Temporal context of the action in My Music at work video-clip reveals a specific type of alienation in a corporate world: time alienation. According to Edward T. Hall, “time talks. It speaks more plainly than words. The message it conveys comes through loud and clear. Because it is manipulated less consciously, it is subject to less distortion than the spoken language. It can shout the truth where words lie (Hall, Edward T. The Silent Language, New York: Anchor, 1973, 1). Because time is a silent language, a tool with which all human beings may transmit messages, time management is a fingerprint of our alienation.
Because the duties of our time are multiplying, we transformed our life in a factory, putting our feelings, energy and creativity in a production line and a standardization mentality. In our video clip, people are working “in the middle of the night”, but they are alone – “You’re all alone” – , alienated from each other and alienated from themselves.
We all know that time management is a marker of competitive success in an ever faster-paced world. A lot of business and lifestyle’s guru teach us how to transform every second in a profitable investment. But those who educate us how to save every second and to put it in a time-saving bank are actually the thieves of our time. The businessmen dressed in the uniform suits are the priests of our time, guiding us, rewarding or punished us. I am worried about the power of “gray gentlemen” which advise us how to “manage” our time and our life aspirations with professional courtesy and marketable mantras.
I remember a very beautiful fiction story, Momo, wrote by German writer Michael Ende (do you remember “The Neverending Story”?). Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people. The idyllic atmosphere of a very quiet village is spoiled by the coming of the grey men, individuals who represent the Timesavings Bank and promote the idea of “timesaving” among the population. The grey men are an image of businessmen and our smoothing in a (post)industrialized society. The uniforms, the serial/mimetic rhythm of life brought mass consumerism and stress. They ruined the originality and the flavor of individuality:
‘What about the people it belongs to?’ she asked. ‘What will happen to them?’
‘People?’ The voice rose to a scream and broke. ‘People have been obsolete for years. They’ve made the world a place where there’s no room left for their own kind. We shall rule the world!’ (Ende, Michael. Momo, London: Penguin, 1984, 202)
We can find the same theme in “My Music at Work”. In a gloomy realm – “Everything is bleak”- , with a time paradox, the paradox that the more people try to save time, the less they seem to have – “the night’s so long it hurts” – , with people wearing the same type of clothes/uniforms, the work place becomes the place of censored confession and dreams. The only way to get out of this prison is music with its symbol – “my music at work, in a symbol too far or the anatomy of a stain” – . This “century of speed” in which we live, the people’s memories and dreams are destroyed, slowly turning them into victims of grey men. Simply put, we find ourselves in the situation described by the following haiku: “In his run through the city, the snails’ merchant has not seen the houses.”
The time alienation of office’s workers is only a fragment of our alienation. We wear watches on our wrists, but we forget to measure our life. Candidly paralyzed by a myriad of seductive promises, we become tourist in our life. We are trained with predilection: desire anything and everything to live a youth which is barely recognizable, it is consumed more and more frenetically! The bio-chemical engineering industry of rejuvenation and of imposed joy of free time (leisure industry) fits perfectly with the insidious industry of amnesia, which plants in the human subject’s prosthesis of consciousness, “free” from any guilt and fear. As clients of this industry, we are drunk with the thought of ephemeral rules, forgetting that we subscribed to be permanent slaves! (What we are doing with the time that is given to us?)
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