Hugh Macleod posted a thought-provoking article showing that many workers are just commodities, living out their lives in quiet desperation. A more politically correct term would be “human resources”. It seems that the good ol’ days are over, even for many self-described knowledge workers:
Last week I was on the phone to an old friend of mine, a guy in his late forties, who was born and bred in Michigan, and is living there now. He was telling me about his uncle, who, about four decades ago, got his highschool sweetheart pregnant. So instead of going off to college, he found himself with a new wife, a child on the way, and an assembly-line job at General Motors. But even though this situation clipped his wings considerably, he still ended up having a nice life in the end, with a home, a big yard, two cars, a steady paycheck, weekends fishing or hunting deer, and vacations in Hawaii every year or so. “The days where a blue collar guy like my uncle could have a nice life without doing much,” my friend said, “those days are gone. Gone forever.”
And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking the same is starting to happen to white collar guys more and more, as well. But it’s not quite out in the open yet. Society’s not quite ready to have that conversation.
Hugh has called the need to become unique “de-commodification”, but asks for a new term which has been provided by John Dodds:
You don’t need to decommodify – you need to rarefy.
– to make more complex, intricate, or richer.
– to refine a design or pattern.
One other comment, straight to the heart of the matter, was by David St-Lawrence, “Being a commodity is inevitably dehumanizing, no matter how much they pay you.”
That’s the option for many people, isn’t it? Take the cash and the temporary shelter of a job and keep your head down. But you don’t develop your unique brand by doing this and when the day comes that you’re out the door, you’re not ready with a rarefied offering. You’re just one more brick in the wall, to be checked-off by HR, competing against other commodities.