Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cleansing...Will a Year Do It?

The time is approaching, apace, when I will no longer be obliged to lie about business. No longer will I be required to advocate for business models I abhor, pimp for marketing strategies I find personally offensive, and prevaricate in the name of business development.

This may be a good thing. Or it may be an opportunity for me to look inward and realize what a prostitute I have been for virtually all of my professional life.

As I recall, the first time I was expected to be the mouthpiece for a cause I found offensive was just before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The organization for which I worked at the time was petrified by the ADA. Its members felt like they were being targeted. They felt like the "disabled" were asking for too much and unwilling to pay for what they asked. They felt like they were being, spend money to make their places of business accessible without any reasonable justification for the requirement. After all, they reasoned, people in wheelchairs or people who were deaf and needed sign interpreters were unlikely to visit their places of business. Why spend money on accommodations when there was no one to accommodate?

Of course there was no one to accommodate. Absent accommodations, the people who really needed the accommodations weren't likely to be there, were they? And if they would come AFTER the ADA, it would only be to serve as needlers to the members I was representing.

Had I been blessed with balls and a strong sense of morality and personal responsibility, I would have fought the directive to defend members' positions. But I was ball-less and amoral. It was my job. I had to defend my employer. In hindsight, and in shame, I can say with conviction: "Bullshit!"

It didn't stop there, though. Aside from opposing ADA and arguing that the law was making too many unfunded demands, I argued that individuals who worked long hours for a single company doing the company's bidding should NOT be treated as employees. No, they should be classified as independent contractors because they agreed to be classified in that fashion when they were "engaged" by the business. No matter that they were bound to stay with home-bound people for 24 hours or 48 hours or more at a stretch, and no matter that their contracts provided that they would be paid only for 8 hours of work at a "contractor" rate within any 25 hour period. No, I was asked to...and I did...defend companies that didn't want the tax and administrative and insurance burden of employees. I was a peach, wasn't I? My morality was unmatched.

Looking back, I see hundreds of examples of abandoning my own principles and morals and sense of decency in favor of my employers' expectations. On those few occasions in which I argued as forcefully as I felt I could that my employers' positions were morally corrupt (even when I didn't use or suggest such terms), I was dismissed. "What's he gonna do, quit?" That's what the boards must have thought. If I had even a slim, brittle backbone, that's exactly what I would have done.

How can I make up for an entire life lived on the underside of morality? As much as I might want to do it, I don't know that I can.

The question is whether I can continue to live with the acknowledgement of my inability to made suitable amends to the world around me.

Maybe a year, more or less, on the road will allow me to clear my conscience. I guess we'll soon see.

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