Monday, March 16, 2009

Workers of the World Unite - A recession re-imagined - The Individual Collectivist is Born

Lech Wałęsa (IPA:
Lech Walesa.ogg [ˈlɛx vaˈwɛ̃sa]; born September 29, 1943) was an auto mechanic and shipyard worker who became a Polish politician and a trade union and human rights activist. He co-founded Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union , won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.[1] I first became aware of Walesa in the late 80s as the leader of the Velvet Revolution, a non-violent workers revolution that helped bring Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to the end of the Cold War. This clipping - from somewhere around that time, impressed me for it's simplicity, directness and correctness in the face of uncertain futures. Here are a few other quotes from Walesa that I quite enjoy: On Work - “I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things.” On America - “You have riches and freedom here but I feel no sense of faith or direction. You have so many computers, why don't you use them in the search for love?” On progress - “He who puts out his hand to stop the wheel of history will have his fingers crushed.” On the opposition - “I got politics and economics moving and then others took over.” On talk - “I must tell you that the supply of words on the world market is plentiful, but the demand is falling.” Interestingly enough, I was not able to find the quote at the top of this page, my favourite still.

The way society functions, we are all encouraged to rely on institutions for security - basically, because they need us to function, but when those institutions fail, where are we to turn? I was asked recently if I had always felt like an entrepreneur, an independent, a free thinker at an early age and in reflection I had to answer, yes. Yes, of course. I'm adopted, so that put me solo from the git-go. I painted signs at 16, opened a video games parlour at 19 and was also a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in the US from 1974-1976. In 76, I remember going out on strike with the union and watching the union management go from defiant, to defensive to defeat - not even amongst their own ranks could they summon a quorum - whilst management remained immovable. This told me quite a bit - and I also remember having a lemonade stand when I was 10. I proceeded on to university, being quite possibly the only man in the union who had a "Plan B" - actually, for me it had always been "Plan A" - the factories only being a way for me to have made enough money to have funded my education. Later, in the corporate world, I saw social behaviours that mimicked what I saw in the union organisation - the water cooler revolts, the drunken Monday Night Football declarations, the Xeroxed defiance of a populace to afraid to advance into management and risk becoming part of the problem. The black and white photo you see of the solitary worker is from those days - I have kept it all these years, kept in my daytimer as well, to remind me of how I saw myself at the time - an individual, but just another uniformed part of the masses that would board the rapid transit towards the building of a stronger America every day. I remember proposing an idea to my boss, Allan Klein at Leo Burnett, for our client Nintendo. I remember Allan listening, as if he had a more urgent meeting to get to and wrapping up the whole session up with the statement, "David, they haven't asked us for that". "I know Allan", I returned, "But isn't it our job to think and be proactive for our client, to make proposals?" "No, not really, David. Our job is to execute what we're told", he responded. It was well before that day, probably around the time I saved the B&W solitary man photo that I knew that, that kind of thinking was wrong, it was just on that particular day I understood fully that it was really wrong, and ultimately detrimental to the whole place. There was an obstacle in my path and nothing would ever grow there for me. It was time to kick it.

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