A few years ago James Damore was fired from Google for harboring sexist attitudes and declaring in a memo harmful statements concerning the supposed biological differences between men and women. Damore also spoke on the limits of his speech under Google and that the company was responsible for “reverse discrimination” in an effort to curb discrimination itself. Needless to say this brought controversy to Google and a huge social media firestorm started because of Damore’s memo and Google’s response. Was Google in their right to fire Damore? Was Damore making any solid points even though he was clearly a sexist asshole? (Yes and no, respectively)
There are many other possible questions to the possibility of “echo chambers” a phrase that right-wing folks like to use concerning the left a lot. But of course, when leftists oust others because of serious ideological disputes or particular actions then the left is “cannibalizing itself” so ya know, you can’t win either way. But anyways, Damore isn’t the focus of this article, just the backdrop.
Specifically for this article by Josh Barro on Business Insider which sounds promising from the get-go: Google is wrong: You should not ‘bring your whole self to work’. Unfortunately, this is an article I judged by its title alone. Note to self: At least give something (especially an article from Business Insider) at least a cursory glance before adding it to my Abolish Work to-do list.
Then again, having wholly negative articles on this site isn’t such a bad thing. I can’t be positive all the time and sometimes it’s good to rip into an article as I’ve done in the past.
Here is one such article.
When I first read the title I was like, “Ooh! Someone finally understands that work shouldn’t be all there is to your life! And from Business Insider? Wow! Plus hating on Google is pretty cool.”
But then reading the article, well…
But in Damore’s defense, his employer did tell him to bring his whole self to work – and as The Wall Street Journal reported this week, he was hardly the only Googler bringing his politics to work.
Don’t these people have work to do? Maybe they’d be able to better focus on their jobs if they left more of themselves at home.
As a side note: Business Insider makes me have to type these words since it limits how much I can copy or paste per passage. It also forbids me from accessing its site without Ad Blocker (though I got around this via an alternative link) so basically: Heck you and your business model/site.
More to the point though this is not the angle I thought this article was going to take. I thought that Barro was going to tackle how all-encompassing Google asks their employees to behave when under their contracts. I figured this article would attack the notion of work-life balance that Google sees as an impediment to its employees productivity. And I reasoned that although no hardcore anti-work sentiments would arise from this article it’d at least be nice to see.
Instead, this article is clamoring for people to leave their politics (you know, those pesky principles of theirs) back at home. Union concerns got you down? Leave it at home! Worried about discrimination? Back at your house! Thinking about how your boss has been behaving around you lately? Keep it where you live! Basically, ignore issues of power, of disparities in influence, of organizational mechanics within the gigantic corporation you work for. You know, one of the biggest corporations globally and one that literally invented an alternative verb for “search”.
How are you supposed to leave their ideologies at the door when corporations are defined by people with certain worldviews? The people who build corporations are the rich executives making a killing off an economic system that, itself, makes a killing. These people are not agnostic rational individuals who are merely acting for their own self-interest or for the benefit of their employees. They also have very particular principles and ways of implementing them within the larger economy. And these principles and actions affect people materially; doesn’t that matter?
But, that has to be pushed aside because politics is too “bitter, distracting and ever-present” according to Barro. Well, yes, I do actually feel a bit bitter and distracted when (for example) the ever-present threat of transphobia is all around me and makes me nervous to present how I would like to in the workplace or go into a particular bathroom or just be myself. Of course politics are ever-present because they have always been ever-present.
What is so different about now?
The answer is, of course, social media. Politics are just more obvious but that doesn’t mean they weren’t always there before. We had newspapers, political TV shows, magazines that were political, unions in much earlier decades of America, etc. It’s just much harder to ignore that politics is involved with almost every aspect of our lives and that it shouldn’t be ignored. Especially if you are working for a gigantic corporation that is notoriously anti-union!
One [of the two incompatible impulses in society today] is an increased sense that political views are central to personal morality – if you have the wrong ideas like Damore, then you’re a bad person, or at least a person one should not have to interact with.
The second impulse is because politics are so important, it must be discussed everywhere. And because everything is at least somewhat political in some way, we must interrogate the politics of everything so we can fix the structural injustices that exist in society everywhere.
The idea that men are women are so biologically different that women should be treated a certain way as opposed to men is literally sexism and that is a bad thing?
Treating women differently than men for arbitrary reasons that have nothing to do with their own behaviors is harmful because it dissuades women from taking part or being more active in their lives. It makes them blame themselves for the sexist actions of men (like Damore) and harms their self-esteem. Of course, some women won’t be harmed by it because they’re numb to this kind of sexism (this isn’t good either by the way) or because they themselves have internalized misogyny, but that doesn’t stop it from harming some which is, you know, bad.
And yes, sometimes that means you have to cut off dialogue with folks who are actively harmful to you, unreasonable or you know it won’t go anywhere positive or productive. I thought America was all about freedom of association? Isn’t knowing when to cut and run a good thing for conversations? Wouldn’t you rather political conversation be made up of folks who know their worth, their boundaries and how to best enforce them when it comes to conversations? I know that’s the kind of world I want and hopefully it’s the world we’re steadily getting closer to.
Lastly, interrogating the politics of everything so we can solve the structural injustices within society sounds awesome. Sign me up! In what universe does that strike someone as bad?
Combine the two impulses and it becomes impossible … [to] do business together
If someone is making you uncomfortable you have no obligation to stick around them. If they are making many people uncomfortable those people don’t have to let that person stick around in their community if they’d rather them go elsewhere. Exclusion is actually just as important as inclusion in certain cases where the discomfort isn’t just discomfort but stems from a real sense of injustice and harm that is being done to the community (intentionally or not).
When you find out your co-worker keeps talking badly about Muslims in your office and about how bad immigration hurts “Our Great Country” and it bothers you, you should speak up about that! You shouldn’t just let racists be racists, you should actively curate your space so its safer for people from all backgrounds. And to be clear, I’m not saying “of all backgrounds” in a neutral way. Being “racist” for your background isn’t a neutral position, it’s an actively negative one.
At work, agreeing to disagree should be especially easy, because we can just agree to not talk about a lot of the not-especially-work-related matters that divide us.
But no, this isn’t easy at all. There are some jobs where this is impossible for example if you are involved in a political campaign. But even your typical manufacturing job, factory job or retail and food service jobs, you have issues of power and politics abound. Issues of who gets paid what and why, issues of how you relate to your co-workers and your boss. There are issues of where your building is located (e.g. is it disability accessible? accessible to the poor? does it cater to underprivileged communities?) and how you best serve your customers and make them feel safe.
And that sense of safety for both customers and co-workers (ideally there shouldn’t be bosses, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic) means tackling our different visions of the world. It means confronting issues of pay, of benefits (especially health insurance) and the disparities between workers and bosses. It means having those tough conversations, not burying our heads in the sand. The fact of the matter is that we can’t ignore politics in our day to day lives and in trying to do so, we only assert that apolitical attitudes are the best political method for progress.
Much as they wish otherwise, liberals are not going to be able to reeducate the entire working force into having the right, woke ideas, and banish those who resist.
I’m not even a liberal and I think this is a terrible take. Sometimes you do need to remove people from your community to make it safer and to help allow others to get better work done. That doesn’t mean you ex-communicate anyone. I agree things like “cancel culture” can always find the wrong targets but there are also plenty of good targets that haven’t nearly been affected enough by this “banishment” (Chris Brown is a great example).
There are better ways forward than just “cancelling” people but when they’ve been given multiple chances (as I know from experience) and show little to no growth, sometimes the best thing to do is build your community without them involved in it. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly and I think transformative and restorative justice are often superior, but it should be an option.
And, well, here’s the kicker:
It starts with talking less and smiling more.
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