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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 
Inalienable Dream

by digby

For all those people living lives of quiet desperation in the corporate ghettos, this (via Perlstein) will come as no surprise:

How do people get ahead in the workplace? One way seems to be by making their subordinates miserable, according to a study released Friday.

In the study to be presented at a conference on management this weekend, almost two-thirds of the 240 participants in an online survey said the local workplace tyrant was either never censured or was promoted for domineering ways.

"The fact that 64.2 percent of the respondents indicated that either nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader is rather remarkable -- remarkably disturbing," wrote the study's authors, Anthony Don Erickson, Ben Shaw and Zha Agabe of Bond University in Australia.

Despite their success in the office, spiteful supervisors can cause serious malaise for their subordinates, the study suggested, citing nightmares, insomnia, depression and exhaustion as symptoms of serving a brutal boss.

The authors advocated immediate intervention by industry chiefs to stop fledgling office authoritarians from rising up the ranks.


Hah. This kind of thing is a value in the business world, a sign of "toughness." A willingness to come through a torturous boot-camp still striving for success at all costs and then turn it on your underlings is what they call being a "team player."

This stuff is so far off the radar screen of discussions of what it is to work in America it's as if it's from a foreign planet. That study can really only be discussed in terms of whether it's really efficient for a business to operate with a bunch of depressed, traumatized employees, not whether it's morally decent to reward despicable behavior and treat your fellow humans like lackeys. The boss owns your ass and you do what the boss wants or you quit. If you can...

We talk a lot about "freedom" in America but it has a very restricted meaning in our culture. You can own a gun. But in a million subtle little ways, the average workers in this culture must subject themselves to daily humiliation and accept its soul deadening effect and they aren't even allowed to complain about it. What choice do most of us have? You have kids, you worry about being able to live like a human being when you are too old to work and your choices narrow anyway. The price you pay in America today for debt, error and risk is very high and getting higher. So you submit. And without the potential of losing employees due to bad treatment, no business feels any real obligation to treat them with respect. Why bother?

To me, it's all part of the Big Con, as Perlstein would say. The right makes a fetish out of freedom, but in practice they are institutionalizing a different kind of servitude through things like "bankruptcy reform" and union busting and privatization and vetoing of government guaranteed health care. Even this housing bust will no doubt turn out fine for wealthy lenders who will be able to declare corporate bankruptcy, while many ordinary people will not be allowed to walk away at all from their second mortgages or, in some states, their primary mortgage if they go bankrupt. Today, too many people become a prisoner of the American dream, completely trapped in jobs and careers that destroy their humanity and damage their psyches because the risks of doing anything unsafe in our "winner take all" society tie them in knots.

I'm sure there are many people who disagree with this and who believe that if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps you can move up or out. Some do. But for a large number of people, the psychological break that's required to be the biggest asshole in the office is too much and entrepreneurial risks of leaving are too high, so they turn into machines, just trying to get through the day and not think too much until they can get home and have a drink or play a video game or just stare into space until they have to get up and do it all over again.

Our culture has become so viciously competitive that even our most sophisticated organizations are operated by little more than the law of the jungle (on the macro as well as the micro level.) This is why we need worker's rights, universal health care, a decent enforceable work week, reliable retirement programs --- all these things allow the average American worker to do more than just survive in the competitive world in which we live. It gives them a chance to pursue happiness, which, last I heard, is still one of the fundamental promises of our nation:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


Inalienable, not discretionary. And certainly not at the discretion of a bunch of mid-level bureaucratic tyrants and a system that forces people to indenture themselves for something like health insurance.

Nobody wants to talk about this because it's somehow "soft" to think that people who don't work in the fields or factories are suffering. Maybe so. But there are many millions of Americans whose futures are seriously compromised, deeply in debt, filled with fear that they will lose everything because of one wrong word to some sadistic jackass who sits in a corner office. If that's the middle class American Dream then I'd suggest it's not worth having.



And, needless to say, when it comes to big boss jackasses, mine owners have always been at the very top of the list.

Jesus H. Christ:

The president of the Utah mine where six miners are missing has been vocal against more regulation of the coal industry, even going as far as to call Sen. Hillary Clinton "anti-American" for suggesting the nation needed a president who is for workers' safety.

During an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto in May, Robert Murray responded to a comment from Clinton, who asked a crowd whether they were ready for a president who is "pro-labor and will appoint people who actually care about workers' rights and workers' safety."

"Bob, do you view this rhetoric as pro-labor, anti-business, what?" Cavuto asked Murray.

"Absolutely not," Murray responded. "I view it as anti-American. These people should -- are misleading the American worker then they talk about jobs. These are the people advocating draconian global warming conditions that are going to drive American jobs to foreign countries and raise electric rates for everybody on fixed incomes."

[...]

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited Murray's mine in central Utah with more than 300 violations since January 2004, including 118 "significant and substantial" violations that are considered serious enough to cause injury or death.

Murray, who testified against regulation of the energy industry as part of effort to combat global warming, said the changes to the coal industry would cause losses of high-paying mining jobs and would be "extremely destructive" to the nation.


If you didn't catch him ranting raving on CNN earlier today, try to get a replay. The man would have made an excellent plantation overseer.


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