One should give it a rat's ass. And that's enough.
A mysterious thing happens to me and my girlfriend recently.
As she is climbing up on the corporate ladder, with me going down on the “doomed” freeway of nerdly pursuit with no conceivable exit, instead of having less and less in common, we are indulged by some curious dumb luck with a new common topic, --- oh, yes, not alien at all --- politics.
Although there is little doubt that most of the time we’re not talking about the same kind of politics, if it’s still the same thing.
More specifically, what intrigues her is the so-called nasty “office politics”, which, destined at the moment of this term’s coinage, involves backstabbing and cutthroat, while I’m attracted, trouble-invitingly, by the lofty notion of politics preached by ancient minds, to which her attitude has always been “I don’t think anyone gives a rat’s ass”
Sometimes when our newly-found common interest quite predictably disintegrates into a deadlock, I would wonder: Is there really no common ground between these two kinds of politics?
Or what is politics?
While fully aware that a definition has been attempted by an endless supply of mortals, among whom there are even names that are immortal, I still would like to try my hands to twist the tail of this dragon, which must be as old as the time, at least as old as the time blessed to human being.
Politics, to me, is what is created by the situation when people from different places, with different beliefs (usually all it takes is just different people) have to work together and many of the problems this situation entails. 90% of the time politics means the problems it entails.
If one, such as me, trusts this definition, then to him, politics per se is neither ideal nor nasty. There is only good politics or bad politics, and more importantly there will always be good political environment or bad political environment.
Good political environment is when Steve Jobs quit his Big Brother job in Apple (pun intended), the water-cooler talk at your company, which has nothing to do with Apple except that everybody is using it, would not take that tone “See! I told you. He’s another sacrifice under the power redistribution warfare in big corporate giant”. And your “best buddy in the office” would not prolong this conversation into some did-you-hear-that-who-and-who-have-a-long-standing-beef-and-you-should-know-how-to-choose-the-right-side-and-whose-ass-to-kiss gossipy lecture.
Good political environment is when a skinny kid with a funny name like me walks into a classroom as a teacher, while inevitably being subject to the judgment “Oh, he’s so young” or inexperienced, maybe, he still gets the chance to be tried out solely based on the teaching skills, and the ability to help students achieve what they expect to achieve or even what they’ve never expected in the first place.
Good political environment is when someone who has, in his whole life, never got a chance to talk to any gay man, says “I don’t like gay and I think they are strange”, and you start to explain to him that being gay is no more a choice to that person than it’s a choice to be a man, he would listen to you with respect, even though not completely without doubt. In the end, both of you would agree that it’s still funny to laugh at some gay men for their lack of manhood and preference of girlie couture, but it would be downright wrong to say they are not decent human being just because of their sexuality, let alone to hate them.
Good political environment, put in one sentence, is when you say "Politics, I don't give a rat's ass", you mean it as a real option, instead of a mere 'throwing in the towel' gesture after constant frustration.
Unfortunately, chances are healthy political environment like these usually could not be afforded by the reality. Just like what they say about "not being political is a form of being political" actually means "No such thing as a ringside seat when it comes to choosing side."
And when that happens, instead of getting angry for a reasonable while and starting to find a solution, some of us would start to predict Armageddon, like one hardass problem can justify their disdaining of everything.
What's worse, sometimes they effectively turn into a kid suffering diarrhea, instead of going to the bathroom, he shits his pants and cries for revenge, glaring at anyone who dares to stand close as if they’re the maker of his own trouble.
It's one thing to bash your government for its absurdity. It's whole another thing, most of the time very dangerous, to use that as a disguise and pretend that's a license for peeing everywhere with your adolescence anger.
Today during lunch I asked my girlfriend: some say when the system is corrupted and without remedy from within, you’ve got to learn to be the bad guy and work the system, taking advantage of it. And when you get to the very top, you can start to clean it inside out. What do you make of this mentality?
She said, while someone is working the system and rising up in the way you describe, he’s sending out a pretty strong and negative message at the same time: being corrupted works and one benefits from it handsomely. Even though he implements his plan perfectly, the ripple effect caused by him in his way up would lay down a de facto cost that is too insurmountable to cover. That’s before one even starts to factor in the cost of reformation.
Then I asked my fair lady, who is an in-house auditor: suppose two alleged frauds start to surface in your company. One could be disastrous to the whole company but the person responsible is the CEO’s protégé, while the other is slightly less dangerous but the person responsible has been a pain in the ass for the CEO (excuse me for the layman talk). Both cases need in-house auditors’ further examination. How would you decide? Would you take one for the team and put the greater good before your career? Or would you focus on the very survival of yourself in the company?
She said, well, let’s face it. It’s a problem caused by the design of the system as well as by men. We used to report to CFO, a practice which a lot of companies are still following, but now we report to the CEO directly. Although putting auditor under the control of CEO might not be the best move, it’s still better than throwing us at the mercy of CFO, who would have our hands tied before we even have the chance to touch the books, not to mention to collect evidence from some forefront as far away from the managing core as the operation department.
What she said instantly resonated with the feeling I have while reading 1984:
To construct a healthy political environment, it calls for in every one of us the very ability to see things as they’re getting better, rather than amplify dark side of everything and put on the rope of Savonarola instantly, every time something bad happens.
Merely 30 years ago our parents were still living under a government as oppressing as the one that watched Airstrip One.
Look at us now, the government is the same government, but we can walk the earth as free as any man in the world. Sure, they rip us off with taxation without representation. Sure, they fuck the housing market so they can set up charity for their trophy wives. But which country doesn’t have brain dead assholes one or two? And morons stink the world, set us alarmed and start to work on the fixing, but morons don’t wipe out the world.
Out of control anger does.
Come on, the world could not afford another homophobia god who floods the earth whenever he gets upset. The laziness that gets satisfied by easy and comfortable solution might as well create a provincial mob-turned deity.
Call me naïve and stupid idealistic, but from where I sit, all I see is people with families to care, with children to raise, of whom they expect the best and to whom they'd like to give a better world, a world which they are building piece by piece with their own hands, a world which is hard to reach but as long as you are trying, it is sure to come. The last thing they want is social catastrophe.
They're people like our parents, people dubbed by Barack Obama as the "quiet heroes", people Jon Stewart called the "real people with real problems" and happy to find, if imperfect,solutions, "the 80 percenters" who have no time to care about politics because have f@*king jobs to do.
I believe all they want is not much, a little change would help. Namely, voice be heard and promise be delivered.
The government may not be good to us. But the nation, the men and women who build it, who shape it, have been good to us. We owe them one. We owe them one healthy political environment in which they can really ‘don’t give a rat’s ass to politics’.