It’s a shitty life for the pawn who doesn’t know a gambit is being executed. A cynic would say that it’d be even worse to know that one is a part of the gambit. I disagree with the cynic.
I am a pawn. None of the details of the current arrangement has been shared with me. Almost everything that I do know about the Chinese company I am working with and the Finnish company I am working for has been acquired indirectly. This makes me feel like a pawn. Furthermore, all the information here also seems to be on a very “need-to-know” basis. In previous posts I have given examples of this, which include the time I was taken on an overnight trip while receiving the information about the location and the duration of the trip in the car. I’ve made several television appearances so that the presence of the cameras is brought to my knowledge as I step out of the changing room in my Santa clothes. Of course as a very flexible and rock-solid professional, I can handle it. But it does make one feel like a pawn. Or like a piece of furniture. Or a circus animal. Why would I need to know of such things, they think (except that they don’t think that). They never even bother telling me where and when the material they just filmed will be aired. The village manager has obviously decided that all I need to know is when to put my Santa make-up and clothes on. Or actually the problem is that he hasn’t “decided” that. I don’t think he thinks about things in those terms. Such a management culture seems to be very common in China, I’ve been told. I am a pawn and why would a pawn need to know anything about the bigger picture? Indeed. Such are the thought processes of poor managers. They don’t give you reasons, they just give you tasks.
On a side note, supposedly run by a communist party, what I just described flies pretty terribly in the face of what the father of communism has to say about labour (one of his main points, for crying out loud): “The theoretic basis of alienation, within the capitalist mode of production, is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define relationships with other people; and to own those items of value from goods and services, produced by their own labour. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realized human being, as an economic entity, this worker is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximum amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.” (Wikipedia)
Naturally I am not a marxist and I don’t think such things, as described, are necessary features of the “capitalist mode of production” (like they probably were during the Industrial Era in Germany and Britain). However, Marx’s main point is that in losing self-determination and the sight of the bigger picture along with the products of one’s own labour, one loses something that should be a part of a humane life.
But wait, there’s more! My mother likes to remind people about the story of the two masons who were laying bricks. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first replied in an apathetic manner that she was laying bricks (duh! [also see what I did there? You were totally picturing a dude laying those bricks, you anti-feminist bastard!]). The second mason smiled and replied that she was building a cathedral. And such is the difference between laying bricks and building a cathedral.
I’d like to amend this old parable. You see, I believe that a little way down the road there is a third mason. I believe that after a couple years the passer-by returned to ask the same question again. This time the first was still apathetically laying bricks but second one was not smiling either. She had given up hope of ever finishing the cathedral after not seeing any progress. She was also just laying bricks. She couldn’t see the cathedral ever finishing. Here is the problem. Building a cathedral takes a shitload of time and if all that is keeping you motivated is the sight of the eventual cathedral, you are not going to get far. The progress will be so slow that it is nearly imperceptible. That’s why the best mason is the third mason who is too busy laying bricks to answer the questions of a random passer-by. The third mason is meticulously measuring everything and making sure it’s all straight and sound. He has bricklaying buddies who are all marvelling at each others bricklaying handiwork. They have a friendly competition on who is the best bricklayer. They are not just laying bricks. They fucking laying bricks! They are the ones who will finish the cathedral when the rest have given up.
We need the bigger picture to get through the occasional and inevitable shit and setback. But we also need to find intrinsic meaning in the smaller and unimpressive steps we take. The big picture is nice but it won’t keep the wheel turning in the long haul. In fact, if you’ve established good routines, then losing sight of the bigger picture might be just what you need in order to get there. Liking the idea of a cathedral does not a mason make. That is a much better moral for the story.
PS. The beard is about this long.