Monday, April 23, 2007

Reach Out and Slap Someone

Cherry blossom season in Brooklyn's Prospect Park

Tyranny survives on excess. When there is so much decadence as to overflow consciousness and the sense of right action, there tends to be stasis in response. Who can possibly keep up with this stream of corruption, this endless line of neocon criminals, without a scorecard and a very strong stomach? How many more neocon Congressmen are facing indictment or investigation now? How many more are already in jail or been forced out of their cozy offices to sit on the sidelines, covered in lucre? How much longer can we assume that the poor dumb brushcutter and the clueless quailshooter and the vapidly smiling sycophant general were mere ignorant bureaucrats amidst all this?

Indeed, who can possibly keep up with it all? How can we possibly fend off the dreary resignation of apathy amid this storm of corruption? The President and his cronies all say they know nothing, did nothing, and that we can't prove anything against them. Who could possibly sort through it all to make a case that couldn't be riddled with the man-made holes of reasonable doubt?

So John Q's natural reaction is to fold up the newspaper with a shudder and turn to his one certainty in life, the in-tray or the next meeting or the round of tasks facing him amid his Monday mental haze. Or else he might simply turn the paper over and check the ball scores and the latest sports rumors, about which a safe and sure opinion may be held. That Barry Bonds, at 740: does he even deserve to sniff Hank Aaron's jockstrap, let alone break his records? The Commissioner must do something, put dark asterisks next to all those 'roided up HRs. Oh, but Bonds has lawyers, too, just like the Bushies—he could use threats and the media in his favor, just like they do in Washington...ugh, doesn't anything make simple sense anymore?

This excess, the profusion of folly and deceit, which distorts vision and frustrates every attempt at redress through its mere overwhelming and ever-expanding insanity, is a daily corporate reality for many of us. Our corporate speech is laden with symbols of excess: we brain-storm a situation for which a brain-shower would be amply sufficient (and, in fact, more appropriate). We try to hit the proverbial home-run with our presentation, when our audience would actually be most comfortable with a mere single. We "get all over" a problem that really calls for more of a gentle brush.

Even our warm and fuzzy, touch-someone metaphors are riven with excess. Consider one of the more currently popular phrases, "reach out." I had the following conversation with an office manager last year, as I was starting a new consulting gig.

ME: Do you think they might get a laptop to me by the end of the week? I'm supposed to be on a conference call Saturday that will require a VPN hookup.

MGR: Don't worry, I think you'll be fine. I've reached out to our IT Manager, and cc'd my boss and his VP on the email. Now he knows that if the order's not done by Friday, it's going over his head. Sometimes you just have to scare people, y'know?

Wow, now that's "reaching out", huh? With a set of brass knuckles, that is.

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