Don't Get Even, Get Mad
by The Cranky Media Guy
Back when I was just a young'un on the plains of The Bronx, my
Dad gave me some sage advice.
"You have to steal from your employer," he told
me. As a young boy held captive by Dominican nuns for several hours
each day at St. Brendan's School, I was shocked by my father saying
such a thing. Naturally, inquisitive lad that I was, I asked why.
"These big companies will screw you every way they
can," he explained. "You don't have any real way to fight
them. The only way you can live with the situation is if you
take something from them. See, that way you think, 'Well,
maybe they're not paying me enough and I don't have any pension, but
I'm stealing paper clips when they aren't looking.' If you're
getting away with something, even if it's small, you feel like
you're evening the score a little bit."
At age 10, I had a hard time understanding "wisdom"
like that which flew in the face of everything I was being taught by
the good sisters. As I got older, though, I came to understand what
my Old Man was saying. In fact, when I was in my 20's, I happened to
come across an article in Psychology Today magazine by some guy with
a bunch of letters after his name which said essentially the same
thing. His advice to management types was that if employee theft
wasn't out of control, they probably would be better off looking the
other way. According to him, employees needed to feel they were
fighting back, if only in a small way, against what they felt was
the tyranny of the company they worked for. I'm glad I got to tell
my Dad before he died that Doctor Something-or-other agreed with
OK, maybe I'm paranoid (although I don't think so), but I swear
to you, just about every day I see evidence that Big Business has it
in for the little guy. Just yesterday, Tuesday, September 28, 1999,
I stumbled across a half-page ad in USA Today that
illustrates my point.
"Managers need it. Accountants love it. Receptionists fear
it." the headline says in large type. The ad goes on: "At
such an incredible price, the Microsoft PC Phone System could soon
replace a lot of small business phone systems (And perhaps even a
few receptionists.)" The ad goes on with some yada yada about
how wonderful this phone is and where you can get it.
Um, any guesses as to which of those three employee-types
(managers, accountants or receptionists) is paid the least? Yet
whose job does this product threaten? Apparently, canning your
$20,000 a-year receptionist is a good thing, something that
will keep (or put) your company on the road to financial health. Let
me advance the heretical notion that if you're running a big company
and replacing your receptionist with a computer phone is going to
make the difference between profit and loss, you're a really bad
manager. Let me be a little bit more blunt: You suck! For the
good of mankind, please cash in your stock options now and go
live on some island in the Pacific where you won't be a threat to
average people trying to make a living.
Ever notice you never see an ad that says, "This product
will eliminate at least one corporate Vice-president"? If it
was really about saving the company money, logic tells us that one
redundant VP is probably more wasteful than a dozen receptionists,
even if they spend all day, every day, filing their nails. You want
to argue that there's no waste in the upper corporate levels?
Personally, I suspect the corporate board room is kind of like
what they used to say about Harvard: It's hard to get in, but
once you're there, it's almost impossible to get kicked out.
After all, it reflects badly on the company and the remaining
management if they have to can an executive for incompetence. It
raises nasty questions from the stockholders like, "Hey, who
hired this guy in the first place and why?" It's easier to just
stick the schlub in some office where he has nothing to do and fire
some receptionists to make up his salary. The stockholders never
ask, "Hey, why'd you fire the receptionist?" If for some
reason they did ask, you could just point to your nifty new
Microsoft computer phone and say, "So we could buy that!"
So what if your customers prefer dealing with an actual living,
breathing human being when they call your office? So what if
everybody hates voice mail systems? Screw 'em! This is cheaper and
it never takes a day off because its kid has the sniffles.
thing that really gets me is that nobody seems to get upset
over this stuff. Everybody knows that there are executives in big
companies making hundreds to thousands of times as much as their
average employee (the name Michael Eisner comes to mind) and that
these same guys get sexually aroused at the thought of having those
Kathie Lee Gifford Third World kids working for ten cents an hour
for them but nobody seems mad about any of this. I don't want
to go all Star Spangled Banner on you, but didn't Americans used to
have a spine once upon a time? Didn't we used to get mad at
injustice? Or was that just a fairy tale, like Washington chopping
down the cherry tree?
It isn't just business that craps on you, either. Right now,
Congress is debating health care--again. There's a sentiment among a
lot of Congress-weasels that America "cannot afford" to
give all its citizens full, comprehensive health care. You know, the
kind that Congress has made sure it enjoys (at your expense,
by the way). Hey, you can't let the peasants have the same luxuries
the upper classes have. Takes the fun out of being in the
upper class, you know? If God wanted them to have health care, He
would have had them be born rich. Besides, it's only 43 million
Americans who don't have health insurance. Sure, a lot of them are
kids, but what's the big deal here?
I have to kind of laugh whenever I hear rich
"Conservative" types--the kind of guys who consistantly
oppose letting people sue HMO's for negligence because "it
would raise the cost of providing health care" (yeah,
right)--talk about America being a compassionate, Christian nation.
It's been a while since I cracked open a New Testament. Are those
"Beatitude" things still in there? Remember that stuff
about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick?
Call me wacky, but it seems to me that you can't really call
yourself a "Christian nation" if you put corporate profit
ahead of those things and rationalize ways around doing them.
I'd have to check, but I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't have any
drachmas in a growth fund and I don't think he ever said,
"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and put the
rest in a 401k." I know he did say something about it
being easier to shove a camel's ass through the eye of a needle than
for a rich guy to get into Heaven. (Okay, I'm paraphrasing. I said
I hadn't read it in a while.) Does 200k a year qualify as
"rich"? If so, there's a lot of people in Congress who
shouldn't give the Pearly Gates as a forwarding address.
But you don't care about any of this. Yeah, you know that the
company you work for would replace you with a eight-year-old
Vietnamese girl first chance they got, but you've got a halfway
decent job now and you figure, if worst came to worst, you
could always get a job at McDonalds. Hmm, what did that article I
read recently say? Something about Mickey D's experimenting with
robots that can cook and package the food, I think it was. Gee, it
looks like Ronald McDonald hates you, too.
On the eleven o'clock news last night, I saw a video clip of a
guy at the Mets game. He was holding up a sign that said, "Get
mad. Show some emotion." That sums up what I think needs to
happen in America. It's time to get mad and show some emotion about
the lousy way we're being treated.
Next time you feel really P.O.'ed about how the country is run,
call up your Senator (you can get his direct office number from the
Capitol switchboard) and tell him he's a greedy scumbag. Even if you
don't know anything about the guy, the Law of Averages says you'll
be right. Take out all your frustrations on him. If he isn't taking
calls from the peasants that day, leave your message on his voice
mail. Believe it or not, it is legal to do that. Remember
that "freedom of speech" stuff? Use it, for
Chrissakes! Just don't threaten him with bodily harm. That would be
stupid (and illegal).
Then, when you go to work and you get the memo about
"downsizing", do what my late Dad would do: steal some
office supplies. Maybe, when no one is looking, roll a Xerox machine
out the back door. Just kidding. About the Xerox machine, anyway.