The stock Republican response to any suggestion, from Democrats or elsewhere, that the widening gap between rich and poor might not be such a wonderful thing, has been "This again? Americans aren't interested in class warfare." Of course, these days it's hard to figure what Americans really are interested in, with the notable exception of getting to the Post-Lewinsky Era as quickly as possible, but the GOP has a point: there doesn't seem to be much support for throwing rocks at Steve Forbes. (Richard Mellon Scaife, maybe.) On the other hand, our society has divisions other than volume of cash flow, and I'm inclined to think that there will be skirmishes along those boundaries before too long and not the obvious ones, either. One possible theatre of warfare, in fact, is right outside your office door.

As Dr. Laurence J. Peter might have said, the first order of business in any hierarchial structure is to maintain that structure at all costs. And, as Dr. Peter did say, assuming enough levels in the hierarchy, sooner or later all positions are filled by persons not competent to fill them. I spent over a decade toiling for a Humongous Corporation, and there was enough deadwood on the premises to stock the woodchippers for six sequels to Fargo, which is one reason my subsequent career change took me to a smaller firm. Of course, within a couple of weeks I figured out that a tiny yard doesn't necessarily have fewer weeds.

Strict meritocracy, to be sure, exists only in manifestos and in the dreams of people who want to sell trendy books about management fads to desperate managers at seventy-five dollars a pop. Any resemblance to Real Life is purely coincidental. I keep my résumé current and I remind everyone that I do so, loudly mostly because it's about the only leverage I have ever had when dealing with the multifarious incarnations of corporate intractability. Your mileage, of course, may vary, but don't count on it. Meanwhile, The Powers That Be, as is their wont, prop up their status by constantly issuing reminders of how utterly unimportant and immediately replaceable we are, to which I reply, "Not at this price."

Then again, if the truth were known, I'm not actually all that anxious to move on. Extra greenness in the other man's yard is usually illusory, and most people who punch a clock seem to find that it's the same everywhere. Still, there are plenty of people less placid than I. The things that merely make me chafe could make them punch more than just the clock. And if that happens, even Republicans might have to sit up and take notice.

The Vent

17 September 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill