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March 26, 2011

Working for Free: Absurd Anti-Mimesis

I understand anti-mimesis, the thought that Life Imitates Art. What concerns me is when Life Imitates Satire, and you can't distinguish the reality from beyond-the-Pale. These days I have trouble telling the actual from the absurd.

On Friday, Bill in Portland Maine blogs a series of George Carlin jokes that he finds timely:
There are caregivers and there are caretakers, and yet the two words are not opposites. Why is this?

Trade always exists for the traders. Any time you hear businessmen debating "which policy is better for America," don’t bend over.

I think they should have a hotline that never answers, for people who don’t follow advice in the first place.

Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It's because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.

George Washington's brother was the Uncle of Our Country.

Ha ha, ho ho, very funny. Oh gosh, that would never really happen.

In Friday's Fortune Magazine: Unpaid Jobs: The New Normal?
"People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they're going to outperform, they're going to try to please, they're going to be creative," says Kelly Fallis, CEO of a New York and Toronto startup.

In the last three years, Fallis has used about 50 unpaid interns for duties in marketing, editorial, advertising, sales, account management and public relations. She's convinced it's the wave of the future in human resources. "Ten years from now, this is going to be the norm," she says.

I had no idea that working for free was a trend. My first impression was, that's immoral, and my second question was, that's illegal. I have heard of unpaid summer internships for college students, which I think is abusive.

Gurus encourage people to work for free. It'll help you build your personal brand 2.0, it'll get you out of the house (which is healthy!), you'll gain valuable experience, and if the money gets too tight, you can always get a paid night job after you work your free job.

What do we call somebody who works for free?
  • A slave.
  • A prisoner.
  • A child around the house (oops).

Perhaps this is just the inevitable result of our current national economic policy where we destroy the middle class by bidding for work at lower and lower prices. Our state governments do this for us industry by adopting low wage laws, business friendly environments, and right-to-work policies.

Then I channeled the ShamWow guy and thought, But Wait There's More! Once you've driven the price down to zero, where does it go next? Zero is not a barrier, zero is an opportunity! Those people who are working for nothing are a potential profit center.

They need resumes, training, websites, help with their social web presence, positive referalls on their LinkedIn pages, they need to park somewhere, and -- how's this?? -- they have biological needs, so let's install pay toilets!

Unbelievable. Where have you gone, George Orwell?


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