Refrain from Surfing, or Else!

I actually came across ‘How to Surf: Technologies at Work in the Societies of Control’ by Bent Meier Sørensen not by reading ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’ by Gilles Deleuze and searching for anyone that has cited it, but by looking for anything relevant Deleuze and Félix Guattari might have to say about media as that’s something that I’m working on at the moment while waiting for journals to review my papers. I’m actually quite glad that I have a job that allows me to do other things than what is strictly related to my own research. Having a job and doing it is actually highly relevant to this essay, as well as to the book chapter by Sørensen, but we’ll get to that.

To start things light, I appreciate the segment taken from ‘The Last Boy Scout’, a 1991 film starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. I don’t think I’ve seen it, but now I reckon I have to. It only makes sense, does it not? I mean it’s now then for research, not for entertainment. Anyway, initially the focus is on surf, as indicated in the chapter title. Surf gets mentioned in the short text by Deleuze, hence the use of the word in this chapter. The point is, as Sørensen (64) explains, to experience, to ride the waves (the flow). In his (64) words, it’s about “[w]hen you surf, you are less interested in the changes in the wave than in changing yourself.” Conversely, it’s not about mapping out this or that, things you consider, but things you go and experience. As Sørensen (64) puts it, “[i]t’s a do-it-yourself job” and it’s worth emphasizing that it’s quite literally so. It’s about going with the flow, “produc[ing] flow conjunctions here and there, try[ing] out continuums of intensities, segment by segment”, as expressed by Deleuze and Guattari (161) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. Now, this is, of course, not how most people view things, as I’ve explained a number of times in my essays. Sørensen (64-65) makes the same observation, pointing out that no matter how many slogans you hear emphasizing your individuality, especially in adverts, you are merely a host of dividuality. It’s not that you have to be such, but you are, as Sørensen (65) points out, and that’s pretty much what Deleuze and Guattari are attempting to address, as well as to overcome. As Sørensen (65) puts it, you need to become aware of how it all works and turn that into your favor. This is something that should, however, be done with care, as indicated by Sørensen (65). Here it is very beneficial to have read the relevant plateau ‘November 28, 1947: How Do You Make Yourself a Body without Organs?’. I probably should have covered it before jumping into this text, but, well, that’d take for ages again. Maybe later though. It’s an interesting plateau. Anyway, I have to say something, so, in summary, the body without organs, aka the BwO, is, well, what it says it is, the body sans organization. It doesn’t need the organization, as such, yet it gets organized, as they (158) point out. It’s worth noting that in their (158-159) definition, body and organism are not the one and the same thing. It’s rather that an organism is the organization of the body, a stratum that is on the BwO, once “forms, functions, bonds, dominant and hierarchized organizations, organized transcendences” have been imposed upon it, as explained by the two (159). In their (159) words:

“[T]he BwO is that glacial reality where the alluvions, sedimentations, coagulations, foldings, and recoilings that compose an organism – and also a signification and a subject – occur.”

More simply put, they (159) add that:

“It is in the BwO that the organs enter into the relations of composition called the organism.”

Moreover, they (159) add that the BwO is itself stratified, being located between two poles, the surface of stratification, and the plane of consistency. Simply put here, it’s between what makes it stratified and what destratifies it. The surface of stratification acts as a blocker whereas the plane of consistency acts as the dismantler, the BwO acting as the limit, as they (159) explain. They (159) note that there are three strata that bind us: “the organism, signifiance, and subjectification.” If you’ve read the plateaus I’ve covered thus far, you should have little issues understanding all this. They (159) explain this bit by bit. First (159):

“You will be organized, you will be an organism, you will articulate your body – otherwise you’re just depraved.”

Second (159):

“You will be signifier and signified, interpreter and interpreted – otherwise you’re just a deviant.”

Third (159):

“You will be a subject, nailed down as one, a subject of the enunciation recoiled into a subject of the statement – otherwise you’re just a tramp.”

To counter these then, they (159) add that the BwO, binded by these strata, opposes what they call disarticulation, which includes experimentation, as opposed to signification and interpretation; nomadic movement, as opposed to being fixed and sedentary, and ceasing to be an organism. They (159-160) ask how one would overcome these binds? As noted by Sørensen (65), it must be done with care or should I actually say with great care. Deleuze and Guattari (160) emphasize that it must be done with great caution, in small dosages, otherwise one may overdose. In other words, they (160) state that “[y]ou don’t do it with a sledgehammer, you use a very fine file.” So, yes, not only with care, but with great care. As they (160) clearly state:

“Dismantling the organism has never meant killing yourself, but rather opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage, circuits, conjunctions, levels and thresholds, passages and distributions of intensity, and territories and deterritorializations measured with the craft of a surveyor.”

Is this going to be easy? Well, simply put, as they (160) also put it, no, absolutely not. They (160) further emphasize that it requires the art of caution to dismantle any of these three strata. To put it in crude terms, to make sure you understand, you have to be careful, very careful, in it all, because you might lose your shit otherwise and if that were to happen, it would be very hard to get you back to reality, or so to speak. This is something I struggle with. No, I don’t mean that I struggle with reality. What I mean is that I find it hard to explain this to others. I find all this particularly helpful, not to mention liberating, but I try to be careful with others. I engage with all this rather cautiously, not rushing things. The thing is that I’m not exactly sure people are able to handle dismantling any of the strata and how one would go about facilitating such successfully. That’s why I try to not to rave about such. I don’t think that people are not capable, that they lack the faculties or that they aren’t intelligent enough for what it takes. It’s rather that they are not geared up for it and might rush things. In their (160) words, while at it:

“You have to keep enough of the organism for it to reform each dawn; and you have to keep small supplies of signifiance and subjectification, if only to turn them against their own systems when the circumstances demand it, when things, persons, even situations, force you to; and you have to keep small rations of subjectivity in sufficient quantity to enable you to respond to the dominant reality.”

More simply put, they (160) add one should not attempt to reach the BwO and the plane of consistency by being reckless about it. They (160) are very clear about this and warn that rushing things may, and probably will, result in becoming an empty husk. They (161) go as far as to advice not doing it all, attempting any temporary destratification, unless you are really careful and up for the task. Instead, they (161) recommend not attempting it at all as remaining stratified, “organized, signified, subjected”, is still far better than the exact opposite. If you are stratified, you are well anchored. If you become fully destratified, there is no coming back. After all the words of warning, they (161) explain how it should be done:

“Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.”

So, just as Sørensen (64) points out, you should be experimenting with the strata. To be more specific, you should be experimenting with a stratum, one at a time, not all at once. It should be a work in progress, not something that you should be done with. If you are done with it, then you are either not doing it right, not surfing, or you are already dead, which, I take it you aren’t if you are reading this (remember being stratified is just fine). You have to be gentle with it, as noted by Deleuze and Guattari (161). I think Deleuze and Guattari (161) probably make this sound more grand than what it is, really, perhaps even more daunting than what it is. I’d say the hardest part is just letting go of previous images of thought. It’s not really about overthinking, but about thinking itself. Overthinking things, something which I used to do was just the effect, or should I say the excess, of thinking. If you have to explain it all, well, then you probably aren’t experimenting. It’s not about trying but doing. It’s not about thinking about doing, before or after doing, but just doing. Well, that’s how I’d describe it anyway. To be more specific, it’s not exactly thinking that gets in the way, thinking is just fine, but rather the supposed self-reflexivity of it, thinking about thinking, before or after.

Now where was I with the chapter by Sørensen? Right, okay, he (65) moves on to summarize what Deleuze is on about in his short text published in the early 1990s. I may be getting this a bit wrong, but I don’t exactly agree with him that in this formation or stratification, that is to say in the society of control, one’s identity isn’t dependent on one’s narrative of oneself as a subject, be it of sovereignty or discipline, however you think of it. He (65) adds that it’s rather how the self is “abstracted from databanks, registers, tests and focus group interviews” and “the data is … personalized in the ‘security’ of passwords that you memorize.” I’m not exactly disagreeing with that, but I think it’s worth adding here that much of that data of us, wherever it may be stored, is the figment of our imagination. We are the ones who keep insisting that we are this and/or that. This is the hallmark of the postsignifying regime, the passional subject, the one who can be riddled with insecurities and monomanias, yet at the same time supposedly knows it all, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (129-130, 228). It has all to do with what the two (130) call a strange invention, that of the doubled subject, being the cause of statements yet formed by those statements. They (130) also refer to it as the paradox of the legislator-subject, in which “the more you obey the statements of the dominant reality, the more in command you are as subject of enunciation in mental reality, for in the end you are only obeying yourself!” In short, this is what they (130) call “being slave to oneself, or to pure ‘reason,’ the Cogito.” So, yes, Sørensen is right that the self is now abstracted from elsewhere, that is to say from statements, yet, I think it should be added that is we who made those statements. I say ‘we’ and ‘our’ because, as argued by Deleuze and Guattari (130), “for a subject is never the condition of possibility of language or the cause of the statement[.]” Conversely, as they (130) point out, it’s the subject who is the product of collective assemblages of enunciation. Simply put, there’s never ‘I’ without ‘you’ but ‘you’ is also an ‘I’ and so on. Anyway, after that tangent, it’s worth turning to what I wanted to address in this essay.

Sørensen (65) argues that what matters in a society of control is not whether you have passed through the institutions examined by Michel Foucault: school, army, hospital, prison or factory. Instead, he (65) argues that the measure of humanity is now judged by employment, what is your job and what jobs have you had. He (65) specifies that, of course, not just any job will do, only paid jobs count. He (66) provides example, something that everyone encounters in their life, well, at least in Denmark it seems. The example provided by him (66) is a folder that Danish people get from what he humorously calls the (Un)employment Office. He (66) also points out that if you happen to be one of the rare cases that haven’t ever received the folder, that is to say become unemployed, then you probably don’t understand modernity. He (66) clarifies that it’s an experience or a feeling rather than a thing or a status, which you can only experience if you are actually unemployed, as expressed by the (Un)employment Office, but also when you unemployment looms over you, it being only a matter of time. I think Sørensen (66) puts it really well, how you haven’t actually understood modernity if you’ve never had that experience, that feeling. You have a poor understanding of how everything revolves around work in modernity if you’ve never been out of work. It’s about hoping to get work just so that you can say that you work, while also dreading over the fact that your job is unlikely going to be permanent, meaning that you’ll be hopping back and forth between employment and unemployment. It also extends from the work itself to more or less everything else. It’s the yard stick for being a human, as expressed by Sørensen (65). Good luck trying to foster relationships, not to mention forge new ones, when unemployed. It’s not exactly considered attractive, no matter how attractive you are. It’s not exactly something you bring up in a conversation when you meet new people. How do I know? Well, if you can’t figure that out, you for sure don’t understand anything about modernity. If you don’t trust that, Matti Kortteinen and Hannu Tuomikoski (63) point to the same thing in ‘Työtön: Tutkimus pitkäaikaistyöttömien selviytymisestä’, translating as ‘Unemployed: A Study on Coping of the Long Term Unemployed’. If you still aren’t convinced, ask random Greek nationals, especially young Greek nationals, what they think of (un)employment. That’s something I almost managed to forget, but I felt like adding this example here after I happened to watch a documentary on the impact automation, robotization and computerization on populations. The indicated civil unrest caused by masses of unemployed Greeks reminded me of how this works on a large scale, especially when everything tanks all the sudden.

For those that find Deleuze and Guattari, by themselves or working together, too acidic for their taste, I think Sørensen (66-67) does a good job explaining the role of work or (un)employment, noting that the aforementioned folder is a peripheral and extreme site where person is placed in a power relation in which powers produce one subject. Here it’s worth clarifying that the subject is not first and foremost an active agent but the one … sorry for the pun … worked on. In other words, the subject is subject to the folder. It quite literally puts you in your place, tells you that if you are going through the folder, then you are subjected to certain measures by the authorities. This is why Sørensen (67) calls it a prima facie, or should I say in-your-face, encounter with power being exercised upon you, you being subjected to it. Moving back to the far less lucid formulations of Deleuze and Guattari, Sørensen (67) also calls the folder a refrain, which, according to the two (311-312), functions as a territorial marker. To be more specific, the two (311-312) characterize a refrain as often some song, some tune, that we hum to reinforce our sense of place, especially if we are under siege, outside our comfort zone. It can be within our familiar territory or outside it. That said, we can also outside while being in it, hence being outside our comfort zone. So, for example, when you live abroad, you may find yourself listening to music from back ‘home’, even if you aren’t necessarily that fond of the said music. That’s why they (312) point out that it often has a territorial role, functioning as a territorial assemblage. Sørensen (67) summarizes the two (311-312), stating that a refrain has three aspects, injection, inscription and interception. The (67) first one he understands as an “initiation of a quasi-stable situation that connects the client temporarily to a territory following a local tactic of survival[.]” So, as I pointed out, it’s this injection of territorial stability when encountering chaos. Deleuze and Guattari (311) exemplify this with a child who is, I suppose, lost, in the dark, trying to make its way, at times taking shelter, while at the same time trying to keep it together, composing, by singing or humming some little tune. The second aspect, inscription, Sørensen (67) characterizes as the dominant function of the refrain, a redundant, or should I say repetitive, task that functions not only to create a territory but also to maintain it. This maintenance aspect of it, having to repeat the tune, is what differentiates this aspect from the first aspect, as explained by the two (311). The first aspects is more about keeping your cool when outside ‘home’, that is to say outside your own territory, be that actual territory or your comfort zone. In contrast, the second aspect is more about forming and maintaining that ‘home’. The second aspect is thus then a point of reference to the first aspect. The third aspect, interception, Sørensen (68) indicates as being in contact with the outside. To be more elaborate here, Deleuze and Guattari (311) state that it’s when you meld with the outside, either by going outside ‘home’ or invite someone to ‘home’. I guess you could say that it’s the aspect that allows you to change, to intercept a bit of this and a bit of that and meld them into your territory. Nevertheless, Sørensen (68) emphasizes that the second aspect of refrain tends to define it, functioning to segment and rigidify, forming habits, “morphing into what in human resource management is known as ‘organisational culture’.”

Sørensen (68) links the refrain to employment, arguing that its binary negative counterpart, unemployment, is a construct of our habits. He (68) then offers a lesson in etymology, stating that the word employment goes back to Middle French emploier, which, in turn, goes back to Latin implicare, standing for “to enfold, involve, implicate, from in- + plicare, to fold.” Sørensen is actually quite clever to discuss the issue of (un)employment this way. Get it? Employment! Folder! Anyway, he (68) continues by stating that being unemployed has thus meant “not being folded at all.” Not that he agrees, nor does Deleuze, as he points out (68). That said, he (68) adds that:

“What our habitual denotation shows, rather, is how a certain, stratified fold, le emploier, has become the signifier and subjectifier of capitalism, a social imaginary that ‘channels our desire so that desire desires its own repression[.]’”

The last bit is actually cited from another edited volume. I’m sure you can trace that yourself by looking at the end of the chapter. It’s contained in Sørensen’s references. I’d normally include the reference here, but I don’t think I need to do that as that is something by Deleuze and Guattari that I have covered already. Have a look at the segmentarity essays for example. Moving on, I’m also choosing to skip the positive aspects here, how to work through it all in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms, and jumping to the next bit on the folder. Sørensen (69) summarizes what unemployment entails: registering as unemployed (injection) because one is supposed to have “a plan of action”, followed by a requirement to adhere to set codes (inscription) “in order to enter into the resource-distribution system itself.” In other words, you must adhere to what the folder tells you, being organized according to certain principles of governmentality, to put it in Foucauldian terms. If it wasn’t clear already, perhaps because the wording was a bit unnecessarily fancy, just as Sørensen (68-69) clarifies this, you must do exactly as the system tells you, otherwise you won’t be granted any unemployment benefits or subsidies. Sørensen (70) manages to inject a bit of irony in this by pointing out that “plan of action” does not actually stem from the person positioned as an unemployed person but from the (Un)employment office in the guise of “we”. In other words, it matters not, or, well, not to be too cynical about it, I guess I should say it matters little, what you have in mind. I’m not familiar with how it is under the Danish model, but to my understanding it is stricter than the Finnish model. That said, the current government would like to copy the model from Denmark. That’s why I pointed out why it probably matters little rather than not at all. Anyway, Sørensen (70) makes it very clear that under the Danish model there is no ‘I’ that gets to have a say.

Sørensen (70-71) goes on to cover the binary of employed/unemployed in more detail. In summary, he points to two cartoon depictions of the situation one will find him- or herself when browsing the folder, that is to say when you are unemployed. In the first cartoon the unemployed person is depicted as young, docile, loaded with emotion, crying ‘her’ eyes out, sitting on a chair hunched, facing the floor, while the (un)employment office worker comforts her that they, that is to say ‘we’, can make this … sorry for the pun … work. Sørensen actually also comments that in this case the unemployed is intentionally depicted as a woman because femininity is associated with impotence, hysteric inability to get one’s things in order. This is, however, the preferred, positive representation of unemployed people by the state. In the second cartoon the unemployed person is depicted as a brash young man who is failing to level with the (un)employment office worker by not sitting down to face the person and gesturing refusal with an extended arm and an unhappy face. The worker is depicted as a judge, the one in position telling how it is, what’s what. Here you are quite literally told not to stand up for yourself. Together these two cartoons function to inscribe the unemployed people as young, emotional and irrational whereas the state is depicted as wise and rational. People should bow down to the state and let the bureaucrats interpret what’s good for the people. Sørensen actually comments that the use of cartoons is intentional. It has to do with, as you might guess already, the abstract machine of faciality. He (73) goes on to exemplify this with a minor switcheroo, swapping the bodies of the two unemployed people depicted in the folder. He (73) points out how in the first instance when you have the defiant face on the hunched body it organizes the body differently, resulting in a no longer appearing as defeated but rather bored or annoyed. As a result, the body now “hides its anger yet shows it strength”, as expressed by Sørensen (73). Moreover, he (73) explains that when the crying face is positioned on the seemingly defiant body in the second case, the crying face shifts the body accordingly, making it appear as the person is reaching out for comfort with the extended arm. In summary, this is only a small change, swapping this with that, yet the actual effect this has is major. This probably doesn’t sink in well if you haven’t read the plateau on faciality. If you have, then it explains why Sørensen (76-77) points out that even the civil servants have faces, faces that, according to Deleuze and Guattari (170, 177), are produced for us to slide into as faces are never actually our own (think of the collective assemblage of enunciation again). Sørensen (76-77) characterizes the civil servants in the two examples as having the preset faces of a mother (comfort) and a father (judgement). To put it more colloquially, there’s this good cop / bad cop binary going on. Sørensen (77) notes that they are unlikely to be useful to civil servants, yet they are the options they have, either comfort and nurture the lost soul into being productive or judge the defiant soul into docility. What’s common here, as noted by Sørensen (77), is the push towards an ideal of productivity or efficiency. In the first case the young woman in tears is, as tears tend to imply, demoralized to the point that she is unproductive. She is offered comfort and nurture in order to overcome her issues, which may actually stem from her unemployed status. Getting with the program offers a convenient solution to such … neurosis, while the actual goal is to make her productive. In the second case the defiant young man is also unproductive as his behavior is a potential threat to how the system works, as noted in particular by Sørensen (71). This type of lack of discipline and docility must be curbed. The person must be judged and punished. The expectation is that people will at least eventually fall in line, get a job on their own (which was the purpose in the first place) or come crawling back, begging to helped like the young woman in the first case.

If the previous arrangements operated on “the plane of organisation”, dealing with dominant aspect of refrain, inscription, Sørensen (77) brings up an alternative, positioning the youngsters together. In this arrangement the young man, the ‘bachelor’, now comforts the ‘sister’ (feel free to up with alternatives here), “augment[ing] the connections of desire on the plane of immanence”, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (63) in ‘Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature’. Unlike in the pointless arrangement where the civil servants meet one another, having nothing to say to one another, in this arrangement something actually happens. Sørensen (77) notes that in this arrangement the young man, the bachelor, now acts as comforting, as well as dignifying, the young woman, making it possible for her to address her situation on her own terms. The young man has his arm extended, his hand resting on her shoulder, offering comfort, but not pandering her, not exploiting her in her moments of weakness. Whatever results from this is left outside discussion, which, if you think of it, is the point, facing the outside, not the inside, making the outside the inside rather thing clinging into a preset inside.

To contribute something here, perhaps it’s useful to try to examine how this is in the Finnish context. As I pointed out, I assume the Finnish model is far from the Danish model. Anyway, I’d say it’s marked by governmentality, being subjected according to rigid segmentation, yet still having more actual say in one’s affairs when it comes employment. This is actually a heated topic at the moment in Finland as the government is making changes to the system in order to employ more people, or, well, at least so they say. Others say that the latest changes implemented, best known as the ‘active model’, is just another welfare cut for those who are the least well off in the society. In summary, if the person is not employed (18h), self-employed (worth 241€) or attended certain training (5 days) within a period of three months, the relevant employment benefits will be reduced by 4.65% for each month (not cumulative reduction) until the criteria is met or the person is no longer eligible for any such benefits (by being employed). It’s worth noting that the criteria is mutually exclusive. Therefore the state sees it as essentially pointless to work some while attempting to make oneself more employable by training oneself. It has also been criticized for improving nothing, only resulting in cosmetic changes in official the stateistics. Some take jabs at it, arguing that, ironically, the only improvement in employment will result from the state having to employ more civil servants to handle the extra work caused by them now having to monitor whether people meet the set criteria or not. A further layer of irony is added as the state also needs to hire more people to provide the said training, incurring only more costs to the taxpayer. On top of that, the said training tends to be made fun of for being useless to most job seekers: how to use a computer, how to make a CV etc. Simply put, the state is giving money to private entities that act as if they are providing a valuable service to the society. Autodidactism is frowned upon because, well obviously, it can’t be monitored by the authorities. How dare people do something useful by themselves? How dare they surf? Refrain! The mutually exclusive criteria is yet another humorous twist in this. Something tells me that the fact that one cannot do a bit of work while improving oneself via the said training because there’s no existing data infrastructure to do such ‘complex’ monitoring. This is not on the civil servants though. They are told that this is how it is, that no matter how there’s data in three different rows or columns, you are to be only able to concentrate on one of them at a time. The state is essentially saying that it’s surely too complex math to look at all those at the same time. The latest bombshell was, now that the first round of these checkups has been done, that there’s been only marginal change in the numbers and only a quarter of the ones that met the criteria were either employed or self-employed. In other words, the other three quarters may have met the criteria by attending some random courses on what’s a CV. How many months in a row are these people going to attend such courses, just to meet the criteria? What’s the use of that? All people know is that someone is benefiting from providing such courses and that it’s in their interest to have people attend the training they provide. It’s even better if the training is useless because that way the people will remain unemployed, thus having to attend more training. Perpetual training is obviously a great business model as the customers have to keep coming back.

When it comes to the actual process, it’s actually very similar to the Danish model explained by Sørensen. It’s, however, probably not as strict though. Anyway, to provide an actual example, for a moment this was the talk of the town, or well, to be honest should have deserved to be the talk of the town, when a member of the women’s national hockey team had been denied unemployment benefits. In her case, to my understanding, that’s approximately 697€ per month minus taxes (20% by default) for a net sum of 557.6€ per month. The sum may be lower, pending household income. That’s what they call ‘labor market subsidy’. It’s the lowest financial support you can get indefinitely if you are registered as an unemployed job seeker, pending you meet the criteria, that you are seeking gainful employment and able/willing to take a job. Oh, yes, the state does tax the benefits and it’s at a high tax rate by default, apparently because it’s not tax deductible income. This apparently has to do with how the state and the municipalities manage their taxes, something that is arguably beyond the understanding of the person who might actually get the said subsidy. At least I’m always puzzled when a system taxes itself or makes it pay something to itself. To me it appears as just moving furniture.

As background information, based on what she has said in the media, she registered at the ‘Employment and Economic Development Offices’, aka the (Un)employment office, and expressed her interest in full time gainful employment. It’s worth noting that you need to express your interest in full time employment. That also means that it’s a binary. Either you are considered employed or unemployed. If you have a part-time job, then the number of hours you do decides which one you are. Too many hours means that you are employed, enough, thus not eligible for this. Some hours means that you are eligible. The problem with this is that people’s lives are far more complex than this or that. Unless you have worked up a buffer, you have to really have to juggle between making as much as money as you can and being able to report the income as soon as possible in order to get the subsidy. In her case, she reported that she is a part-time ringette skills coach but those hours are few and far between. The reason for her rejection was, assuming the media had genuine information, that she, the ‘applicant’, was deemed as already employed as a full time athlete. To be fair, on paper it may appear that she is busy all the time, making a proper bank by being an athlete, an actual Olympian and all. However, the thing is that while I don’t personally know any women that play hockey or ringette, but it’s very likely, if not simply the case, that not a single woman gets paid for playing either sport in Finland. In fact, to my knowledge, in many cases women pay for playing hockey. I believe the expenses were along the lines of 250€ per month per person for the local women’s hockey team this season. I assume that does not include running expenses, for example having to buy the gear yourself. That’s easily a couple of Ks down the drain each year. Now, to be fair, this is not an issue limited only to women. It’s parallel with men’s hockey on the lower levels. What this entails is that the players are typically either students, meaning that their parents pay these expenses or they work themselves in order to pay the fees each year. This also means that the teams hardly practice at all, at best a couple times a week. To my understanding, that’s laughable dedication to athleticism. I’m sure there are plenty of people, both men and women, who work out more than these women do and they do it just for the sake doing it, you know, healthy lifestyle and what not. Now, I’m not slagging them off. They don’t practice more often because they simply don’t have the time for it, because, you know, you need to make money just to get to play. It’s not enough to make the team. You have to pay for it and to pay for it, you need to work for it. Also when you need to work for it to pay for it, then you probably don’t have all the time in the world to train two times a day everyday with an occasional day off. One of the reasons that, as some characterize it, women’s hockey can look like you are watching a slo-mo version of the game is because they don’t have the time to dedicate themselves to becoming faster and stronger. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s virtually impossible for women to gainfully employ themselves in either sport. Apparently it was also noted that she has a manager. You mean like a parent, a spouse or a friend? Since when did amateur athletes have the money to keep an agent on payroll? Also, since when did having a representative, be it a manager, an agent or a lawyer, prevent one from working? To my understanding you are allowed to have representation that helps you in any way agreed between you and the representative. As far as I know they work in your favor because it is also in their interest to advance your career. That’s what they do. They are also handy to have so that, say, you don’t undermine yourself by letting others walk all over you or sign into contracts that are against your own interests. That’s what they are for.

To be fair, I don’t know what her training regime entails. Maybe she does train all day everyday. Then again, something tells me that the people she dealt with have a poor understanding of how it all works for most women in sports. As it’s all amateur or at best semi-professional, which means that even if you make something out of it, what you make out of it is peanuts and probably not worth it when comparison to, well, almost any full time job. When you consider that the players are amateurs, what differentiates them from anyone who has a hobby? Is it that they are serious hobbyists? I’m sure there are plenty of serious hobbyists who take their exercise routines seriously. I don’t really understand what it is that she was or is meant to do. Should she have opted not to exercise? Is that it? If so, what good does that do? She pointed out that she has a gig everyone now and then, doing all the part time stuff she can and told she is good with having a full time job. Imagine yourself in the situation. Imagine if you were told that because you say you spend an hour a day working out, say going for a run or hitting the gym, you are not actually seeking gainful employment. Wait what? Even if you double that time, or triple it, still, what? Since when did anyone ever call or message someone to come for a job interview right now or else, not to mention very early in the morning or late in the evening? I say that because that’s when women typically train … because those are the ice times allotted to them (although partly because they have to work or study). Plus nowadays it doesn’t even make any difference where you are. You can be reached while working out or training, just as you can be when you sit at home, wondering why is that I have to stay at home. What good does it do to her to quit her hobbies and sit at home instead? If you ask me, that’s the worst thing you can do to yourself and now you are asked to do just that, supposedly for your own good. Confining people to their homes, loitering, being by themselves. Yeah, that’s grand, surely doing marvels to your mental and physical fitness. I think this also applies to anything you spend your time on. What if you read books? What if you enjoy woodworking? What if you enjoy drawing, painting, photography or playing an instrument? All of these can take a lot of your time, yet they hardly prevent you from working. I remember being told that some employers expect you to have hobbies, just so that they know that their employees are sane and enjoy something other than their work. In this sense it can actually be detrimental to your chances of getting employed if you don’t have a life, or so to speak. It’s also worth noting that many people do these things, among others, while employed full time. It’s not either or, nor should it be.

As a final bit on this real life example, it’s worth adding that the decisions made by the relevant civil servants are penultimate. In actuality they are ultimate though. What I mean is that there is an appeal process for that, but it’s not as simple objecting to it in order for them to have a look at it again. Apparently it can easily take up to a year for an appeal to be processed and, of course, there are no guarantees that you will get anywhere with that. To give you an exact figure, the relevant website says that the process took about 8.3 months in 2017. If that doesn’t result in a change, the issue can be taken to a court after that, but, yeah, that’ll probably be another year then, plus, I assume, all the expenses that go into court proceedings. Even if your appeal goes through or you win at court, you have already spent up to a year or up to two years on something, such as, whether you are, sorry were, eligible for max. 557.6€ per month way back then. When did anyone, not to mention the poor, have time for such? What this means in practice is that resistance is futile. The priests in charge of interpreting are, in practice, infallible. In her case she is deemed factually wrong unless she can prove she isn’t. If the priests say that she is a full time athlete and thus gainfully employed, despite being a mere amateur or a hobbyist (no matter how many supporting documents she provides from her supposed employers), then she simply is. Those who have read ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ may remember that the clergy only exist to interpret, even in the absence of the emperor. If their interpretation is proven wrong, then their position is severely undermined. Therefore it is very much in the interest of the clergy to be infallible in their interpretation.

I could have gone on and on with this, but I guess I have to stop somewhere. The intention of this essay, even if it occasionally may seem like it, is not to take stabs at civil servants, the actual people. There’s nothing personal about any of this and institutions should be scrutinized. I think it’s also worth noting that, as indicated by Sørensen (77), civil servants have little options but to slide into preset faces, either to pander or to condemn in order to improve the productivity of the population. Moreover, if the civil servants were to seriously question their position and doubt the system, they’d probably find themselves facing it themselves, either after resigning or being fired for questioning the system. That’s probably hardly a desirable outcome for them as individuals. They are likely not unlike many others who have to make a living, to feed the family, pay mortgage etc. Being unemployed is a complete package and affects a whole range things. Money is one thing, but it comes with much more. Those who want a non-polemical take on it, can, for example, check the study by Kortteinen and Tuomikoski. It elaborates various aspects associated to unemployment, by the unemployed themselves as well as others. It’s good that it incorporates the views of the unemployed themselves, so they get to have a voice, instead of being voiced by intellectuals who assume it’s fine to speak on their behalf. Anyway, it’d be quite ironic nonetheless, that is if that were to happen to a civil servant, essentially having to face yourself. Not that that’s going to be likely, because it’s also very unlikely that the people who are, in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms, accepted into clergy are heretics, hence the dogma.

In summary, I found the chapter written by Sørensen not only interesting in general, but also particularly valuable in elaborating BwO, refrain and faciality, connecting it to a pertinent issue. I haven’t really attempted to explain them properly, so maybe I’ll cover them in more detail in the future. That said at least I’ve tried to introduce them here. Anyway, I don’t think one should ignore the role of institutions, yet I think Sørensen is correct in emphasizing work as the number factor in judging people. This was originally just a random tangent that turned into essay because its relevance to everyday life. I left out quite a bit and focused only on certain things, but I assume people who are interested the text can read it properly themselves. I reckon it’s better to read the originals anyway, to get your own idea of things, not just my interpretation of what others say of this and/or that. I don’t represent them, nor do they represent me. No endorsement one way or the other.

Oh, and updating this essay in 2022, like all the other essays, fixing typos, adding a separate list of references and what not, I got around to fixing the title as well, to the one I wanted to have after I had gone with ‘No Surfing or Else!’. I was initially against changing any titles, but, hey, if it’s better, it’s better (plus these are my essays, so I get to do whatever I like with them).


  • Deleuze, G. ([1990] 1992). Postscript on the Societies of Control. October, 59, 3–7.
  • Deleuze, G, and F. Guattari ([1975] 1986). Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (D. Polan, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
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  • Foucault, M. ([1975] 1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
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