Rhythmus.be

Productive Procrastination Bookkeepers are another tax

A bitter rant on the paradox of modern society: productive creativity is being discouraged in favor of paperwork management.

I have been procrastinating all day. Busy coding. Now, coding is a useful occupation. It’s productive, and being productive is not procrastination, is it? It’s work. It’s work, because I make a living of it. And making a living for themselves is an economic activity we want to encourage, right?

Most people don’t like work: they experience it to be an unpleasant but necessary duty. I can understand that: when you’re a walking spreadsheet, office life mustn’t be very engaging. I do feel empathy for paper pile clerks — they’re mechanical turks, lost in-between the PC age and the webserver era. Soon their entire race is going to be obliterated by software processes.

I like my work. It doesn’t feel like work, though, because I love what I do for a living. At least, normally doing my work feels right. Right now, however, my work feels like procrastination. It’s the creative’s paradox of modern society: doing creative, productive, useful work has become procrastination.

Passionately — almost addictedly — crafting creative products, should make one feel good, and at ease with the purpose of being. Instead, now it creeps upon me with a gnawing feeling of guilt.

My creativity is procrastination, because I put off to tomorrow things that need to be done and are urgent. Boring, stressful things, like bookkeeping, taxes and such civil obligations. And mind you, they’re urgent! If I don’t comply with the Kafkaian demands of the tax office before the end of the week, I will be fined. Preposterous sums, like about triple what I earn in a quarter. Quite stressful indeed.

Paperwork always is urgent. I know, maybe it hasn’t to be so, maybe the urgency would go away if I could manage to make it into a daily routine. — No it won’t. Routine would only put a burdening sense of urgency upon my Sitz-im-Leben, every pitiful day. Worse, routine kills creativity, it smothers the happiness of the inquisitive soul, it is dull to deadliness to the associative array of thoughts. — Imagine what the entrepreneurial spirit of the creative mind was capable of, if it were left alone, if it were not hindered by the incessant requests of society!

Despite the imminent threat, my compulsion still is to spend my time on my code. I procrastinate in creativity. I’m even unable to make up — a few times in a month, or once in a trimester — for my daily incapability of routine desk tasks. My creativity is an inclination I can’t resist, and it keeps me deferring the horrifyingly uncreative paperwork. It’s a handicap, really.

Well, this awkward situation of Unheimlichkeit: it is not my fault! I can’t be blamed for not feeling at home in the societas humanorum. It is not my sin to not live by the rules of the house; economic consuetude is no Law of Nature. I may think instead that Reason demands the stimulation of creativity amongst her children, over them wasting their time on senseless accounting. Common sense dictates that being productive is not procrastination, never ever, and surely not when the mandatory alternative is not the creation of useful things, but the unproductive management of the status quo.

One might object that fulfilling one’s civic duties is a Good Thing, and that doing paperwork for the State is useful, that it is only a minor (?!) inconvenience that in the end fosters the commonwealth. Then ask yourself: Do we have the organization of our society in good order, when creative people are kept off their productivity with mindless work? Is this how we want our civilization to evolve, where citizens are threatened with grotesque fines if they do not comply with the idle drudgery of Bureaucracy? Do you agree with the spilling of energy on paralyzing fear for the Leviathan?

Commoners don’t ask those questions, they’re okay with how we have put together our administrative democracies. Of course they are: they’re the very beneficiaries of the ledger transactions. They look down upon creative people as asocial weirdos, who indulge in the luxury of quixotic romanticism. Quelle ironie: to the uncreative consumer, the creative producer is but a luxurious layabout! — What can I say? Yes, to you we’re like Damocles. But then that makes you the tyrant who puts Leviathan’s sword above our dreamy heads.

I hear the pragmatist Gutmensch utter — “One could get an accountant…” Sure, I could. I could outsource the stultifying obedience to Matter, and get on with the real thing, without worries. And very probably, I will be driven to exhaustion to finally give in. But then ask yourself again: Do we really want a societal order, where creative and productive people are taxed twice?

Yeah, artists, carpenters, hackers, writers and all producing intellectuals alike, they too should contribute solidarity tithes like everyone else. But why must they pay, on top of the common existence toll, that extra creativity tax? Because that’s what getting oneself a bookkeeper is: another tax. If we want to preserve our peace of mind, keeping it clear for more intellectual considerations, then we creative souls are coerced to spend a vast share of our earnings on an uncreative — and dare I say, unproductive — caste of accountants, civil servants, fiscalists and lawyers, whose sole contribution to the progress of humanity is the organized extortion of creativity.

If only we had to part with some virtual digits on an even more volatile digital bank account — well, I couldn’t care less, for I am not to hold on to the blink of the Mammon. Fact is, however, that money is but a unit of spendable free time. And I need free time to pursue my creative happiness and in that process procure my fellow beings with things they might enjoy, by which their longing for art is heartened, or their existential angst is comforted. Or things that are utilitarian automata, contributing to the freeing of all of human intellect. When society extorts me money — precisely while I create gifts to humanity! — then it really steals productive time, and hence, prevents human progress.

Sadly, this immoral paradox will persist for as long as the human tribe keeps organizing its cohabitation. To acknowledge that, one must only wonder where the profits of the State-organized robbery flow to. Also, take into account — duh! — that probably only 5% (wild guess) of individuals create things that earn mankind’s right of existence as a species.

I may seek solace in the glossing illusion that financial and energetic taxation of the creative minority is perhaps a very expensive investment in the survival of the substrate from which kindred creative souls may spring off once in a while. Truly a cynical observation that one’s parasite may be the bearer of one’s progeny.

May I steal your attention for a few more minutes?

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