Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Value Added

Value added refers to "extra" feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something "more" while adding little or nothing to its cost."

This is from the wikipedia entry for the term 'Value Added', it has different meanings in different circumstances, most notably in areas of tax (VAT) and the Marxist versus Neo-classical accounting of Value Added but I only managed to get about half dozen words into that part of the Wikipedia entry before being overcome with a desperate urge to injure myself so I had to close the page down, but not without first noting that, whilst Marx espoused and promoted many communist doctrines, he led a very Bourgeois lifestyle funded mostly by a chap called Friedrich Engels, the son of a rich textile manufacturer during the 19th century. It was Engels' who regularly embezzled funds from his father's business so that Marx could send his daughters to private school and keep his wife in the aristocratic manner to which she was accustomed. Marx even took a job as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune but his English wasn't good enough so Engels did the work whilst Marx pocketed the salary, like any good communist would.

You may think I digress but in this instance; I don't. Engels (other than being surprisingly gullible) did a great deal of work for the poor, especially the plight of Children in Victorian times, which is what I'm going to waffle about in a wee minute, children, except not in Victorian times.

So what does Value Added actually mean? When you go into a mobile phone shop to buy a- well; a mobile phone. VA (I'm going to say it often so I'll shorten it) is all the crap manufacturers and sellers add on so you can pretend to be able to discern one product from another. A phone is a phone, all it needs to do is make and recieve phone calls and texts. I know I'm being a Luddite but you know it's true, VA is the crap that makes you buy one phone over another. If you look at your phone now, a lot of the features it has you won't ever have looked at, my phone has a pedometer for example, my last phone had this thing where if you turned it on and shook the phone, a bobble-headed figure would shake and gyrate on the screen.

Although it goes without saying, it was for that feature alone I chose the phone.

Schools and colleges have also been VA'd. At college and University you are told by lecturers (arguably to get you in the door) how much you can earn if you do a course with them and how their course is tailored in a specific way. I was told I could comfortably command in my first job a salary of some £12k per annum; I managed £3.5k. (It was a while ago and it may just have been me.) I imagine a young person leaving university being doubly horrified on discovering not only are they tens of thousands of pounds in debt but their earning potential is such that a McJob would offer better renumeration than one in their chosen field, and not just in the short term either.

Schools are worse and in a very subtle way more damaging, their idea of VA is far more insidious. They actually VA your kid, by never telling them they've lost, by never allowing them the experience of being at the bottom of the pile so there-for 'a bit shit', they are in fact adding value that does not exist. That child will go to high school or University (or not as the case may be) with an entirely unreasonable expectation even of themselves, all because of VA.

What VA is, is all the extras you don't need, the reason you don't need them is because they are without substance, they have no net benefit in the real world. The notion that they are sold as adding value is all the more damaging because they specifically do not.

If you think I'm still talking mince, think about it in terms of money? I have a pound, a bank has just offered to hold on to it for me which is handy because I might lose it otherwise. The bank has also offered to give me £1.02 back which is nice except, in order to do that, they've sort of not told me they'll be using it buy some liabilities they've been told are worth £1.20, if the liability is honoured the bank gives me my £1.02, keeps 18p and all is well, assuming the liability is honoured of course. The bankers (abetted and enabled by politicians) went bat-shit-crazy and burned the lot, all that Added Value was actually just 'Value Added', just smoke and empty promises and as valuable a bobble-headed dancing gnome on a mobile phone.

VA versus Enough. I capitalise the word Enough because we need to get back in touch with it as an aspiration, I know that sounds stupid but it all depends on how you quantify Enough. In terms of flat screen TV's, is it 32 or 48 inches? 'Enough' isn't the depressing proposition you might think it is, it's about not over extending yourself, its about knowing your limits and working within them, its about knowing how far to push those limits without shooting yourself in the foot.

Most importantly, its not the destruction of aspiration, it's the understanding that aspiration is something you work towards, not something you just get. At the risk of sounding like one of those awful motivational posters with dolphins and blue whales on, aspiration is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. You'd appreciate a good view from the top of a hill if you walked up a heck of a lot more than if you got the chairlift.

Over the past few years, I think (inasmuch as I can) we've VA'd our aspirations aided & abetted by the Internet, easy credit and a sometimes cretinous, often lying manipulative political class who for thirteen years told us how well we were all doing. It worries me slightly that, like the shit kids at the arse-end of the egg & spoon race tripping over their own feet who's parents gamely told them they're doing 'great', the establishment idiots were telling us things were fine & prosperous when in fact we were about to veer spasmodically into the kid next to us and collapse into a spoon-gouging heap of entangled limbs & egg innards.

What I'm really looking forward to is how those establishment idiots are going to persuade us all that there are no losers at this particular sports day, every one is a winner and we'll even get a rosette to prove it.

I'm going to stop there, I keep going back to my 'view from the hill/Chairlift' analogy, its giving me the strongest urge to tell myself to fuck off.

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Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?