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Outsourcing Our Lives

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
October 2013
Outsourcing Our Lives

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I was recently at a baseball game and this guy seated next to me pulled out an app called TaskRabbit. Apparently, he didn’t want to (couldn’t?) go and get his own hotdog, so he used the app to request someone else to go to the concession stand, wait in line, and bring the dog with condiments.

Wonder what Mr. Gandhi would make of this outsourcing of life’s basic elements? Didn’t he encourage everyone to clean the ashram’s latrines?

Dear Friend,

“It’s one way to learn that each man’s labor is as important as another’s. In fact when you’re doing it, “cleaning the outhouse” seems far more important than the law. ” (M. K. Gandhi from the movie Gandhi)

While this column has no right to promote or diminish the value of any product or service legally offered in the marketplace, Satyalogue does not assume that just because something is legal that it merits a Gandhian thumbs-up “like.”

Some may argue that there is little or no difference between making use of the app in question and buying a hotdog from a vendor who comes to your seat. Perhaps that is true. However, the dignity of manual labor can only be earned by doing it. By sitting comfortably in his seat and not troubling himself to get his own hotdog, your fellow baseball fan (assuming that he was not handicapped, and understanding that not all handicaps are readily visible) lost not only some of the charm of going to a ballgame, but he may have also lost a bit of his humanity.

Traditional life encouraged human self-sufficiency; people in those societies grew their own food, hunted for their protein, cooked meals in their kitchens, wore unbranded clothes made at home, attended to their own health, and even built their own houses. Modern life has traded self-sufficiency for salaried specialization. To be sure, efficiency of services, quality of products, and longevity of healthier lives have all been welcome outcomes of this specialization. But modernity has also resulted in the loss of traditional skills, and postmodern life enables us to choose how we want to live. While you might elect to make use of the specialized knowledge of a cardiologist to clean out your arteries, you might also choose to believe that having a maid clean your toilet is cancerous to one’s soul—for, once we’ve come to believe that latrine duty is beneath us (or lost our ability to mend our clothes, cut our hair, trim our nails, cook our meals, tend our gardens, wash our laundry, paint our houses, and perhaps even raise our children), no app in the world (and no tailor, barber, manicurist, chef, gardener, launderer, painter, or nanny) will enable us to experience the fullness of using our heads, hearts, and hands.

Of course one need not be a Jack-of-all-trades. Just embrace the DIY ethos of those who embrace “doing it yourself” as one way to lead a simpler life.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]


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