyond the designated budget of er, zero.
My unwillingness to do it was in part due to a sense that being reduced to the role of human freak show for the amusement of others was not exactly this bunny's idea of a wild Wednesday. A friend of mine, who has seen me refuse the overtures of senior people on three separate occasions, came over this morning and said, "fair play for refusing to do it - they just want circus acts." Have a guess how many from management were putting themselves forward for this ritual in public humiliation? Got it in one. You see in companies, you're always encouraged to have a laugh, as long as it is at the expense of someone too weak to defend themselves. That sounds like plain old schoolyard bullying to me, and I want no part of it.
In fact the whole spectre of the company party leaves me positively sub-zero. For the sake of this discussion, I'll leave aside the predictable issues of people talking shop and office politics, the obvious problem of extra-curricular activities and one night stands that create difficult atmospheres in the following weeks, and the pathetic sight of grown men looking for someone, somewhere to collapse in a heap, throw up, or reveal a bit of a 'thing' they've had for someone in a public and mutually embarrassing fashion. Basically, any excuse for adults to gossip like giggling schoolgirls singing a rude take on a nursery rhyme. All of this is sad, but is not the main thrust of why I detest the 'social side' of work as much as I do.
The premise upon which it is based is complete bollocks, namely that a business comprises of people who are all 'one big happy family'. It's very interesting how people in management generally use concept this as a tool with which to manipulate people and bind them into a robotic and homogenous block. After all, the free-thinking individual, the maverick, the loose cannon, is the single biggest threat to the bully or control freak. You never hear the word 'family' used when they are announcing mass redundancies or stitching someone up on bullshit 'performance management', do you? Nor should they, because businesses are nothing of the sort. They are, like society as a whole, made up of individuals, some of whom merely want to earn a living and some who genuinely wish to stretch and push themselves.
Of course, they need to be civil with each other in order for things to get done, and some will no doubt make friends at work as I have, but any coercion of an individual to participate in 'team activity' in their own time has no possible justification. The motto of this site is 'Conventional Wisdom is No Wisdom'. Well here's another for you - 'Compulsory Fun is No Fun'. If a person dances because a revolver is held to his head, does that mean he is no longer terrified?
In short, the notion of the 'company family' is just a tool of manipulation, a contrived greater good. As is always the case, its intention is to serve as a device of power, to impose a sense of guilt upon those who just wanna earn their shiny new penny then go do their own thing. The fundamental aim of the control freak is to get into your head and convince you that by doing what you want to do in your own time you are somehow being 'selfish' or 'letting the side down'. I hope they realise after this episode that they're wasting their time trying it on me and don't make the effort again.
The other main issue with the company party or outing is the blurred grey zone that exists between two clear areas marked 'work' and 'play'. It would appear that there are rules in any company event that go well beyond the law of the land that serves as a useful guide of what not to do when on a typical night out - i.e don't break any windows or punch someone in the face.
If a mate of mine is boring the shit out of me with a tale about his car, his girlfriend or some other area of his life, then I am faced with two choices. I can either politely put up with him and hope the conversation eventually moves on, or take the (rarely used) route of saying, "look, this is making me lose the will to fucking live - can we please talk about football, or music or something vaguely, er, interesting?" I can count the number of times I have lost patience like that on one hand, but the fundamental point is - I have a choice in that situation.
Now replace your mate with a member of middle management, who has actually bored you to the point of reaching for the whiskey and the revolver on a daily basis for the last few years anyway. You may officially be in 'play' mode, but it would appear that the rules and the ranking system of 'work' still apply. No get out of jail card exists, and nor does the right to tell the person to shut up and leave you alone, as you could with, say a tedious 'life story' specialist in a bar. Instead you must sit and listen to him reeling off his triumphs while unveiling his grand masterplan to achieve world domination by 2014. Just fuck off won't you? Of course I'd be sacked for 'gross misconduct' if I actually said that, which is probably another good reason not to turn up.
When I consider this socio-occupational minefield and the set of nuances that need to be negotiated, I come to the conclusion that there is no fun involved in reality. Fun involves having the freedom to remove yourself from situations that aren't, to laugh out loud that "actually, this is fucking awful - the food and the band were crap and there's no atmosphere" and to leave early without being dubbed a 'killjoy' or fearing some kind of reprisal. Rules, group pressure, manipulation and compulsion do not sit comfortably with the notion of enjoying oneself. I don't know if the people who organise these things understand the central paradox at work but I'll present it to you anyway. Just look really happy and smile for the camera so everyone knows how much fun you're having. And by the way, you're on a warning if you don't.
If either of the two retirees want to meet me privately for a drink so I can thank them for their time and wish them well, I'd be more than happy to. They're good people and good company and it would be a nice, pleasant, civilised thing to do. Who knows, I might actually enjoy it...