Wednesday, March 26, 2008


A couple of months ago, I did something really stupid, or so I was told. I voiced my reservations not through a carefully worded mail, nor via polite requests or practical suggestions that smacked of an implicit acceptance of the status quo, but by speaking my mind. With incisive humor. On the company intranet.

And very soon, judging from the reaction, of which there was a flood, I came across roughly 3 kinds of employees: (1) absolute suckers/dumb duds/enemies of reason and logic/those who don’t know they are being taken for a ride; (2) those who want change but are afraid to speak up; and (3) those who belong to the happily-aloof-as-long-as-I-have-my-paycheck category.

Of the first category, two quit almost immediately after singing paeans of praise for their employer. Several members of the second type conveyed their support, but only through online chats or in person. The third species probably didn’t know that something was on until they overheard office gossip and then were mostly like “Dude, that was really stupid!”

The last year and a half have been a learning experience. Not because of the career progression that I’ve made but because of how closely I’ve observed the “corporate culture.” And I’ve realized, totally internalized, the fact that the only shade that will always be in vogue is grey.

I do not know why exactly Stanley Kubrick was a misanthrope but I can vouch on my epitaph that had he worked in the services industry, he would’ve surely had a very valid reason.

In this age when everything sells, why isn’t integrity being put up on shop windows? How do I explain to all these people that it is not I who needs a reality check. It is them. It is they who put their sugarcoated words on company newsletters; it is they who learn the company’s “mission statement” by rote; it is they who, in full knowledge of their actions, compromise on their work and on the manner in which they let themselves work.

And here I spend my time trying to scrub off the filth that sticks to my skin every day.

It is now that I fully understand Jerry Macguire. That there’s a big difference between what we think and what we say or do. And were we to be unafraid to do the right thing, or try to, we would be driven to despair. And fired.

I’m not taking the moral high ground here. I’m ranting because of a very selfish reason. I cannot imagine how I can survive selling myself like this. I can only see very lonely hours. I may speak to you, crack a few smart jokes and impress you, but I will find it difficult to bring myself to respect you.

In the twilight of life, should you choose to look back, remember these words: Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough. And this is exactly how some of you will have earned respect too.

P.S.: The quote in italics is from Chinatown (1974).