Archive for December, 2009


I saw the book earlier this fall and I knew.  I knew that I would need to read it, knew that it would be important to me and knew I should wait to read it for a while.  The book in question: Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.  The guy who wrote it has a Ph.D in political philosophy from Chicago and runs his own motorcycle repair shop.  The book’s blurb: A philosopher/mechanic destroys the pretensions of the high-prestige workplace and makes an irresistible case for working with one’s hands.  Yeah, I need encouragement to think that way like I need a hole in the head.

So I bought the book yesterday and plan to read it over Christmas.  But I started it on the busride home yesterday, couldn’t resist.

I’ve struggled to figure out what it is that bugs me so much about my job.  I’ve had plenty of boring or uncompelling or frustrating jobs, but this one gets to me like no other.  Well, I didn’t make it through the introduction before I found my answer.

Crawford writes: “We want to feel like our world is intelligible, so we can take responsibility for it.”  That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, but he goes on to elaborate:

“I would like to consider whether this poignant longing for responsibility that many people experience in their home lives may be (in part) a response to changes in the world of work, where the experience of individual agency has become elusive.  Those who work in an office often feel that, despite the proliferation of contrived metrics they must meet, their job lacks objective standards of the sort provided by, for example, a carpenter’s level, and that as a result there is something arbitrary in the dispensing of credit and blame.  The rise of “teamwork” has made it difficult to trace individual responsibility, and opened the way for new and uncanny modes of manipulation of workers by managers, who now appear in the guise of therapists or life coaches.  Managers themselves inhabit a bewildering psychic landscape, and are made anxious by the vague imperatives they must answer to.  The college student interviews for a job as a knowledge worker, and finds that the corporate recruiter never asks him about his grades and doesn’t care what he majored in.  He senses that what is demanded of him is not knowledge but rather that he project a certain kind of personality, and affable complaisance.”

It ain’t me babe.  Can I put that in my resignation letter?


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I have a confession to make.  For the first few days, I read everything I saw about the whole Tiger saga.  It goes against my values; I think our tabloid frenzied, celebrity obsessed culture is a destructive distraction, but I participated with gusto.  Those invasive telephone-pole-truck-cameras were there because of me too.  I couldn’t stay away, after all, I watch golf because of this guy.

But almost immediately after Woods’ “confession” I started reading about how, in his imperfection, he was a perfect example and how he would be a better man after all this.  That put me over the edge and I stopped.  But I can’t get it out of my head; this writing is catharsis.

A perfect example?  Of what exactly?

“ ‘Atta boy Tiger, way to carry on a lengthy affair while your wife was pregnant, get in a mysterious car crash and confess once there was no other way out!  Great read, great read!!”

I’m pretty sure we don’t need more imperfect examples.  I think it’s been established: Nobody’s Perfect.  You don’t need to prove an axiom, you just state it and move on.  The shortest distance between two points is a line.  End of story.  I’d like my examples to be, you know, good examples.  What we need is more examples of human beings actually flourishing.  That’s the belief and the hope that is harder to keep burning.

The other article was worse.  Rick Reilly, I’m calling you out.  Tiger, a better man?  Eventually, that will probably be true.  I know, you put that qualifier in there too.  But you also lionized him once again.  Hopefully he will become a better man.  To say so right now is like turning the knife.  Right now Tiger is a jackass that is just beginning to feel repentant about what it seems he was still trying to cover up only a short time ago.  Right now Tiger is a jackass who lived a lie every day by apparently carrying on a prolonged affair that started when his wife was very pregnant.  Can we mourn the staggering implosion of another high-profile family for just a moment before we re-canonize the perpetrator?  The jury will still be out for a long, long time over whether Tiger can become a better man.  It’s none of my business, but I hope so.  For the sake of his family.

That’s the thing that I hate about these stories.  Almost every time it boils down to: Men cheat; boys will be boys.  There’s always a line in there about how men need to have their needs met, and if they aren’t, they tend to look elsewhere.  Blah, blah, blah.  That may be true enough, but just once I would like to read something that nails these guys to the wall for being so damn selfish.  Look, I am a guy; I can think with my dick too.  But my heart and my mind tell me that I would be destroying everything that’s important to me.  U2 sings about not “trading love to find romance.”  Bono has been married a long time, he knows.

It goes deeper though.  What if the equation was tipped the other way?  What if the excitement really did outweigh the commitment for me?  That’s the part that no one talks about, the part where the selfishness really comes in.  First, there is a woman who has been betrayed and feels like a fool because she has been living a lie.  Great start, you’ve turned the entire life of the person you pledged yourself to upside down.  Then there are the kids.  One of the major things that helps kids thrive is a stable, loving relationship between two parents.  It helps them feel secure.  How many of us have significant baggage because of our parents?  My parents stayed together, but I still have had to work really hard to not carry their shit with me into my life and family.  These kinds of things affect generations.  It’s about more than just a philandering dude.  It’s even about more than his sobbing wife.  An entire web of relationships is broken.  The titillation pales in comparison.

I’ve stopped reading about Tiger.  I don’t need to hear this story again.

Memo to Tiger: Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  Just keep that in mind.

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