It isn’t just you, and it isn’t just me. As job seekers, we are not the problem. Maybe we aren’t goddamn rockstars, but we’re sure as hell qualified to wash dishes or operate cash registers. I did both with ten minutes’ on-the-job training at Hersheypark. No one should be giving applicants for grunt jobs like these the third degree. That’s all there is to it. I don’t interview all too smoothly, sometimes not smoothly at all, but I’m not the only job applicant who gets tripped up at interviews. Fewer of us would get tripped up if hiring managers weren’t such paranoid, intrusive freaks at interviews.
The hiring manager at that winery in Spokane, who expressed such offense at the thought of applicants who are in the menial food processing labor pool for the money, accusing me of somehow being unqualified or unfit for the job is every bit as absurd as Rob Ford slurring at me, “Easy does it, partner; you’re drinkin’ a bit much.” It would be hilarious if it weren’t so shockingly appalling. Of course high-hats in HR lack Rob Ford’s self-awareness. Entire cottage industries are devoted to training any natural self-awareness out of them in the name of excellence and shit. The trade and self-help literature, lobbying activities, political activism, and cultural memes advanced on behalf of entrepreneurs cater to narcissists and psychopaths. It takes a personality disorder to feel comfortable with, let alone enthusiastic about, the paranoia and predatory, spiteful contempt that mainstream entrepreneurship gurus advise management to show labor. Only a spiritually sick person can enter into such a hostile, humiliating, frankly bigoted stance towards those under his authority without feeling ill and hollowed out inside. The very attitude destroys the soul.
Except so many in the managerial class clearly feel a rising warmth in their hearts when they gratuitously mistreat their inferiors, or more accurately a psychosexual rush. What on earth could explain this but the sinful nature? I won’t just be obnoxious by the end of this if I’m not careful; I’ll be a Calvinist. Or maybe we’ve been colonized by lizard people. When I compare the scores of haughty creeps I knew or saw around campus at Dickinson College to the consistently down-to-earth, aboveboard, morally straight people I knew at College of the Redwoods, I cannot dismiss this such occult explanations out of hand.
They sound freaky, but what I personally observed of the student body at Dickinson was some really freaky shit. Offhand, I’d guess that anywhere from 10 to 30% of the student body and a higher percentage of the administrators (likely enough a small majority) showed overt signs of severe psychic disorder rendering them completely unfit for any authority over anyone else whatsoever. Mentally, intellectually, morally, spiritually: they were all kinds of fucked up. Of course, these were the same ones who either had explicit authority over others or aggressively sought it. Dickinson prides itself on educating policy bigshots, self-important managerial grandiosities in all sectors, and various other fart-sniffing budybodies, preferably with featherbedding rackets verging on sinecures, all under the conceit that these are citizen-leaders who “engage the world.” Dickinson’s institutional climate was dominated by some of the worst people I’ve ever known or observed. They were a minority overall, but they were ruinously toxic.
A decent person feels sick to the core acting like that. These people rarely showed any signs of having a burdened conscience. I often don’t show it well, but I think I’m emotionally intelligent and astute enough to tell when others are contrite or confused or ambivalent about their unpleasant behavior, and that I’m a good judge of character (probably low in the top quartile). These people were often visibly emboldened by their own immorality. Most of the people I’ve seen doing something shitty, either to me or to a third party, have taken a visible hit to their self-esteem on short order. This is normal, healthy human contrition; the examination of conscience comes naturally to most people, Catholic or not, regardless of whether there’s a confessor (or, God help you, a Sgt. Confesor Gonzalez) available. A great many people at Dickinson were abnormally untroubled by their own blatantly inappropriate behavior.
Dickinson cultivated exactly this attitude. These creeps didn’t turn ugly in a vacuum. As an umbrella institution, Dickinson had exactly the moral sense of a cancer and did everything in its power to convince its students, parents, and alumni that being a noxious, insufferable yuppie shithead was the coolest thing ever. Cultivating a donor pool of amoral, treacherous yuppies was good for development, you see. Heartfelt humility or noblesse oblige or critical thinking or any other respectable feeling on our part was bad for business. We’d give less money if we turned into something other than elitist snobs with the values of Tammany Hall.
A very similar evil pops up again and again in mainstream business literature and in politics. To be clear, these are not, in my experience, mainstream American values, but ones that disgust or horrify a wide variety of Americans from across the political spectrum and every part of the country. This is an evil that floats to the top, like pond scum. It’s hard to articulate specific examples of what’s wrong with these social climbers, and trying often serves no purpose but to make the accuser sound hella emo.
There are, however, prominent public figures who show the same cluster of pathologies as the disordered freaks I saw around Dickinson. Most of Congress would fit in quite well. Jen Psaki isn’t an alumna, but she certainly acts like one. Imagine multiple sororities, extracurricular clubs, and administrative joint committees that give Psaki membership and don’t harbor a soul with the courage or the disgust to even once tell her to tone it down and stop being a bitch. Dickinson’s nonacademic apparatus was a thicket of overlapping ecosystems giving succor and mentorship to exactly that. We had a Psaki/Nuland/Hillary axis of conniving supercunts-in-training, a Spitzer/Weiner/Craig axis of hopelessly sorry bastards making pathetic efforts to win a game they had no clue how to play, a Kenneth Starr/Wide Stance Craig/Agent Moosehead Truth Aldrich axis of censorious busybodies who might or (probably) might not play by the rules they wanted to enforce with draconian fervor on everyone else. The Secret Service agents who illegally accessed and leaked Jason Chaffetz’s 2003 application for sworn employment, in what may be the most dangerous attempt at paramilitary subversion of the United States Government by sworn law enforcement officers since J. Edgar Hoover, would have gotten along excellently with the volatile, coarse upperclassmen I kept among my drinking buddies freshman year. So would the idiot agents who drove drunk through the police line into an active bomb investigation scene on the White House grounds and got backup from commanders who refused to allow their colleagues to administer field sobriety tests.
I’m reminded of an essay by a Los Angeles escort, at once heartbreakingly poignant and purely appalling, about losing all confidence in the courts her first day on the job, when a sitting judge appeared at her incall wearing a diaper under his robe for reasons other than incontinence. Our elites aren’t just train wrecks; they’re train wrecks that can’t be called train wrecks for fear of grievously breaching sacred norms of etiquette. These norms are enforced for no discernible reason but the protection of shambling incompetents and deviants in positions of power. When the wagon circle breaks rank and turns on one of its own, it’s often on someone who had the gall not to scrupulously pretend to be stolid: Bill Clinton, the shameless adulterer; Rob Ford, the shameless lush; Milton Street, the guy who didn’t care if Philadelphia voters accused him of spending too much time with his girlfriend in Jersey to be mayor, and who, as a Pennsylvania state legislator, tried to decriminalized recreational marijuana in the early 1980’s. What many of the anointed rulers and courtiers want is liberty for me but not for thee. They want this with all their heart. Our duty, as their subjects, is to pretend that we didn’t just watch a Superior Court judge take off his robe and recreationally relieve himself in an adult diaper.
But of course these things would happen in a nation founded on chattel slavery by corruption of blood. One of the most shameful and most studiously ignored scandals involving the United States today is that it has per capita the largest, most bloated managerial class in the developed world. Again, this is something that mustn’t be discussed because its discussion embarrasses predatory, whip-wielding shitheads in positions of power.
No, we’re to defer to these asshats. We’re to grovel to them. They’re the job creators. Why on earth can’t various levels of government, with their ability to directly hire new employees, be job creators instead? That would be bad juju for the genesis myth of the managerial class. Don’t go there, son.
But we aren’t just dealing with a morally degraded and illegitimate managerial class. We’re dealing with one that is functionally as insane as the craziest psychotic yelling about smashing in some poor bastard’s kneecaps with a two-by-four down at the commuter rail depot. The MBA’s and MBA wannabes have been initiated into a world in which the wellbeing of the help is treated as a bleeding-heart distraction from excellence and treating employees with the normal social graces that would be expected in any social setting by reasonable people of goodwill are considered a form of moral hazard.
Even the line manager at Hersheypark who told me that I’d be formally written up and counseled the next day for cursing out an obnoxious little punk at my game stand was deranged by this ugly self-importance. Nothing legitimate or useful is gained by formally disciplining an employee who has already been chewed out in the heat of the moment for specific misconduct. I had a gut feeling at the time that the purpose of this delayed formal discipline procedure was the humiliation and intimidation of unsatisfactory underlings. If anyone had considered my behavior truly over the line, I would have been summarily suspended or fired. They had cause to fire me from a job whose conditions explicitly included the right for either employee or employer to summarily terminate employment at will for any reason or no reason. In retrospect, I’m confident that I made the right decision by tendering an immediate resignation over the phone the next day and telling the office dipshit bro on the other end of the line that regardless of his notion of how things worked around there, I would not be coming into work for the remainder of the season.
What I should have also done, however, is demanded a positive reference in writing from my managers as a suitable customer service employee under threat of legal action. I’d been quite unprofessional when I snapped at that little punk, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. My managers had been exploiting me and posting me in grossly deficient work conditions because I had been the only adult in a nonsupervisory position in my area of the Games Department. I gave the company too much benefit of the doubt for being scrupulous and well-run, and I gave my supervisors too much benefit of the doubt as de facto company officers. In point of fact, Hersheypark had a number of dog-ass managers on staff, especially at the lowest levels. There were thoroughly decent, responsible, scrupulous division managers who effectively had no control over direct reports two ranks below them because they didn’t have time to regularly drop in on field operations. Besides, if they’d tried to hold their subordinates to account for inappropriate managerial behavior that wasn’t overtly legally actionable, they’d have stirred up a hornet’s nest and probably been fired in favor of a total asswipe with department-wide authority.
The only solution in this case was to force the lawful-evil troublemakers to be aboveboard with threats of imminent legal action for noncompliance. I didn’t try this because I still had a self-destructively quaint faith in the basic decency and common sense of the American managerial class. In fact, the managerial class has been increasingly infested with thoroughly indecent people for my entire lifetime.
And now we have utterly batshit crazy hiring qualifications like being in back-of-the-house winery grunt operations for the love of wine, not for the money. This is the hallmark of a managerial class that has totally lost it. Of course most people work for the money, especially in lower-paid fields, where their pay grades leave them closer to the edge financially. This is the sort of self-evident thing that one might expect to have to explain to a young child, or maybe an inattentive or sheltered teenager. But having to remind grown men and women of this because they’re humiliating a low-wage applicant pool with condescending, self-important prattle about the craft? Are we living on Jupiter now? This is totally fucking crazy, and totally unacceptable. It’s psychosis, but without the self-awareness of the clinically psychotic. Many psychotic people will admit that, shit, man, I’m fucking crazy. They’re right about that. The asshats at that winery are equally wrong about themselves.
For a people as notoriously litigious as we are, Americans give stunning latitude to shitheads in positions of power to chronically mistreat those under their authority. Bosses are in fear of being sued for a hostile environment if someone looks the wrong way at some borderline chick’s ass, but not for actively maintaining a truly hostile work environment with gratuitous Glengarry Glen Ross power games. Carrying on like a lunatic threatening to fire people, all but overtly discriminating against the unemployed or the educated, harassing employees with bogus internal HR documents and disciplinary proceedings, belittling fully qualified employees for applying for work because they need to do something to pay the bills, getting butthurt to the point of tortious interference with former employees who are effectively owed a neutral or positive reference in exchange for their not having been wildly disruptive or dangerous: that’s all cool. Entire bookstore sections and websites are devoted to advising tortiously grandiose shitheads in management that their rotten behavior towards those less powerful than themselves is in fact excellence, the spiritual lifeblood of American entrepreneurship.
This psychosocial extortion racket (and the attendant literal extortion rackets in many businesses) could be broken in short order with the establishment of a robust government jobs program offering the unemployed immediate placement in menial, minimum wage positions, no questions asked, and continued employment for the duration of their good conduct on the job. In the modern American political context, this is as reasonable an expectation as half a foot of fresh snow on Waikiki. It’s too far too radical for the tacit slavedrivers who run this joint for their own benefit. It might work at the local level in some cities, however. For all I know, smaller versions of it may already exist in the United States.
This leaves another solution, which Americans are realistically too chickenshit to force for the same reason that they’re too chickenshit to demand direct-hire government jobs programs instead of more mealymouthed horseshit from soi-disant “job creators.” This solution is to recognize that the job creators are making excuses for not creating jobs in a make-believe world that clashes with our real world as applicants and employees, and, recognizing this, to get lawyers on standby, crash into the shitheads’ world, and burn it to the ground.
Those who are willing to force one of these solutions are probably willing to force both. But this land of the free and home of the brave thing is a myth, too. It’s easier as an afternoon trolley ride to Mr. McFeely’s hood than as an element of self-government. Besides, telling managerial-class slaver types to go to hell would hurt the precious feels of Americans who clean up well, and that would be, like, rude.