Category Archives: philosophy

‘final’ Pirsig interview

There’s an interview with Robert Pirsig in the Observer today. He says that it will be his last.
rob and chris


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imagine a puddle…

read a quote from douglas adams in richard dawkin‘s “a devil’s chaplain”

…imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking ‘This is an interesting world i find myself in – an interesting hole i find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch for.

i was talking to someone the other day who said she didn’t recycle because it ‘doesn’t fit into my lifestyle’.

so this is it – we’re going to die.


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new stuff on anxiety culture

got the new email from brian at anxiety culture today – it’s the original, unedited draft of a piece he had published in the guardian. i’d recommend anyone to visit his site and have a read (and spring for a bit of money on the e-books you can download there, too)

How do you avoid becoming a corporate drone? Firstly, it helps to accept that if you spend most of your waking hours confined to the office, it will eventually get to you. Anyone starting an office job expecting to escape the politics and petty bureaucracy is in for a shock. You can’t expect to remain dignified in that environment. It’s better to recognise your inevitable deterioration into something contemptible. The only alternative is to join the ranks of the deluded, seek opportunities and aspire to professionalism – but that’s the action plan of the trainee drone.

Of course, jobs are supposed to give people self-respect, not take it away. But due to the nature of the typical workplace (authority hierarchies, miscommunication, chaos), employees end up behaving in undignified ways: concealing things from their bosses, redirecting blame, feeling resentment over trivial matters, reporting that everything’s fine when it isn’t, hiding in the toilets, etc.

Obviously this behaviour doesn’t fit our beliefs about ourselves as essentially rational and well-adjusted. The result is cognitive dissonance, which occurs when our self-image is contradicted by our actions. How can you come to terms with your ‘guilty’ behaviour if you see yourself as honest and dignified? You think you’re above it all, but the evidence of your own actions shows that you’re immersed in it. Faced with the horror of your out-of-character behaviour, you rationalise and make excuses. You turn into an office drone.

Any smart person with a meaningless job suffers the crippling cognitive dissonance of: “I am intelligent, my waking hours are spent in stupidity”. Rationalisations are used to mask the frustration: “I’d be bored without my job” (if you really believe that, it’s probably time to consider entering a nursing home). According to Leon Festinger, creator of dissonance theory, the less you are paid to do stupid work, the more you will attempt to rationalise it (“well, it was fun”), rather than admit to doing it for the money. Remember this next time you hear someone claim to “enjoy” their underpaid desk job.

As an office worker, don’t expect to have any dignity. Perhaps the only way to stay sane is to accept that you’ll turn into something despicable. Don’t fall for the office management propaganda about integrity and professionalism. In the corporate workplace, self-respect is out of the question – it exists only in the delusions of drones.

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Robert Pirsig interview

Just in case you are interested and didn’t already know, The Times published a rare interview with top author Robert Pirsig last month:,,923-2297735_1,00.html

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