Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spare a thought for the pay-cheque ninja

A billionaire "investor" thinks that entrepreneurship is tops and wage employment is slavery. I get his contempt for the wage slaves of the twenty first century. He has, after all, lifted himself up by his bootstraps and built an industrial empire that employs thousands...of slaves. Just in case you might have forgotten, "slave" means a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. He may have meant it to be "a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something" but I don't think so; he is not so subtle and nuanced in his command of the Queen's English.

But I get his utter contempt for wage slaves. He lives off of his capital gains and interest on deposits. He hasn't seen a pay-cheque in over fifty years. Yet, his veneration of entrepreneurship assumes that he is one of the gods of our world that we are supposed to emulate because we are supposed to build things and and turn companies into transnational behemoths. We are not supposed to wake up, go to the office, pay our taxes and die, because that is just...slavery.

In this nabob's world, everybody runs things. There are no employees; there are "partners." I wonder if this is the fault of his limited intellectual curiosity about what motivates some to overweening ambition and others to quiet satisfaction with their place in the pecking order. Ambition is not a bad thing; neither is overweening ambition, in and of itself. Some can only attain Maslow's famed sef-actualisatioon after they have conquered the highest mountains, metaphorically. Some achieve self-actualisation by becoming the best spanner-boys they can be. It takes a courageous person to admit that they do not want to rival Croesus in material things nor that they have the Midas Touch, converting every venture they get into into a gold mine.
Even "contractors" work for someone, even if the relationship isn't strictly one of employer/employee. Some of the most important individuals work quietly in the bowels of commercial behemoths, making sure that the light bills are paid and that the tax liability is minimised. Spanner-boys keep the wheels on the bus; without them, without their skills, a lot of things go wrong very fast. The entrepreneur might have the vision, but that vision is shit if he doesn't have the talented spanner-boy, plumber, carpenter, electrician, cabinet-maker, painter or welder to turn it into reality. 

In Kenya today, it is not a badge of honour to describe you as an entrepreneur, especially if your initial start in business came via a dodgy investment with a government insider or as government insider yourself. Many of the men ond women who describe themselves as "entreprenueurs" today have deep ties to some of the shadiest swindles in government history. Some have had a hand in the collapse of venerated state-owned companies. Some are deeply enmeshed in the tender scandals that have plagued every post-colonial serikali. Counting the honest among the bigwigs is proving a task in futility. So spare a thought for the nine-to-fiver, the wage-slave, the pay-cheque ninja; at least we are not holding you up in the dead of night for the gold filling in your molars, not like the "entrepreneurs" anyway.

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