Saturday, April 16, 2016

Google and Jubilee

One of the key stipulations of the Torah, namely the Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee, are no longer observed in our modern world, or are they? A closer look at the most successful company in human history might surprise you.

Google in Hebrew letters
Everybody knows about Sabbath, the seventh day of the week upon which people were not to do any work, but rest. This day of Sabbath is still with us, and was even expanded from one day to two days of rest, what we call the weekend.

But what our modern world doesn't observe is the Sabbath year, which was a period of one year every seven years during which arable lands were given rest (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7), slaves were emancipated (Exodus 21:2-4) and debts were remitted (Deuteronomy 15:1).

The seventh Sabbath Year was known as the Year of Jubilee, during which additionally all property rights regarding fields reverted (Leviticus 25:8-55 and 27:16-33).

The key feature of Sabbath and Jubilee is quickly overlooked but it's nothing other than the suspension of obligation. That's sounds wonderfully anarchistic but it comes down to a huge liberation of human endeavor from the demands of commerce and sustenance.

Most people are creative in some way or other, and periods of time, from a day to a whole year, not having to do what someone else or some situation dictates (basically living off the fat of the land), automatically produces an enormous quantity of unrestrained human interaction: stronger family bonds and doubtlessly baby booms in the year after the Sabbath year, but also new ideas, new technology and science, and new literature and music. In fact, our word school comes from the Greek word skhoie, meaning leisure.

Hard work and doing what you're told may have given us our wealth, but occasional freedom and time to pursue the inclinations of the heart is what has given our world its flavor. And guess what, the Hebrew word Jubilee has nothing to do with being jubilant (which derives from the Latin iubilo, meaning to shout for joy); it comes from the Hebrew verb yabal, which to flow forth or produce. Neither Sabbath nor Jubilee has anything to do with laziness and inertia; both designate periods of increased production of what people naturally seek to bring forth.

Sabbath & Jubilee

In the wake of the industrial revolution, leaders began to turn the human work force into a machine, which ultimately led to the world wars and the great depression in between. After the second world war came the various liberation movements (of blacks, women and youth and as general protest against the human machine, which basically meant that the West became liberated, and the East was conquered and turned into the machine) but the reinvention of the Jubilee principle did not occur until Google turned the business world upside down.

Life at the Google campus
In stead of chaining their employees to their desks and making them do whatever bosses told them to do, Googlists were gently nudged in a desired direction but also instructed to devote twenty percent of their time to not boss-regulated projects.

The main Google campus in California has more than a dozen restaurants where employees can eat whatever they want, without having to pay for it. There are game rooms, massage parlors and parks to stroll in.

Religious leaders often want their followers to believe that obedience to God is the same as obedience to what they say God wants. But the opposite is true. Within the confines of certain ground rules (don't steal, don't murder; all that) being obedient to God equals being free to follow the desires of your heart. Religious leaders will then want you to believe that if people could just follow their hearts, the whole world would spiral into a lawless killing zone, but again the opposite is true.

Watch this flick
As researchers such as Harvard's psychologist Steven Pinker have discovered, there is a clear correlation between a reduction of rulery (specifically religious governance, I'm sort of half-happy to say) and an increase in morality.

In the last forty years, the rate of rape has declined by 80% in the US (while reportings have gone up!). The rate of domestic abuse and child abuse has gone down, as have mistreatments of minority groups and animals. Wars and deaths by wars have plummeted over the last few decades world wide.

The traffic light on the busy intersection near the Abarim Publications campus went bust the other day. It's always a death defying experience to run across the street in the 2.5 second the lights give you to make the transition, because whoever is given a green light will take it by force, and no matter what cripple or distracted Scripture Theorist in is their way, they will tear down the street with ridiculous speeds.

But now that the lights were out, people carefully waited their fair turn, and equally carefully rolled on when they were given a chance by the others. I was able to cross the street in a perfectly normal and relaxed pace, without anyone trying to kill me or even honk at me. That was a good day, until someone turned the lights back on and the blood thirst recommenced.

Apparently, we've collectively reached such a level of responsibility that a relaxation of rules leads to better behavior in stead of worse. Our world is still so highly competitive because we're all scared of falling behind and being left out, but all the signs indicate that if we would just relax the laws of commerce (making goods and services more readily available at reduced costs or even gratis), people would still continue to produce the necessities of life and in addition produce much more of the stuff that makes life worth living in the first place.

Google on, y'all!

The Google corporate slogan

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