The Naked and the Fungible

In 2008, an IBM study that sought to identify “workers who are “virtually indistinguishable from others’ in terms of the value of their contributions to the workplace” was reported. ( It’s pointed to when you Google “fungible.”

In 2020, Kara Swisher writes:

In America 2.0, we must address the changing work force and figure out a new way to formulate what an employee actually is… It begins by acknowledging after the crisis that our essential workers are, in fact, essential and not fungible.
(“How to Make America 2.0 a More Equitable Society,” NYTimes, 4-23-20)

I’ve tried to write something insouciant and witty about the notion that certain people are fungible (read “expendable” or “interchangeable”) in a society: that the elderly, the sick, the homeless, and those who work at menial jobs, for example, are candidates for culling from the herd when viral push comes to viral shove. But the ironic riffs I’ve drafted fall flat.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s fatuous fusillade that older Texans should cheerfully re-mingle and risk corona-death for the sake of re-inflating the economy is horrifying, pure and simple.

Rightly considered, who isn’t fungible in a pinch? The person that matters to me most right now isn’t a Bolsonaro or a Putin or a Trump to mislead me; nor a David Geffen to comfort me from his yacht; nor a Franklin Graham to keep me in his thoughts and prayers; it’s my greengrocer and repairman. And my GP.

In a polity that took its piety seriously, no creature of a credible God would be dispensable to His or Her Creation. The joke the Almighty plays on the high and mighty is that, when our common need for cure, care and sustenance is in the balance, the highly placed are the ones who become highly fungible. No doubt it makes them nervous as they huddle over their calculus of how many they can inconsequentially let die.

(c)heers 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Quotations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.