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Being Employed by the Future

Reframing the Immediate Challenge of Sustainable Community (Part #1)

Contribution to a Wholly on "Engagement in the 21st Century" (University of Buffalo, 24-26 October 1996). Co-sponsored by the Center for Integrative Studies and the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS)
The Challenge
Sustainable lifestyles and meaningful employment
Category traps and excluded options
Enabling community through social experiment
Job creation versus Job location
Substitution for monetary employment
Engagement: the vital interface ?
Localization vs Globalization

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The Challenge

It is unnecessary to argue that present and foreseeable economic policies cannot significantly reduce unemployment as it is presently understood. This is increasingly accepted as a reality by economists and politicians themselves. But such people have yet to fully take into account the probable social consequences. These are already proving dramatic for the young (unable to obtain a first job), for the elderly (threatened with erosion of social security commitments), and for those employed in tasks experienced as increasingly meaningless. Current discussion of these issues seems to be trapped in an outmoded pattern of thinking from which it would be foolish to expect any significant breakthroughs.

In exploring new ways of thinking about this fundamental challenge for sustainable community, it is useful to recognize how intrinsically boring are the remedies currently under discussion. They are the products of bureaucratic environments unrenowned for either creativity, sensitivity to individual needs, or the long-term viability of their politically-constrained initiatives. Boredom is not to be taken lightly. Aside from a desperate pursuit of recreation by those with the necessary resources, it is driving many to a level of anti-social activity, violence and substance abuse that are themselves destructive of community. Boring policies contribute directly to voter apathy. Currently advocated remedies are expressed solely in terms of "providing jobs" to sustain consumer purchasing power, however personally unfulfilling are the consequences.

It is also useful to recognize how the present pattern of thinking prevents discussion of any options that do not conform to the dogma sustaining the current pattern of both unemployment and mal-employment. The question to ask is what forms of employment and unemployment are currently excluded from any discussion of meaningful options. The answer is any forms which do not directly sustain the present economic system --although this is recognized as increasingly inefficient in sustaining meaningful community.

--although this is recognized as increasingly inefficient in sustaining meaningful community.

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