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Day Job - Page 43

one must also renounce art; and for every one of them there are a million kids staring off into space while some industrial band drones in the background. The avant-garde's notorious attempt to bridge the gap between art and life on art's side of the line, or the committed artist's desire to bridge the gap on the side of the real world of politics, are displaced by blank exercises in reactive art and workplace "sabotage," usually nothing more than the pettiest acts of vandalism. There is now, in fact, a considerable literature devoted to chronicling these acts of worker micro-aggression. Office supplies are pilfered, hard-drives purposely crashed, man-hours lounged into oblivion, fast food rendered even more inedible than usual. The pointlessness of such revenge on the boss and whatever forces he is presumed to represent is mitigated by the fact that it feels good, for a moment, to indulge it. Any surviving luddism about grinding the machine to a halt or the revolutionary implications of hackers' viruses is merely window dressing for the immediate and miniscule satisfaction of ripping off the owners, slowing down the assembly line, or actually (horror of horrors) giving the customers what they want. Nearly invisible gestures of "detournement," pilfering, waste, explorations of the limits of employer surveillance, petty cruelties intended to alienate the boss's clientele, tiny experiments in polluting work with play, all of these acts are promoted with a sort of lukewarm, half-hearted rhetoric of resistance, as if the practitioner not only didn't really believe the rhetoric but secretly wanted to show how inappropriate it was to the occasion. The notion that the American work force at large is given over to acts of sabotage, slacking, and stealing to get by focuses the stupid underground's resentment and serves as an apology, which no one believes for an instant, for working at all. The violence that labor inflicts on the individual justifies microscopic destructions that pass the time until one punches out and goes home to squander one's time on one's own. Cultural negation, where it still exists, seizes on the opportunity to turn stupid labor into a political opportunity, but the stakes turn out to be so low that the stupid saboteur cannot sustain the effort. It's all just a spasm of resentment; in the end, one would rather be in a band. And not even that, really.

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