There are also, of course, the many daily reminders that we live, increasingly in a Dystopian Oligarchy. Haven’t most people, at some point, worked in an organization—corporate or volunteer or otherwise? There are lessons to be learned from that work.
I know first hand from my own time served in The Corporate World that the culture and tone of where we work is inevitably and absolutely set by the person at the top. I’ve seen it in academia, of course. (“Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small.”) Presidents of universities, department chairs, heads of administrative offices—all set a cultural tone for those who work there.
In almost every organization where I did my time as a marketing/communications exec, there was an absolutely radical change in tone during the time I worked here. As an older CEO was replaced by “new blood,” I watched an organization’s culture change on a dime from being mission-focused to becoming a culture of bottom line greed and cutthroat competition. And while we all—not only marketing, but everyone in the organization—were working with the same people we’d been working with before, all ostensibly engaged in the same mission, we were all taking our cues from above, and in every single instance the workplace became toxic and virtually intolerable.
I mention this because the United Airlines “forced volunteer” incident, and others, all emanate from the top, from the very apex of our own culture, The Presidency.
It’s not only that permission has been given to lie, cheat, and steal; to behave boorishly; to sew ME FIRST on your cap, and elbow your way along the sidewalk, it’s that within less than three months this behavior has become not only tolerated, but expected. Even as, for instance, Bill O’Reilly’s odious behavior and the cover-up are outed, it remained to make a difference because The Advertisers Left! Not because it was odious behavior. The behavior had begun to impact The Bottom Line! And why is that Fox Cultural Act really being cleaned up? There’s a pending sale of Sky that could hinge on corporate conduct. Of course.
What to do? Keep your chin up, remember to say Please and Thank You, smile at the occasional stranger, and do whatever you can to effectuate change. It’s a start.