I think there are different types or contexts for inefficiency. I get worried about any inefficiency around protecting the environment. Protecting water, soil, air, all life forms are for me, absolutely vital. I get annoyed when I see leaking garden reticulation, those who flaunt the water restrictions, those who ignore recycling, the use of plastic, and so on.
I think too, that government agencies are amazingly inefficient, but that is not always unhelpful 😀
But in a sense, efficiency is a construct. If efficiency is about cutting waste that endangers life then I’m all for it. But, if efficiency is about productivity and profit, then no, I’m not too concerned. Capitalism drives economic efficiency, well, a type of economic efficiency, and one I’d prefer not to be too enmeshed with. If you go back to the works of Charles Dickens, you discover a world of cruel and base living in order to survive the machine that is economics, the drive to produce more and produce more efficiently. And, has anything changed since Dickens’ time? This form of economics has sucked the life out of our planet, it has weakened our politicians who have no resolve to confront the power of production, it has duped us into brand lust, and it has lied to us about the benefits. It is our addiction. So, the idea of efficiency for the sake of money – especially someone else’s money, which in fact becomes environmentally inefficient, is not attractive to me.
But in capitalism there is also a brutal twist, it becomes efficiency at the expense of life. Productivity becomes life threatening. Tar sands, the destruction of fracking, oil spills, pipelines burst, trees lost, water lost, homes lost … if you have a strong stomach then follow this link to watch the controversial commercial (banned from cinemas in the UK) from 2011 about Conflict Minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The commercial, which is aptly called “Unwatchable”, is rated 18+, it is violent, unpleasant, and disturbing, but that’s why they made it – to confront us with our culpability in the conflict and forced labour in the DRC. There is still a petition available to sign with it – Unwatchable
When I think of inefficient, I connect very strongly with what writer Brenda Ueland says in the quote above. It says to me, very clearly, that efficiency/productivity is not advantageous, it stifles our thought, our creativity, our imagination. I’ve had a few superiors in my working life who have been wise, and have urged that it is better if I have times where I am less productive, but am more mindful, more imaginative. I know that if my life is too full, I am creatively stifled. Equally, if there is no balance in my life, I become unhealthy, body, mind and soul. I am less mindful, and just driven. Those around me can testify to the ugly nature of that. Then I become inefficient in health, in relationships, in work, in creativity.
For me life is not about perfection, efficiency, productivity. They are often based on external forces, expectations, learned behaviour, dependency, drivenness, greed … For me, life is about taking time, awareness, noticing, attending, loving, imagining, and sharing compassion – if I am to be efficient, I want to be efficient and productive in those positives for the good of all. Imagine if we were all efficient in that way, it could just change the world. In short, I want to be the efficient inefficient!