Talking Heads


Submitted by ludd on January 22, 2010

This is the fourth issue of Processed World, and the beginning of our second year. We are delighted and amazed at the depth and breadth of response to the magazine, particularly since the new year. Our letters section has grown again—keep 'em coming!

This issue's lead article "No Paid Officials" brings to light a little known piece of recent San Francisco labor history. The story of the Social Service Employees Union offers us a look at a group of office workers who broke with traditional trade union organization and discovered new tactics and strategies. Interestingly, the same SEIU Local 400 that the SSEU broke away from in 1966, has recently become the prime beneficiary of San Francisco's new "agency shop" law. A brief analysis is presented in the DOWNTIME! section.

Continuing our "Tales of Toil" series is J. Gulesian, Temporary At Large. Her "Letters From Zone Monetaria" scrutinize the norms of office life in a series of sardonic reports on the hierarchy and cultural conformism around her. Her prediction of a new industry to deal with executive alienation is made believable by a speech we received from friends at Arthur Andersen & Co. In the speech, excerpted in DOWNTIME!, a top company exec pleads with middle managers to believe their jobs are not meaningless.'

Office life is further explored in Maxine Holz's review of That Office!, a play by and for clerical workers, currently showing around the Bay Area's community theaters. The play's portrayal of "the secretary" focuses on the complex emotions brought out by coping with a subordinate position in the office hierarchy. Particularly good the way in which the play captures the combination of imagination an humor as the human response office work. The short story "Traces" flashes us back to Hungary 1956, and forward again to Corporate Office Land 1982 in a juxtaposition of past revolt and current possibilities.

Throughout our magazine's short existence we have tried to describe a different world, a world whose creation we hope to contribute to. What kind of world are we talking about? We have repeatedly said "a world free from authoritarian domination and exploitation" or "a world free from the arbitrary constraints of having to make a living in the money economy. " Indeed, these sentences do describe in vague terms the world we seek. But what does it mean in this world to talk about such sweeping change?

Of course, we do not have nor do we want to have a blueprint for a new society, but we do think it vital to begin imagining how things could be different. The first step in this direction is to thoroughly criticize all existing societies. We don't want our goal mistakenly identified with any variant of "free market" Western capitalism or of the "communist" state capitalism of the USSR, China, Cuba and the rest.

We are interested in a classless, state-less society, where decisions about daily life are made by those most directly affected by the consequences of the decisions. Sometimes this might mean a highly decentralized, locally-based decision-making process. Other times, it might mean a need for decision-making coordination on a continental or even a global basis (for instance, over major ecological questions or to deal with natural disasters, shortages, etc.). Either way, this means a society of free individuals, capable of coping with social problems in a direct and conscious way, beyond present-day "needs" like the maintenance of profits and power structures.

Again, these are fairly general principles of a new social arrangement. We consider PW an outlet for more concrete explorations of utopian ideas and hopes.

We want to begin examining the problems of getting from here to there, as well as what we would like "there" to look like. We hope PW readers will contribute their thoughts and experiences to this quest. Keep sending us your letters, articles, stories, graphics, drawings, etc.