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Slaves of the System?
[size="3"]In his book The Brave New World, Revisited (1958),

[indent][size="3"][quote name="ALDOUS HUXLEY"]...modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and political power, and to the development of a society controlled (ruthlessly in the totalitarian states, politely and inconspicuously in the democracies) by Big Business and Big Government. But societies are composed of individuals and are good only insofar as they help individuals to realize their potentialities and to lead a happy and creative life. How have individuals been affected by the technological advances of recent years? Here is the answer to this question given by a philosopherpsychiatrist, Dr. Erich Fromm:

Quote:Our contemporary Western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure.

[/indent][size="3"]... [/size][size="3"]... [/size][size="3"]...[/size][size="3"]

Science may be defined as the reduction of multiplicity to unity. It seeks to explain the endlessly diverse phenomena of nature by ignoring the uniqueness of particular events, concentrating on what they have in common and finally abstracting some kind of "law," in terms of which they make sense and can be effectively dealt with. ... In the same spirit the artist takes the innumerable diversities and uniquenesses of the outer world and his own imagination and gives them meaning within an orderly system of plastic, literary or musical patterns. The wish to impose order upon confusion, to bring harmony out of dissonance and unity out of multiplicity is a kind of intellectual instinct, a primary and fundamental urge of the mind. Within the realms of science, art and philosophy the workings of what I may call this "Will to Order" are mainly beneficent. ... It is in the social sphere, in the realm of politics and economics, that the Will to Order becomes really dangerous.

Here the theoretical reduction of unmanageable multiplicity to comprehensible unity becomes the practical reduction of human diversity to subhuman uniformity, of freedom to servitude. In politics the equivalent of a fully developed scientific theory or philosophical system is a totalitarian dictatorship. In economics, the equivalent of a beautifully composed work of art is the smoothly running factory in which the workers are perfectly adjusted to the machines. The Will to Order can make tyrants out of those who merely aspire to clear up a mess. The beauty of tidiness is used as a justification for despotism.

Organization is indispensable; for liberty arises and has meaning only within a self-regulating community of freely cooperating individuals. But, though indispensable, organization can also be fatal. Too much organization transforms men and women into automata, suffocates the creative spirit and abolishes the very possibility of freedom. As usual, the only safe course is in the middle, between the extremes of laissez-faire at one end of the scale and of total control at the other.

During the past century the successive advances in technology have been accompanied by corresponding advances in organization. Complicated machinery has had to be matched by complicated social arrangements, designed to work as smoothly and efficiently as the new instruments of production. In order to fit into these organizations, individuals have had to deindivid-ualize themselves, have had to deny their native diversity and conform to a standard pattern, have had to do their best to become automata.

The dehumanizing effects of over-organization are reinforced by the dehumanizing effects of over-population. Industry, as it expands, draws an ever greater proportion of humanity's increasing numbers into large cities. But life in large cities is not conducive to mental health (the highest incidence of schizophrenia, we are told, occurs among the swarming inhabitants of industrial slums); nor does it foster the kind of responsible freedom within small self-governing groups, which is the first condition of a genuine democracy. City life is anonymous and, as it were, abstract. People are related to one another, not as total personalities, but as the embodiments of economic functions or, when they are not at work, as irresponsible seekers of entertainment. Subjected to this kind of life, individuals tend to feel lonely and insignificant. Their existence ceases to have any point or meaning.

Biologically speaking, man is a moderately gregarious, not a completely social animal ... In their original form human societies bore no resemblance to the hive or the ant heap; they were merely packs. Civilization is, among other things, the process by which primitive packs are transformed into an analogue, crude and mechanical, of the social insects' organic communities. ... However hard they try, men cannot create a social organism, they can only create an organization. In the process of trying to create an organism they will merely create a totalitarian despotism.[/quote]

[/indent][size="3"]Later on in the book,

[indent][size="3"][quote name="ALDOUS HUXLEY"]The older dictators fell because they never could supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles and mysteries. Nor did they possess a really effective system of mind-manipulation. In the past, freethinkers and revolutionaries were often the products of the most piously orthodox education ... Under a scientific dictator, education will really work—with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown.[/quote]


[size="3"]How much are we the slaves of the system, of Huxley's "Will to Order" in the social sphere?

Hopefully, enough reports, news and views can be accumulated here to form a databank and knowledgebase.[/size]
[size="3"][url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/BPO-blues/articleshow/10298472.cms"]BPO blues[/url] : TOI Kolkata, Oct 10, 2011

Quote:Glitzy offices, fat pay packets and apparently enviable lifestyle. But life is not that easy for BPO employees. Saibal Sen & Sumati Yengkhom look for the cloud of weariness behind those smart and young faces[/size]

[size="3"]It's a life they chose, because there wasn't any other option. Straight out of school or college, they jumped into the BPO bandwagon in the late 90s, unaware of where it would lead to. It paid well - moneywise. And with big players like Wipro, IBM and HSBC pitching in, the prospects seemed lucrative. A decade later, it is still these BPOs on which rests the state's IT dream. Every other building in Salt Lake's Sector V now houses a BPO, mostly domestic and rarely international. Smart young boys and girls make a beeline for these offices. A picture seemingly perfect unless one tries to understand what lies behind those bright but weary faces. A generation still grappling to come to terms with their work - and life.[/size]

[size="3"]To begin with, the work is demanding. For example, a 300-seat "floor" of a major Sector-V office handles inbound calls of a renowned international client throughout the night. The "floor" receives nearly 35,000 calls daily.[/size]

[size="3"]That means, on an average, every person has to receive over 100 calls per day. The duration of each call can be 4 minutes to 15 minutes. The whole process is monitored to keep tabs on the response time (or to use their jargon, average handled time or AHT) and how effectively the call is dealt. None can deviate from the laid-down script even at the cost of repeating the same thing to "customers" all through the night. And on this hinges the performance evaluation, which in turn is reflected in hikes and promotions. As a result, not for a single moment can one even think of catching a forty wink. One has to remain alert till the shift ends at 5am (which may sometimes be extended by a couple of hours) and lucky to have a bite during the "dinner break" - which usually is around 2am or later. At the end of the 12-hour shift, the eyes can't take it any longer, the mind refuses to work and you're fast asleep even before the pool car takes you to your home.[/size]

[size="3"]But then these 300 youngsters work in one of the most prestigious offices of Sector V. The condition of others is worse. The work of those who handle "outbound calls" or make calls to potential customers are target-driven. For every six calls made, two must end in sales. And that is a tough task. It is really difficult to call an unknown person and coax them into buying something. The callers' anglicized names (names are changed so that it becomes easier for potential customers in the US or UK or Australia to connect) or their trained accents notwithstanding, the sheer effort night-long is enough to leave them in a state of daze all through the time they are awake.[/size]

[size="3"]"Domestic processes" may sound better for their morning shifts and Indian clientele. But the pay packet in this sector is unenviable. The salaries for beginners in common "domestic processes" range from Rs 4,500 to Rs 6,000 per month. Whereas, in international processes it is thrice the sum. Moreover, the smaller companies here are hardly employee-friendly. "Leaves are cancelled at will and there are no medical benefits," says a senior manager, working with call centres for the past five years.[/size]

[size="3"]For Diptiman Banerjee, the priorities therefore were very clear when he started looking for a job three years ago. "I am just a graduate and have come from a middle-class family. My father can't spend lakhs to get me admitted to some B-school. So, BPO was the only choice for me. I have been here for three years now and no other job will give me this salary with my qualifications. Now after getting married, I have got used to a certain lifestyle and have to be content with my life in office," Banerjee said. He then admits how the awake-at-night pattern is telling on his health. "On weekends (he is among the lucky few to get a weekend off), I can't sleep at night. I keep awake till 5am, watching TV. I am being treated for sleep disorder and the doctor has warned if this continues further it might lead to short-term memory loss. Now I realise why I keep missing my friends' birthdays and anniversaries.[/size]

[size="3"]But then I can't (like many of my colleagues) quit and join a domestic process with a poor pay package," he says. Manjit Kaur sounds apologetic when contacted. "Yesterday, when you called I didn't feel like taking the call. I was feeling very sleepy. For some reason or the other, I am not getting leave despite my ill health. In the last two months (August and September), leaves have been cancelled - first due to Hurricane Irine and then Kolkata had to work more since the call centres in western India went on a week-long Ganesh Chaturthi leave. On an average nine days in the 22-day month had been declared 'critical days', which means all sanctioned leaves stand cancelled and the call flow becomes heavier," explains Kaur. "And then, people like us have to face a lot of problems outside office - from getting understanding landlords to getting maids. The days when I have to go to a bank, I can't get any sleep at all."[/size]

[size="3"]It is this dreariness that triggers another problem. "One has to do something to get rid of this weariness. Some sleep over the weekend, others go to discotheques or go on a drinking binge. The moodiness, often bordering on rudeness, affects relationships. I have seen a lot of breakups in my last three years in BPO industry," says Anamika Rudra. "After my college I wanted to go for a post-graduation degree. But I realised that for a very average student like me post-graduation won't be of much help in getting a job. That is why I joined a BPO," recalled Piyali Ghosh. Her first night-out was a month after working with the BPO. She was introduced to the heady cocktail of alcohol and psychedelic lights. She liked it, it was a cool way to unwind, she thought. For this girl and her friends it is work hard and party harder. But now five years down the line, Piyali wants to settle down with her fiancee, her dreadful state of finances is now a stumbling block.[/size]

[size="3"]Says another senior call centre employee, who is just 26-year-old: "As I understand, for most of those who join the BPO industry, Kolkata is the first Metro they've lived in. In addition to this, they are away from their homes - and its discipline. They have money in their hand. Which explains this flashy lifestyle. There are many who get addicted to drugs and alcohol. Life is easy here when you have money to spend." Some fall prey to performance enhancing drug. Pills like spasmo-proxyvon are abused by a good number of BPO executives. These drugs keep them going even when their throat goes dry due to the numerous calls they attend to. "Just popping a pill gives you more energy and make you feel that you can handle the clients more smartly. But soon I became dependent on the drug. My family came to know about this and I had to go to a rehab centre," said Azhar, a former call centre employee.[/size]

[size="3"]In most cases, it is a manifestation of frustration. "Every day," admits a senior HR professional, "we get close to 10 dropouts. The reasons vary from personal problems to professional issues," she says. "The attrition rate in BPO industry is far higher than other jobs. Therefore we have to keep hiring people. In the top-notch companies, the dropouts start even from the induction and training stage. After the three to four months of intensive technical training, barely 50% of the candidates stay on. The training modules are designed to bring all - from school passouts, graduates and even retired professionals - at the same level where process delivery is concerned.[/size]

[size="3"]It really doesn't matter what educational background one is from if one can speak well. Anyway, they are periodically trained by accent coaches who teach them to speak specific accents based on their customer's geographic location," the professional adds.[/size]

[size="3"]This, perhaps, isn't as easy as it sounds like. "There is hardly any regulation in the BPO sector. Leave aside the mushrooming domestic processes, even much-touted career advancement programmes of bigger companies become nothing but farce. At the end of the day, the promotion basically hinges on how close you are to the manager. There are instances galore of a person who has been promoted four times in three years, yet a deserving candidate failed to make a cut in five years. This only adds to the frustration," said Akansha Shukla, who'd been through this umpteen times.[/size]

[size="3"]And life remains in a state of daze for most of them.[/size]

[size="3"](All names have been changed)

[size="3"][url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/Of-depression-and-drugs/articleshow/10298530.cms"]Of depression and drugs[/url] : TOI, Kolkata, Oct 10, 2011

Quote:Thirty-year-old Rajiv Nandy had everything that a youngster craves for - a high-paying job, a rented apartment and friends to hang out with. When he shifted to Bangalore from Kolkata to work in a BPO eight years ago, the IT dream had just taken off. Hundreds were trooping to India's Silicon Valley to chart a dream career. For many like Rajiv, though, the stress of surviving in a ruthless professional world where you work hard and party even harder, eventually proved too much. Hooked on drugs and alcohol, he lost his job last year and has since been struggling to get out of depression.[/size]

[size="3"]"I just can't get myself back to the rigour. It's just too stressful," he mumbles, sitting cross-legged in a psychiatrist's chamber in south Kolkata. But he misses the "fun and the excitement" of weekends in Bangalore, he says. The night-long parties and the wild sessions at discos still haunt him. "I wish I could stick to my job, but it was too much of a pressure..." he trailed off, looking helplessly across the table at his doctor. Nandy visits his psychiatrist twice every week.[/size]

[size="3"] [color="#9932cc"]{ [/color][/size][size="3"][color="#9932cc"]---------------[/color][/size]

[size="3"][color="#9932cc"] Quote from The Brave New World, Revisited :

... "Free as a bird," we say, and envy the winged creatures for their power of unrestricted movement in all the three dimensions. But, alas, we forget the dodo. Any bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded. Something analogous is true of human beings. If the bread is supplied regularly and copiously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone -- or at least by bread and circuses alone. "In the end," says the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's parable, "in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, 'make us your slaves, but feed us.' " ...

--------------- } [/color][/size]

[size="3"]There are scores like him who are struggling to pick up the pieces and start afresh. Many will probably never recover fully, say psychiatrists. "Not all can handle the pressure of working by the clock, meeting deadlines and attending calls. For these youngsters, it proved too much to deal with. Add to this the peer pressure to spend and have fun in a certain kind of way. Many tend to believe it's fashionable to take drugs or alcohol without realizing the consequences. You need to strike a fine balance between your social and professional lives to survive a taxing job. Else, the result is inevitably going to be disastrous and it's turning out to be so," said psychiatrist Amarnath Mallik. He receives calls from at least three IT sector employees every day. "And half of them are in no position to work," Mallik says.[/size]

[size="3"]Nandy, for instance, has been out of job for a year. The very sight of a call centre leaves him unnerved. "I just can't get myself to sit in a row and on the computer with the headphones. Those incessant calls and working under the hawk eyes of the supervisor rattles me. Unfortunately, call centres are the only place where I can possibly look for employment since I am not qualified enough for a better job," says Nandy, a commerce graduate.[/size]

[size="3"]Namita Saha was fresh out of college when she "wandered into a BPO office" in Kolkata with a friend in 2009. They were offered jobs rightaway and Namita - a small-town girl - needed the money. "The first six months were like a dream. I did well, even got a promotion. I had enough to spend on myself even after I had sent money home. So, I partied almost every other night. I would get up groggy in the morning, report to work, get back and party again.[/size]

[size="3"]Slowly, I started losing focus. My performance suffered and I was warned by my office. But I still couldn't discipline myself. Last December, I was asked to put in my papers," said Namita. The 25-year-old has been living with a friend ever since and her family doesn't know why she has lost her job. An uncle helps her with money occasionally. Even though she blames herself for throwing it all away, her psychiatrist believes it could have happened to anyone. The odd hours and the work pressure are often inhuman, he pointed out.[/size]

[size="3"]The only way to deal with the setback is to begin on a clean slate, which can happen only if one manages to put the bad experiences behind, says psychiatrist Siladitya Ray. "You need a complete break for that. And regain your confidence which is often shattered once you have been asked to quit or failed to cope with a job. It takes time but is not impossible. In the fast-paced world of IT, youngsters must learn to live with such failures," said Ray.[/size]

[size="3"](Names have been changed)

[url="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/personal-tech/computing/Violent-videogames-damage-brain-Study/articleshow/10946158.cms"]Violent videogames damage brain: Study[/url] : TOI, Dec 1, 2011

Quote: Is your child spending hours in front of a videogame shooting down demons or slaying bad guys? It could be affecting that part of her/his brain that plays a crucial role in controlling behaviour and in developing memory, emotion and learning.

The finding is crucial for India, where the gaming market that is estimated to be about Rs 900 crore is likely to grow by 53% to Rs 2,125 crore.

A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent videogame play on the brain has found changes in regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of playing videogames. The results of the study were presented on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The controversy over whether violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many years. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that games have a prolonged negative neurological effect. "For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent videogames at home," said Yang Wang, assistant research professor a department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences in Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis.

"These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behaviour," he added.

For the study, 22 healthy adult males, aged between 18 and 29, with low past exposure to violent videogames were randomly assigned to two groups of 11 each. "The findings indicated that violent videogame play has a long-term effect on brain functioning," Wang said.

[/indent]According to Dr. Erich Fromm:

[indent]Our contemporary Western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure.


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