“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Samuel Johnson was wrong, tragically so.
Traveling to a recent CIO Connect workshop I was struck by how much I dislike London.
It’s noisy, dirty, dusty, full, rude, smelly. There are too many people in too small a space. The air is largely diesel fumes, despite the laughable low emissions zone, and the congestion charging which was intended to reduce driving in London. That worked well.
There is so much construction that you can get a mouthful of grit if you breathe through your mouth. All the noise is human made, nature hardly gets a look in despite London being described as one of the more green capital cities.
People talk about diversity in London but the centre is homogeneous. There is no diversity whatsoever. Wage slaves, headphones firmly on, avoiding interaction, pushing past other people because their journey is the most important, all wearing the company uniform – studiedly avoiding a tie these days and carrying a rucksack, fill the platforms and the pavements. All of them are travelling at the same time, all going to the same locations from very broadly similar dormitory towns and all of them return at the same time each evening.
No one has any time as they rush from one meaningless meeting to the next. Most have pointless jobs anyway – as documented by Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber, which was published on 14 May. Mr Graeber states a “bullshit job is so completely pointless that even the person who has to perform it every day cannot convince themselves there’s a good reason for them to be doing it. They may not be able to admit this to their co-workers – often, there are very good reasons not to do so – but they are convinced the job is pointless nonetheless. Bullshit jobs are not just jobs that are useless; typically, there has to be some degree of pretence and fraud involved as well. The employee must feel obliged to pretend that there is, in fact, a good reason their job exists, even if, privately, they find such claims ridiculous.” He goes on to list 5 types of these jobs.
There is so much capability for remote working nowadays. Companies want to move out to reduce costs. But we’ve barely scratched the surface. The office of the future, working in the future and smart cities have been talked about for years including at CIO Connect conferences. But it’s all pie in the pollution filled sky, perhaps because the committees are staffed by people who have a bullshit job, and want to retain it.
And then as I travel home, I’m pleased to be still alive, as the media report that more people are murdered in London than in New York these days.