Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh the humanity!

Anyone who knows me at all, can probably tell you that I don't deal well with authority.

I do not like other people telling me how to live my life, when to be somewhere, what to do, and how to do it.

That's not to say I don't enjoy learning from others, associating with others, exchanging ideas and theories and rhetoric with others -- but I like an equal playing field. And I truly have team spirit when it is a team of equal and like-minded members who have the same goals in mind.
Too often at least one member of this 'team' has a self-appointed goal of growing his or her profession and is quite willing to do it at the expense of fellow workers or those he supervises. We've all seen how the least talented, skilled, knowledgeable continually get promoted because they make an effort to take the glory for other people's efforts.

If the total truth were to be revealed, I detest authority figures who have no skill at being in positions of authority. And the adage is quite true and alive and well in every company: every user and idiot is promoted to their level of incompetence. And it seems they are usually my boss. Here are a few manager types you may recognize:

  • The manager who mothers and treats employees like teenagers.

  • The leader who does nothing, but expects 'underlings' to be productive to the nth degree.

  • Officious, pompous, self-centered arrogant mid-level managers and supervisors

  • The sneaky supervisor planning and scheming behind your back, ready to sell you out for her next promotion.

  • Or the leader who expects loyalty yet offers none in return.

I so miss the leader who leads by example rather than stands at the back and pushes you in front of the roaring locomotive.

I want to believe that capitalism is the best choice, the way to have a better world, more freedom, quality of life, larger incomes, jobs.... But the logical side of my brain (I admit it seems underused compared to my creative side). My logic says this is not necessarily true.

What little I know about capitalism gives me the impression that it is this institution or theory that gives us a class system. Through capitalism we have the owners, the workers, the small business owners, and at the very bottom of the list those who do not fit into the capitalistic pyramid and are either without jobs or flit from job to job or are unemployable and are existing on government assistance.

By definition, Capitalism is "an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market." or another way to say it might be "Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights." According to my source this latter definition is a political definition and one cannot exist without the other.

But, when involved in a capitalistic situation -- a workplace -- my rights are continually subverted. I work their hours, for the amount of wage they deem reasonable, receiving increases based upon their evaluation of my work which is based upon an assessment put together according to the hierarchy's rules.

My 'life' is secondary to the job. In the workplace their rules, not necessarily productivity, must be number one. And if I for heaven sakes have a family emergency -- it had better be a good one! And I had better have enough time off (which they deem appropriate, not me) to cover it.

Humanity has been jettisoned. We are now part of the equation for profit. We are no longer people, we are things that can add to or subtract from the bottom line. If we are subtracting, we'll soon be 'subtracted' right out of a job. Managers like to say that 'personal' life doesn't enter into the equation when making decisions about a job performance, transfer, or anything related to the worker in the workplace. Does anyone really believe that?

I hear that workers are rebelling. They are demanding flexible jobs, flexible workplaces, work from home alternatives, and a return to evaluation based upon reality, upon productivity and upon their personal skills, education and talent, and not based upon attitude, personality, the supervisor's gut feeling or whether or not the company wants to pay for your pension or benefits. Where are these workers? I don't see any in my frame of reference.

Everyone I see sells their souls to a company that treats them like fodder. Feeding them to a machine that cares nothing about whether they can feed their children or get a better education or have quality of life. A machine that doesn't even strive for a quality product. The only product they want is profit. Oh and perhaps a chance to move higher up the corporate ladder.

It is so disillusioning to see fellow men and women, people you know, people you see in at the grocery store, people whose kids your kids play soccer with turn out to be soulless and irresponsible in the workplace.

Recently more than 100 people lost their jobs where I work -- they lost their jobs because someone in authority wanted to keep theirs. And that someone in authority had not grown the company but had pillaged it for their own benefit. So too many people lost their source of income.

Is there no accountability in capitalism? And who is in charge of enforcing that? Hopefully not my former supervisor -- we're in MUCH bigger trouble than I thought, if that's the case.

I want to embrace capitalism. But I can't. Not until we can maintain our humanity in the workplace and find equality -- not in title -- but equality in the mere fact that we are all equal in the eyes of God and made the same. Title does not elevate one to a position that makes them 'better' than another and if anything with more wealth, with more authority, with more honor, comes more responsibility. A responsibility to civility and caring and maintaining a workplace that is honorable, not harassing.

I want more democracy in the workplace and respect, perhaps that will lead us back to a few traits I find missing -- honesty, truthfulness, compassion, integrity, civility,....

[Photo: Portrait of a Garment Worker. ]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Imperfections? No, its art!

A few years ago I sat in a waiting room judging the group of cardiologist by their choice of decor. Usually waiting rooms I frequent on the high end of taste and deliberation offer some generic form of decor that I could find in JoAnn Fabric's home bric-a-brac center. But more often the ones I step into are austere with items retrieved from some institutional warehouse peppered with announcements and signs and 'thou shalt not' warnings. I suppose that says more about the quality of healthcare providers I frequent or perhaps their devotion to my insides rather than my esoteric needs.

Realizing that people with really good insurance or upper income levels of lifestyle pass through these halls, the doctors chose a series of art pieces to decorate one wall of the long, narrow room. I couldn't take my eyes off of them and still recall them long after that visit. It wasn't the skill or the imaginative or the unusual aspects of them-- but rather the highlighting of the mundane. Calling attention to the very things I tend to hide or scrub to remove or remonstrate over.

They were a series of prints featuring coffee and tea and drink spills and stains and marks left on wooden tables and furniture. The shading, the color choices, the simplicity of presentation all of course elevated these drips and drops and imprints to an artist's level, but still-- they featured splotches. And I rather liked the look. The tables became more than backdrop and spoke of daily life and living. In fact the tables reflected a life of their own in those mars and marks.

Seems as I age, I think more and more on the opportunities missed or the mistakes made. Things I don't do for fear of making a mess. Yet, the mistakes and messes make for the best stories -- at least those I can now face and embrace. The blotches on my life are afterall what gives me character and texture and makes me an individual not just one of the masses of people striving to appear perfect.

The relationship between my husband and I has grown strong on shared misfortunes, difficult times, lapses in common sense, our imperfections seem to endear us to one another. We laugh about our blemishes -- maybe we've reached a state of love that overlooks everything and is simply about two people loving without reservation.

Many of my friends are fabric artists and they talk of wax resists and sharpie alcohol techniques and all kinds of fabric painting, stamping, embellishing techniques. Most of these projects can get a bit messy, so they cover their work spaces with cloth or wear an old shirt to catch the drips and dabs. Recently several have realized that their cover clothes and old shirts have themselves become things of beauty and art. Maybe they reflect the life that happens when we're doing something else.

These friends are doing exciting things in their workrooms and don't seem to mind the drips and drops that accompany their efforts. Maybe I should worry less about getting my hands dirty, less about not doing something perfectly, worry less about making a mess and embrace the results, the surprise that comes with trying rather than just holding out for perfection or success. It takes me a long time to realize that often the most beautiful pieces of art came about by accident. Here's to a beautiful accident -- today.