The first duty of a man is to think for himself
― José Martí
One of the things that continually bother me the most about the changes where I work is the sunset of the individual from importance. The single person is gradually losing power to the nameless and increasingly faceless management. Increasingly everyone is viewed as a commodity, and each of us is interchangeable. Another scientist or engineer can be slotted into my place without any loss of function. My innate knowledge, experience, creativity, passion are each worthless when compared to the financial imperatives of my employer. We are encouraged if not commanded to be obedient sheep. Along the way we have lost the capability to foster deep sustained careers, the current regime encourages the opposite. The reason given for sacrificing this aspect of work is financial. No one can pay for the cost of the social construct necessary to enable this. I think that is BS, the reason is power and control.
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
― John F. Kennedy
What gets lost in this change? One thing is for sure, quality of the work, the quality of the job and the bond between worker and employer. A strong support for the development and sustainability of the individual was a cornerstone of the old social contract. Loyal high quality work with commitment and expertise was given to the employer. This model was the cornerstone of the National Laboratory system. The Nation benefited greatly from the model both in terms of security and National defense, but also from the scientific and engineering greatness it engendered.
The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.
― Chuck Palahniuk
For some reason we have collectively decided that this is too expensive to sustain. We can’t pay for retirements, we don’t encourage careers, or deep sustained technical expertise. It still happens, but only by the will of individual fighting against the tide of conformity. This spirit was present at all the National Labs, but never stronger than at Los Alamos. The legendary work of the scientists during the Manhattan Project provided the catalyst to extend this model more broadly. Their achievements fueled its continued support into the late 70’s. Then it was deemed to be too expensive to maintain. The management of the Labs is choking this culture to death. If it isn’t already gone, it soon will be.
Propaganda is what gives us the freedom to do as we are told.
― Markus W. Lunner
A deep part of its power was the enabling of individual achievement and independent thought. Perhaps more than the cost of the social contract, the Nation has allowed the force of conformity, lack of trust and fear of intellect to undermine this model. While the financial costs have escalated largely due to systematic mismanagement and the absence of political courage and leadership, it has been the excuse for the changes. While the details are different at the Labs the overall forces are hand-in-hand with the overall destruction of the middle class who was offered a similar social contract in the post war years. This has been replaced by cheap labor, or outsources always with the excuse about cost.
The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.
― Rollo May
The question is what is the value of what has been lost? What is the price to put on that?
Paranoia is just having the right information.
― William S. Burroughs