It used to be that in the industrial revolution, what was important as my economics high school teacher would say was the four factors of production: land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship.
What was critical in this equation is getting things done. The greater the amount of production, the better it is for everyone.
When you combine mass manufacturing, assembly lines, interchangeable components, and replaceable personnel with speed, you have a successful combination.
Because individuals are a part of the system, it is necessary for them to fit into it on a fundamental level. People are only cogs in a massive industrial machine.
The system works better when people follow instructions and do as they are told irrespective of whether you are a factory worker or a customer of factor products, just follow the rules.
There is no need to be different, no need to be special.
The paradox is that today, most of us want to be seen, we want to be understood, we want to be treated with respect, and dignity.
We don’t care about fitting in, we want to be served as individuals.
We want to be a part of something that has significance.
Sawubona, “we see you,” is something that most of us long to hear.
It is something we seek while working in groups at work, when shopping in a store, and when we are a member of our own family.
People are often referred to as “average,” “the average Joe,” but in reality, they are individuals, each with their own personality. We describe them as average because, in our industrial mentality, it facilitates their processing; nevertheless, in our humaneness, people are seen as individuals, not as average.
People have a right to be seen.
Our customers, suppliers, employees ought to be independent actors, humans using their own judgments, we need to be prepared to see them. To see them for who they are. To hear their voices in their heads when you can.
The fact of the matter is that the industrial system of mass production was effective because it treated everyone as if they were all the same; their individuality was not necessary; what was essential was that they followed orders.
The industrial system was meant to keep you hidden. The industrialists want you to obey the rules so they can forget you, and concentrate on other matters such as how to maximize profits and enjoy their free time while you are at work.
As the late Dr Paul Farmer said:
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
Sawubona, seeing people and treating them as individuals, as humans is hard work. It requires you to care. It is a heart job.
It’s easy to avoid making eye contact with the beggar at the traffic light and just drive past without feeling anything.
Sawubona necessitates the emotional labour of seeing people for who they are, rather than as a means to an end. People are not seen as sales prospects to reach your sales targets for the day.
We don’t need more stuff, we need more humanity.
We see you, we hear you, we acknowledge you.
We see the effort you are putting out, we see your attempts, we see your silent tears.
We see your quiet toil, we see your subtlety in not wanting to take up too much space and attention, we see your efforts.
You are important. You are more important than you realise.