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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Paging Mr.Dilbert ...

Image links to ImageSkack, where it is hosted, a free image hosting service with which I've had good experiences .

Sometimes, as a Conservative, one encounters an expectation that one will stubbornly assume that people always get their just deserts and that all has to be for the best, in this best of all possible worlds, and that we're nasty punitive types who love nothing better than cracking down on people who've gotten out of line, instead of having a big huggy lovefest and letting bygones be bygones, like those caring lovable liberals. No doubt, some of them might point to this story as an example of how insane and horrible life can become, when big business runs amock with its harsh conservative attitudes:

Stephen Chiu remembers the time a prospective employer asked what kind of shampoo he used.

"Head and Shoulders," replied the electrical engineering senior at the University of Texas at Austin.

Chiu didn't get invited for a second interview.

The interviewer worked for a manufacturing firm that made shampoo among its other products, and the question was designed to see how much job candidates knew about the company. Chiu admits he didn't even know the company produced shampoo.

I can already picture some future Bill Clinton clone reading this story on the campaign trail as an example of how Kafkaesque life has become in George Bush's America (insert rehearsed hisses), and there's no denying that this kid was treated badly by the interviewer. Even if it would have been reasonable to expect him to know what every subsidiary of the company did - and given how many leads one has to pursue in search of that first job, it's not - was the guy supposed to have known from birth which brand of shampoo he would be expected to have purchased on the day of some interview far off in his future? Was he supposed to lie to the interviewer if he'd been buying another brand - in the process doing something which would offer a firm legal basis for later termination (lying during an interview)? The interviewer's stance is absurd to the point of just, sheer lunacy, and that's one was not really an isolated case either. A lot of good people get shut out for reasons this dumb or dumber, and some of them suffer real, serious and unjust damage to their personal lives because of it. I wouldn't dream of denying that, and neither would most conservatives.

But before we break out our copies of the Marx-Engels Reader and begin the good fight against elitism, judgemental standards, etc. let's notice one thing that usually gets glossed over during these post-horror story rantfests that some like to engage in. It's a rare day when the CEO conducts an interview. The people who do these crazy, horrible things to people looking for a start in life, or for a chance to get back on their feet aren't this nebulous entity called "big business", these are specific individuals in specific low rent corporate positions, who've been radically empowered. You remember "empowerment", right? That was something that corporations were supposed to do for their employees, so that the employees would have their self-esteem boosted, even if that meant letting the employees act like complete nitwits. Why, how very sweet of the companies to agree to this, how non-judgmental, how very, very ...

Liberal. "Who cares about the results, as long as we feel good about ourselves" is not, was not and never has been a conservative idea. Look at that interviewer and ask yourself "is he putting in a professional performance". Is he doing what is in his employer's best interests, what his boss would want him to do, or is he just letting his own ego run unchecked and enjoying a power trip? Then as you ponder the image of this guy throwing a roadblock in the way of that kid's life, and maybe think about how unforgivingly harsh those evil monolithic corporations are, remember this - somebody had to hire that nutcase of an interviewer. Did the standards he had to meet seem that harsh or judgmental? And as one of my brothers who works in labor law would tell you, firing the nitwit over so subjective and minor an issue as his glaring incompetence is not always so easy for the nitwit's boss, especially if said employee is an inheritence from the boss' predecessor and has been with the firm for years. Nonjudgmental hugginess sometimes carries the weight of law, and those who try to get rid of employees belonging to protected classes, even employees who richly deserve it, can find themselves on the losing end of costly litigation.

After all, our compassion must be unconditional, must it not? At least, as it applies for those it is fashionable to care about.

And if that loony employee should be standing in the way of somebody who really does deserve a break? Then badly misplaced compassion is going to burn somebody who deserves better - a lot of those somebodies, to be exact, because looniness is not a fleeting condition, which gets us to a possibility that I would invite some to consider, as they talk about the cold, uncaring harshness of a red state dominated America that has cut off opportunity for so many, and left many of those who remain having to jump through an unreasonable number of hoops. Maybe the unreasonable harshness of the job market that Mr.Chiu is encountering is a direct consequence of the inadequate harshness of the job market of a few decades back, junior employees of that era who should never been hired for positions of responsibility going on, as they were allowed to pursue opportunities they should never have been able to enjoy, to become the nightmare managers tormenting the next few generations of employees trying to make their way.

It's nice to want to be nice, but maybe, in the long run, there's such a thing as a maximum sustainable level of kindness and that societies that try to push beyond it for those living in one era, can only do so at the expense of those in the eras that follow - and maybe a truly decent person tries to think about all who his choices will impact on, not just the ones who are sitting right in front of him right now, and are making him uncomfortable with those forlorn looks as they see him reach for a pink slip or can't understand why he won't just give them the A they need to get into B-school. Seeing somebody's life get stomped down on hard isn't fun, but you know what? Somebody has to do it, sooner or later, and if one acts in such a way as to insure that the person who does get stepped on probably won't be the one who will have deserved it, is that easy escape from an uncomfortable situation a kind choice on one's part, or a selfish one?

Responsibility is not supposed to be fun, but somewhere along the way a lot of people who should have known better got the idea that they were supposed to feel happy and comfortable 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and every time somebody saw that expectation getting indulged, it got reinforced a little more, producing a cumulative, lasting impact on the culture. When hard choices needed to be made by those who might have made them more reasonably some years back, they didn't get made, and somebody else ended up paying for it. A good many somebodies, in fact, in so many places at so many times throughout the current era. A vote for liberalism is a vote to start that whole destructive cycle all over again; the easy comfort we steal for ourselves today has to be paid for tomorrow.