What a long strange trip it has been.
To my three readers, and my Mom in heaven, you may or may not know that The Asylum began as The Corporate Asylum which, in turn, originally began as The Inmate sometime back in mid 1987 when I was working for DHL Airways as a delivery guy.
My underground paper, The Inmate, covered a lot of the bullshit we delivery people had to deal with from our local management team and the upper management team at corporate headquarters. The paper gained a following among my colleagues and even management and began to be distributed to other locations in the U.S. until a copy finally crossed the USA CEO’s desk and I nearly lost my job.
From there it moved to the internet after the last physical issue in July of 1993, where it became The Corporate Asylum written by The Inmate. That went on until 2003 when I was laid off and began pursuing my career as a web developer. I wrote one or two posts in 2004 and then never wrote another word for The Corporate Asylum until it became The Asylum in December of 2021.
It has occurred to me that a lot of what I wrote about back in those days relates to what we are going through now. I wrote about corporate culture and technocrats and the ways it was detrimental to working class people both blue and white collar. What we are dealing with now is a lot of the same crap, just, unfortunately, more serious.
What I’m going to do is quote some of these earlier essays that relate to the current times. This is going to be long and probably far me interesting to me than my readers, but since there’s only three of you, and it is MY website, I’ll risk it. I never thought we would ever get to where we are today. Most of these I’ll just present without comment. Enjoy.
The effect of longer hours on human happiness and contentment receives little attention either in Washington or in corporate board rooms, but the correlation between overwork and health, family problems, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse are becoming more and more apparent. Longer hours mean more tax dollars which is why the government is willing to pay for or subsidize childcare with tax breaks. Washington wants both parents to work. So much for family values.
The breakdown of the family has been going on for a long time and probably one of the major reasons people are so susceptible to the mass formation that we are now seeing.
I have often considered the busy-ness of the typical corporate executive as one of the main reasons that they tend to be amoral. They have never given themselves the time to think and reflect outside of their own narrow areas of expertise. The combination of power and overwork, as Michael Grant has pointed out in The Twelve Caesars, is a deadly one. They have “compartments of knowledge but not knowledge itself; specialization, but no integration; [they are] specialists but no philosophers of human wisdom.” They are like weight lifters who only work out their right biceps, which is admittedly quite large, but leaves the rest of the body looking not only ridiculous in comparison, but shriveled and atrophied in reality. They do not, however, notice this because they only congregate with each other comparing their biceps with that of their colleague’s. To each other they look normal. We are becoming a nation of the large biceps.
When I think of our current elites, government officials, globalists and the like I think of this: they are “specialists but no philosophers of human wisdom.” They look quite normal to each other and seem to have no idea at all how we view them. The above comes from a review I did of The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang. Yutang writes:
It has seemed to me that the final test of any civilization is, what type of husbands and wives and fathers and mothers does it turn out? Besides the austere simplicity of such a question, every other achievement of civilization–art, philosophy, literature and material living–pales into insignificance.
Think about that for few minutes. This is exactly what has been breaking down the last, what, 60 years or so?
One of the hideous things about corporate culture is that it has successfully invaded the psyche of working people so that so much of what they do for the corporation is done out of a false sense of necessity or out of guilt. It’s self-induced torture. We are administering our own poison and no one stops to wonder what’s killing us. We’ve been told that working is the best way to contribute to society and the best way to find contentment and self-worth. It’s a lie; it’s a damned lie.
The following comes from a review of the book, Leisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper:
“Workers” become “functionaries” of the “total-working state.” Meaning is anchored to the “worker’s” material contribution to their country, made possible by their activity and effort, or in a less universal way to their corporation, business, church or family. The latter used to entail one “provider,” but the two-income home has also become the three, four and five everything-else one: three-television, three-car, three-phone, four-bath, five-bedroom and all for the sake of the family. Clearly, however, something is missing and that something, Pieper argues with reason, passion and persuasiveness, is leisure. This is a superb book, extremely relevant for today and more timely than it was 50 years ago when it was first published.
After this scene we passed through a bureaucratic dump,
Strewn with manuals, videos and meaningless reports,
Until we came face to face with a technocratic chump.
His hands were clipboards and his voice was hoarse,
“These calculations are wrong! I need more data!” he yelled,
While his pencil nose scribbled on with irrelevant force.
Subdued their creativity there,
Worked the weekends there,
Fighting the managers there,
Resisting bureaucracy there,
But no one really cared.
The best hours of their day they gave,
The best years of their lives:
Man and Woman with prospects rife,
Reeled into corporate life
Tired and weary,
They clocked out, but not,
Not the millions and millions.
All things considered the United States of America is not such a bad place to live. However, contrary to what every politician on either side of election day and this side of their remarkable pension plans would have us believe it is not because of their great leadership. The truth is it has nothing to do with greatness and everything to do with incompetence. The political arena attracts not the cream of the crop but the weeds. This is as it should be. Government, though necessary, is not that necessary. If all the competent people ran for office that would leave all the incompetent people to do the things that in reality make this country work–and then it wouldn’t work. Competent politicians would, ironically, be accused of incompetence by the incompetents who ruined the country. If, however, competent people remain in the general citizenry the country will continue to run effectively and efficiently despite the fact that a bunch of incompetent boobs (this is not meant to demean breasts, their competence, particularly female breasts, is a well-established fact) are the ones debating, posturing, kissing babies (or interns or who knows what else), prostituting, reading speeches they could not have written, marketing and deceiving themselves.
Is this what happened with Trump’s departure:
Competence, in reality, is a big problem. Admittedly, it is a rare occurrence, but when it happens it can be devastating. Competent individuals are capable of making themselves necessary even in unnecessary positions. So if they leave or get sick they leave a huge gap where none existed before and the chances of finding another competent individual to fill that gap are very slim.
One of his cohorts in the corporate culture movement of the 1980’s is Richard Pascale, author of The Art of Japanese Management, Managing on the Edge and an article entitled, “Fitting New Employees into the Company Culture.” The latter was published in Fortune with this subheading:
Many of the best-managed companies in America are particularly skilled at getting recruits to adopt the corporate collection of shared values, beliefs, and practices as their own. Here’s how they do it, and why indoctrination need not mean brainwashing.
Ironically, this appeared in 1984 and it makes no apologies for “indoctrination” techniques (which could easily be viewed as brainwashing techniques) used by corporations on new employees. On the contrary, it celebrates them. Here’s Pascale at his best (or worst):
The company subjects the newly hired individual to experiences calculated to induce humility and to make him question his prior behavior, beliefs and values. By lessening the recruit’s comfort with himself, the company hopes to promote openness toward its own norms and values.[italics mine]
Isn’t that nice? I wish I could hug Pascale like a boa constrictor might hug a good-sized, ignorant rodent. Once employees are “indoctrinated” they do not need to be abused–they willingly, in a cult-like fashion, abuse themselves. Consider Kevin Gammil, a Microsoft software development engineer, and his self-imposed plight as chronicled by Fred Moody.
He has been working sixteen hours a day, seven days a week for so long that his supervisor has been pleading with him for weeks to take a day off. He neither allows visitors in his office nor speaks to people on his rare trips outside it.
But who am I to judge the lifestyle of a stranger? Maybe Gates is God and Gammil is paying proper homage.
I just think it’s just kind of funny, considering the Gates today, that I wrote “Maybe Gates is God…” He’s not, but he sure has that complex.
Managers who make these speeches resort to clichés because they have few thoughts of their own. “Corporatespeak” thinks for them. George Orwell wrote, “A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.” These phrases and words which had real meaning when they were first used, no longer do because managers repeat them like parrots. There is nothing, no conscious thought, no consideration, no real intention behind the words to sustain them.
One of the more pressing questions of existence is this: Where did car salesmen come from? Were they created or did they evolve? Their lineage can be traced back through insurance salesmen, horse traders, tax gathers, lawyers, politicians and finally the first advertisers–those street criers who roamed the ancient cities announcing the sale of slaves, cattle and imports. These people may have initially learned their trade from Solon(638-539 B.C) who, Plutarch tells us, was probably responsible for giving bad things nice names. For example, harlots became mistresses, jails became chambers, and tributes became customs. What is advertising if it is not giving a name to something in order mask its reality?
Engineers and technocrats often try to intimidate workers with statistics and specialized language. The latter is more often than not a means of attempting to camouflage ignorance and/or establish who is the center of power. Too often people are persuaded by words rather than ideas and worse still persuaded by ideas that have not been tried in the real world. Just because a worker is not articulate doesn’t mean that they do not know what they are talking about. And just because technocrats may use words most people do not know doesn’t mean they do know what they are talking about. If technocrats cannot explain what it is they mean in understandable terms it is a good bet (make it if you can) that they themselves have failed to comprehend the very things they are asserting they know.
This side of business is evil. These executives must know what conditions are like in the countries where they build their factories. If they do not, it is because they have chosen ignorance to ease their consciences and fill their bank accounts. The pure (not in a moral sense) businessman is incapable of making good decisions and has convinced himself that practicality divorced from compassion is a moral virtue. It’s not.