Wednesday, March 26, 2008

chinatown

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).

13 comments:

nutty said...

I want to say "I know what you mean" but I wont offer you any such platitudes.

You said it yourself .. the only shade that stays in vogue is gray. A lot of times people do what is required of them and for them thats alright.

Did you ever consider that your respect may not be something they even care about?

Here we go again - you ranting against the system and me being nonchalant about it :D somethings will probably never change!

All I can say is don't do anything you wont respect yourself for. Live your life the way you believe is right. As for the rest, they're entitled to the same privilege. Don't upset yourself over the choices they make. You may not be able to change the world but you shouldn't lose your self to it either.

Hang in there. I can only hope it gets easier for you.

Charl said...

Dude, I appreciate where you're coming from. Wll it make you feel better if I come over and say nice things about your arms again?

Also, I'm so sure I was in one or all of those categories and now I'm freaking scared of you.

satyajit said...

nutty: I do not think that respect is something that some people may not want. In fact, they'll fight, cheat, do whatever it takes to earn some of it. But the very process through which they try to extract it nullifies it.

nutty said...

Respect from the society at large - yes I agree with you... but then the society doesn't know or care about the details ...

I was referring specifically to your opinion about them ... do they really care what you think about them?

You'll realize very few do .. and those who do are either your friends or loved ones and they will listen to you anyway...

Ergo said...

Although I have no knowledge of the details, I loved the post for the way in which you convey a profoundly philosophical observation: the depravity of compromise and what it reveals about a person's self-esteem and integrity.

You've made yourself into a brilliant writer, Sattu! :)

satyajit said...

Thank you, Ergo. Very pleasing words :-)

Candid Confessions said...

Isn't the easiest route always chosen.. Wonder why we have to wonder what others don't care about. Would we, our stance, ever make a change?! Haven't we seen it all?

Word blaster said...

I think I fit in all the three slots :-0

Suhas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suhas said...

Dude, what struck me was that you slotted employees into 3 categories and then went onto admit that there are shades of Grey to everything. Was it a cleverly placed oxymoron to illustrate the point about the difference between our thoughts or actions or am i reading too much into it ?

satyajit said...

I referred to everything being in gray in the context of "corporate culture." Organizations express their commitment to ethics, values, etc., but they sometimes dont think twice before twisting rules to their advantage. Practices are ethical only on paper and only when any sort of accreditation is wanted; the ones that are actually followed are quite bendable

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STN said...

Hey I feel good that I know a great writer in making
because your flow of emotions sometimes can beat a best-selling plot.
Of course I am talking about you.

When you repeateadly mention people sugarcoated attitude and rotten corporate culture
you forget the truth that not all people are equal and the greatness on this earth is a
normally distributed curve. Maybe( note : maybe ) you are lying on extreme right and when u mix up people whose attitude you are questioning you get frustrated. Your filth is money for ordinary people, if you want to term them ordinary to gain a momentary satisfaction.