As issue #6 of Processed World goes to press, nearly half of the active participants in PW are unemployed or living on marginal and sporadic income. Some of us (who don't have children to support) are used to living quite cheaply and appreciate not working and finally having enough time for our own projects. However, everyone is more concerned about that perpetually unpleasant question of economic survival. So where does all this leave PW and others with our "bad work attitude?"
At a recent discussion of the future of PW, several participants expressed hopes of broadening the range and focus of our activities. Up till now, aside from the publication of the magazine, we have attempted to create a space and context for informal exchanges of ideas, information and experiences at biweekly gatherings and a couple of picnics. Distributing the magazine to passers-by in the Financial District, and "scandalizing" industry-sponsored events with costume picket lines and leaflets (see "Duelling For Dollars" on p. 38) are other ways we have attempted to overcome our isolation. While we all agree that PW should continue its public experiments in creating a community based on opposition to the values, images and language of those in power (see e.g., Chris Winks' article on office-ese), there is a wide range of opinion on other directions PW might eventually take.
The question of the relationship of PW as a group /collective /project to the growing number of rebels we have met sparked a long debate. Some people think we could actively seek ways to develop and coordinate our resources and contacts with an eye towards intervening in support of office workers (or others) who are taking a stand against management. This could include soliciting and providing information and advice (e.g., some PWers considered producing a pamphlet on how to deal with unemployment bureaucracy), or more direct participation in conflicts (e.g. blockades, disruptions, and sympathy strikes). Furthest along these lines was the suggestion that, if conditions were favorable for instigating organized job actions at a particular workplace, a group of troublemakers could try to get jobs there. Others feel that, in the absence of more generalized opposition, it is premature to foresee or prepare for collective confrontations. Still others disagree entirely with this strategic approach. They believe PW should not play a direct role in organizing office workers. They fear that if people come to PW looking for answers or directions, this might encourage their dependence and impede self-organization.
Many office workers in SF are temporaries (officially or not), unemployed, or isolated in small offices, so that their connection to co-workers is limited. Moreover, while work is a setting where we experience capitalism's control over our daily lives tangibly and directly, it is by no means the only context for opposition to the ways things are. In this issue, Penny O'Reilly analyzes the current state of childcare and suggests seeking solutions that would maximize autonomy from state or corporate power.
Some PWers spoke of emphasizing symbolic protests in the streets of the Financial District to strengthen solidarity and temporarily dis-alienate the environment. W.R.'s letter suggests some possible actions of this sort.
Questions were raised about further attempts to define our project and goals in relation to past oppositional movements, including the political experiences of individuals in the group. In this issue, Roots of Disillusionment takes a broad look at ways in which socio-economic conditions and cultural practices shaped the experience of the post WWII baby boom generation. The article examines the growth of "information handling" work against the background of the social movements of the past decades, and calls for a reassertion, broader, deeper and more lucid, of the most advanced moments of the "sixties" revolt.
Hatred for conformism and phoniness, along with a renewed respect for dream and fantasy, were primary values for the rebels of fifteen years ago. Ana Kellia Ramares' story, "Greys, " expresses these values powerfully in an OfficeLand context. In this issue's Tales of Toil, "Buy 'Em and Sell 'Em at Solem," the private relations of a notorious San Francisco PR firm, Solem & Associates, are held up to deserved ridicule. And "Them," which could be called a "Tale of Toilsome Leisure," penetrates beyond the hoopla surrounding the recent US Festival to reveal it as just another pseudo-event with computerized trappings.
Enjoy! And keep those letters coming...