Hope for the Gig Economy: Unleash the Prostitute Within!

The Context

Organizations are besotted with the Gig economy and how it ‘simplifies’ business and delivery models today. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accentuated the significance of the Gig – the Gig is a platform that becomes a virtual arena for experts, independent thinkers, and problem solvers to ‘perform’ from home and yet offer immense value to the buyers of such expertise, without the guarantees of employment and other benefits.

Organizational throughputs are being designed as open networks that promise the heady cocktail of competitiveness, autonomy & self-reliance, and  purposive collaboration energizing and driving a new generation of workers. This talent is literally on the street – sitting on beliefs that old organizations are claustrophobia inducing slave galleys of mediocrity, and the way out or forward is to hitch a ride to the Gig.    

From HBR March April 2018 by Pierre Kleinhouse

Leaders advocate the modern organization is not in the business of providing safety, or continuity, or stability or belonging – because it cannot! Organizations are at best market spaces that offer connects to suppliers and customers – transactions that drive profitability and growth especially if the culture integrates self-reliance with anxiety, and opportunism with agility.

This mindset paves the yellow brick road towards the magical world of the Gig – a complex and virtual marketplace of contracts that promise freedom, interdependence, work when you want to or have to, and determine your own value or of what you offer. A manager has to simply wander into the surreal reality of the modern De Wallen or Linked In alleys and gaze into the wares of competencies, expertise, and experience demonstrated and promised, and then get down to the business of contracting.

For the Gig world to sustain itself, and perhaps even aspire to be fair and ethical, it is important that each of us who enters it to be a lot more self-aware.

While traditional capitalism has romanticized and celebrated key identities and archetypal energies with us such as the Hero / the Heroine, the Warrior, the Healer, and the Magician, in the last century, the Gig invites us to grace and maybe even dignify the ‘survivor archetypes’ and I would like to begin with the least sexy of these archetypes – the Prostitute.

Introducing the Prostitute Archetype

Jungian analysts have defined the prostitute archetype that tells us what we are worth or how we value ourselves. As per Brian Dales in his book Archetypes: Unmasking your True Self, ‘the value that the prostitute determines is not just our physical selves – it the value placed on our emotional and intellectual selves; it is worth of our psychological and even artistic selves.‘

The Prostitute by Vincent Van Gogh

As all archetypal energies go, the Prostitute has both the light and the dark side, as summarized in the table below:

Given the VUCA-pandemic infected market, you and I have our backs to the wall and survival is of essence. Gone are the days of unconditional love and inter-generational awe of wisdom or even experience – ejected from our corner offices and elitist privileges, we are all posturing and performing on the virtual squarish arena of zoom or teams. On this street what counts is how you value yourself, and hold the ace up your sleeve, for nothing else matters as you search for attention and centrality.

It is the prostitute within that determines how you (or I) are valued in this virtual market square, but more importantly how we escape its shadowy veils (If we can?!).

Unleashing the Prostitute within the Gig

On the bright side, the Gig is quite equalizing, open, and transparent – it is just that unlocking the prostitute within enables us to play the game. In the gig, the spectators are the men and women with resources and the players exhibit their wares – knowledge, expertise, skills, experiences, and even their persona. As opportunities unlock at the behest of the spectators, it is short term memory that makes every contract – a new virginal experience.

Nobody needs to remember the past, and without the shame of history or history of shame, it is the chemistry that counts and makes contracting so much fun…

However, there is perhaps some merit in remembering that the dark shadowy elements of this archetype can also be – a party pooper? A wet blanket? Equally important is the assumption that the world is more than just surviving – so do watch out for excessive ‘prostituting’ for lack of better words:

  • It is the prostitute in us that titillates our customer, with the promise of consummate delight in the long run, as we survive the day or the week or the month. This is not sustainable.
  • It is the prostitute in us that negotiates the yearly bonus with our shareholders, with a knowing wink and a flash of naked greed – a promise of an orgy of debauchery of Neroic proportions as the earth burns to an overheated hell.
  • It is the prostitute in us that substitutes self-worth with market valuations and where relatedness and relationships become onanistic as opposed to the promise of joyous intimacy.
  • Excessive prostituting makes the world lonelier and us comfortably numb.

Conclusion

I am hoping that you have a choice and that survival politics is not your thing! Maybe you have the luxury of a different lens of looking at the world and yourself today. If you seem to be resonating with some strands of this blog, it would be useful to remember the following.

In the Survival Archetypes, the Prostitute is quite adjacent to two other archetypal energies – the Victim and the (Self) Saboteur within us. It is easy to figure out how the shadowy elements of all three can destroy any of us as well as perhaps the Gig.

  • In many ways, the victim energizes the prostitute within and especially the shadowy elements – the victim rationalizes the transaction. Old hurts are never allowed to heal.
  • In more subtle ways, the saboteur absorbs the shame and the rage of the prostitute and takes deep sadistic delight in self destruction or in destroying the world.

P.S.

Donald Trump, as I write this on 3rd of November 2020, is one classic example of how all three are intertwined!

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