Monday, April 3, 2017

Heresy in the Corporation: Damnation, Repentance, and Salvation at Honest Weight?

Drama seems to be the old normal and new normal at the Honest Weight Food Corporation in Albany, New York. Whether it is the Board attempting to end the membership worker programme. the management firing a member of staff, the Board cleansing an elected member of the Board from the Board, or the high school like atmosphere of the Corporation with its omnipresent cliques and serial whingers, Honest Weight, like all work places I am familiar with, is the corporate equivalent of a petty and sometimes vile three ring circus TV reality programme.

The most recent drama at the Corporation has involved the firing of long time employee Ned Depew from his job at the Corpop and the stripping of Depew, an elected member of the Board, from the Board, the governing legislative, judicial, and executive body of the Corpop. Both have been somewhat controversial, at least among some staff, so controversial, in fact, that the Board felt the need to lay out a writ of particulars against an unnamed Depew (as if this was taking the high road; everyone knew and knows who the subject of the writ is) in a document I will call the "Dastardly Deeds of Ned Depew".

I don't actually need to see this document to know what is in it. If such documents were a film they would be a genre. The Dastardly Deeds of Ned Depew is undoubtedly full of the usual cliches and the usual suspects. It undoubtedly paints Depew as serially belligerent. It undoubtedly paints Depew as a serial bully. It undoubtedly paints Depew as a serial abuser. It undoubtedly refers second handedly to various complaints made against Depew over the years. It undoubtedly paints Depew as unrepentant threat to other staff, member workers, and shoppers at the Corpop. It undoubtedly does not give Depew the right to respond to his critics.

What is undoubtedly missing from the Dastardly Deeds of New Depew is what is always missing from all such bureaucratic documents, an engagement with the contradictions and the counterevidence. The Dastardly Deeds of Ned Depew undoubtedly does not address how, if Depew was such a bully, he managed to hold on to his job for seven years. The document undoubtedly does not address the issue of how many times Depew was given or not given pay rises during his tenure at the Corpop, a measure of employee compliance with the "rules". The document undoubtedly does not address how, if Depew was such a tyrant that even the powers that be feared his wrath, legislation he opposed while a member of the Board, the attempt to end the membership programme and the power grabbing legislation to limit the number of staff on the Board, for instance, was passed by the Board. The document undoubtedly does not address the fact that Depew was given the opportunity to repent and be saved if he took mandated behavioural modification classes. The document undoubtedly does not address the fact that there have been tensions on the Board between Depew and members of the OrangeBunch, the political faction at the Corporation that was instrumental in overthrowing the previous Board and its management team, tensions that have apparently resulted in other Board members and OrangeBunch fellow travellers yelling at Depew at Board meetings. Needless to say, the fact that those who yelled aggressively at Depw go presumably unpunished points up the fact that the "rules" are selective enforced at the Corpop. The document undoubtedly does not address the rumours, some of them emanating from OrangeBunchers themselves, that Depew was being punished for his behaviour on the Board. The document undoubtedly does not address the fact that Depew was excommunicated from the Board at a point that made it impossible for him to run for re-election to the Board, an indicator, I would add, of the lack of commitment of the powers that be at Honest Weight to the democratic process they supposedly value and an indication of the real motives for the excommunication of Depew at this particular moment in time. Ah, those perks of power.

Speaking of the perks of power, the powers that be are not likely to allow social scientists like myself access to complaints against Depew so we can ascertain the quality of those complaints. In the absence of dispassionate analysis all we are left with is what one source said to me about these complaints, many might readily be interpreted as the product of a whinging or whining culture.

Anyone with a critical bone in their bodies knows that such lacunae are clear and obvious evidence of the real purpose of the Dastardly Deeds of Ned Depew. This document is not a dispassionate or objective writ of particulars against New Depew. It is the product, in large part, of an attempt by the Board to rationalise and justify its actions in the face of criticism. The Dastardly Deeds of New Depew, in other words, is an apologetic and polemic. What happened to Ned Depew at the Corporation, a fate one source told me was not favoured by every Board member, raises questions about the impact of the long standing petty politics, petty squabbles, sometimes vile politics, and the need to discipline "deviants", including "deviant" speech ("the suede denim secret police") at the Corpop on Depew's case. Most HonestWeighters don't seem to care for whatever reason. Some of those who do care seem to ascribe infallibility to management and the Board and see the Dastardly Deeds of Ned Depew as the gospel truth (Corpop fundamentalists). Needless to say all of this is par for the human course. As for me, I am really tired of all the pathetic ritual high school like drama.

Anyway, broadly speaking in ideal types, there are really, after everything is taken into account, two broad types of people in modern and postmodern societies. There are those who have been socialised to accept the norms, values, behaviours (including emotions), and beliefs (ideologies) of a group, whatever that group might be (clan, tribe, clique, society), and who do not question the norms, values, behaviours, and beliefs they have acquired through socialisation (see the Asch, Milgram, and Stanford experiments). They believe society, for example, is the way it is because god, nature, or the way it is made it the way it is. They are the devoted faithful. Then there are those who question the "eternal verities", who question the wisdom of the "best and brightest", who simply don't accept, on some level, that things are the way they are because some godlike force, nature, or chance made things the way they are. They recognise that society, its culture, its norms, its mores, its values, its ideologies, and its power relations are social and cultural constructs, are fetishisations. Ned Depew is one of the latter. He is a "rebel", a "delinquent", a "troublmaker", a "heretic", you fill in the blank. All of such classifications and categorisations, as Foucault noted, are the means the powerful use to keep the masses in line. This is why Depew is not particularly liked by so many, the so many who simply believe they live in the best of all possible god given or nature given worlds and the cynically powerful who use emotional appeals to manipulate the devoted masses for their own gain, however that is defined. Durkheim in the early days of sociology and cultural anthropology called all this society worshipping its own social and cultural constructions and he noted that the social and cultural construction of deviance (making scapegoats) played an important role in keeping the masses in line.

For the record, Ned Depew is NOT one of my sources.

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