Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who Winds Up Bleeding

You'd think I was two different people. Here I offend without meaning to, just by speaking by mind. At work I am often condemned for being "too nice". I am "soft", apparently, "afraid of confrontation". Which is total shit, of course. I am just more cautious at work because I know that truth is one commodity that isn't valued in the workplace, unless your truth happens to coincide with the boss' truth. So many managers in the world of work--and it's not a new thing--are like Shakespeare's King Lear: they want to hear what is convenient and makes them feel good about themselves, and will genuinely believe (because they identify, egotistically, their own cause with the common cause), that somebody who opposes them is making trouble and trying to dismantle the whole apparatus. (Perhaps you aren't drawn to the idea of leading people unless you are vain, insecure and capable of huge, fatuous, self-deceiving rationalisations.)

So, I flatter and deceive to gain advancement? I don't think so; I've been doing the same job in different companies for ten years now, so I'm hardly rising like a comet through the ranks by fair or foul means. But I do hold my tongue. Doing so is probably the prime cause of the stress I carry away from work with me, into my otherwise serene life of friends and country hikes and books-and-pinball in the Lookout. And given my union advocacy and strong views about Capitalism I probably have to be more cautious than most. They say it's a free country, kids, but scratch the surface of any democracy and it's you who'll wind up bleeding. I am even a little nervous about setting these views down here; but I've got to be able to free my mind of it somewhere.

Some have said I am an idealogue. I probably am, though my views are more complex than most of my critics seem capable of understanding. Some who know me well have accused me of reducing human beings to black-and-white stereotypes of good and evil, primarily on the basis of their economic position. I don't think that is true, since Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson are great heroes of mine and they are tremendously rich, and I have an instinctive snobbish dislike of uneducated working class people spitting in the street and chomping burgers on buses (I'm not proud of that, but it's there). But I do see the relationship between rich bosses and struggling employees as a contentious one, based on exploitation and oppression, one the boss dominates by conning and bullying the employee into obedience (this is largely the state of the workplace in modern Britain); I do see their relationship as one in which the employee must at all times be alert, looking out for the con, and prepared to defend himself or herself to protect his (her) own interests. If the interests of employer and employee are synonymous, as the rich Capitalist would have us believe, I'm a Dutchman.

So I will usually side with my fellow employees at work, unless they have made a client pregnant or stolen a hundred quid from the cash box. Which sometimes gives me the appearance, to my bosses, of being over-conciliatory, not having as much spine as colleagues who don't mind bawling out a fellow employee within earshot of the manager to show how well they're doing personally. "Look at me, boss, I don't mind endangering someone else's income by exposing them to you. Now, how about that bonus, eh?" I do mind, unfortunately. I don't necessarily want my fellow employees to be my friends, but I do want to be a friend of the man I see in the bathroom mirror in the morning when I get out of bed and decide not to shave again.

I wonder if there'll be more brotherhood in the workplace when the New Depression hits and these workplace prefects and sell-out bullies realise they need a bit of back-up to protect their own previously-secure incomes.


All This Trouble... said...

I'm not easily offended and have never been here on your blog. I enjoy reading your thoughts and viewpoint. I realize I know very little of "grown-up" things and that I have much to learn. I've experienced much of what you speak of in the healthcare field. I've lost more jobs than I've held onto because I finally let my "dam" break. I've been in my current job for three years and I'm very happy there. The most important thing for me now is to know that I'm doing everything I can for the children and families I work with. I don't always agree with administration but I'm able to feel satisfied knowing that I am putting forth my level best and knowing what's inside my heart. I once heard that one can do anything if one is innocent. I try to keep my heart innocent. You continue to embrace those friends and walks and masturbatory pinball sessions and you'll be just fine.

Bruce Hodder said...

Ha! Well, I don't even mean to say that everything I put here is objectively correct; it's just what I find myself thinking on any given day, and there are lots of factors that play into what you're thinking--the mood you're in, whether you're feeling lonely that day, whether you had a good breakfast, whether you've emptied your bowels this morning (you will know the effect that one can have, from the work you're doing). I do have a powerful mistrust of bosses--always have had, and although they don't like it when they come across it, I would argue it's a good thing for any organisation--it creates what Labour Party theorists once called a "parrallelogram of interest" or something, and keeps the shape of the organisation secure and strong (as long as all the opposing interests are allowed to pull with equal force). Unlike you, though, I'm NOT sure I'm doing a good job, and perhaps that's where some of my angst comes from. I once said everybody working in care should be made to watch "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" as part of their induction. By that token, I wonder if I'm not like a slightly more relaxed version of Nurse Ratched. The progressive work I'd like to do just doesn't seem to be happening in my part of the world, where care has been farmed out to private companies whose principal interest lies in maintaining their profit margin rather than getting people as better as they can be; and the government and health bodies paying for the care have only to show their own bosses that they are buying a reasonable standard of care for the least cost.
You're probably right about innocence. That's kind of the essence of Chuang Tzu's book on Taoism, which I'm reading now. My heart's certainly not innocent, and it may be I am imputing some of my own corruption to the people around me. All I would add to that as a note of caution is these lines from Allen Ginsberg: "Flower power's fine, but innocence has got no protection/ The man who shot John Lennon had a hero worshipper's connection."