The Amish logic and work ethic mentioned in a previous post ran smack dab into its direct opposite when my daughter became an employee of corporate America or Big Business (BB).
Because she came fully equipped with her Amish mother’s practical, rational, literal Amish logic and learned that if something was worth doing it was worth doing right, she naturally applied these qualities to any job. After some time, though, it became apparent that BB operated according to a different standard. In fact, it seemed as if the irrational biblical Egyptians of Exodus had taken over BB.
After working her way through high school and an associate’s degree from a small business school, my daughter was hired to work in the finance department of a snack food company in eastern Pennsylvania. It was a small-town business where the CEOs seemed to recognize and valued their employees as people. But when that small business was gobbled up by BB, she became a number instead of a person, and, a short while later the small-town business was relocated. She, along with about one hundred other people, lost her job.
Her next job (the only one she could find at the time) was an entry-level job at a BB-owned retail store where she put that Amish logic and work ethic to work unloading trucks and stocking inventory. There she discovered that the hierarchical decisions handed down from BB headquarters had an unreasonable, irrational, biblical-Egyptian flavor.
It was not enough for employees to do the job for which they were hired but, apparently, each employee was also responsible for helping the entire store meet its daily sales quota. BB, apparently, expected all “team members” to follow each and every “guest” around the store piling items into their shopping carts so that they would carry out stuff they didn’t know they needed or wanted. The only thing BB cared about, apparently, was their irrationally projected profit margins.
Not only that, they demanded more of these irrational results from fewer payroll hours, insufficient or malfunctioning equipment, and despite other irrational decisions handed down from BB CEO’s. In the words of the biblical Egyptians, they were expected to “Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.”1
It was not until 2009 that I learned such irrationality was typical of BB. In Bright-Sided, Barbara Ehrenreich outlines “how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America.” in her usual straightforward style, Ehrenreich says that throughout the 1990’s BB was, apparently, “relieved of any concern for employees, customers, and society as a whole, ’corporations degenerated into mere ‘aggregations of financial assets’ to be plundered, disaggregated, or merged into one another at will.”2
Aha, so that was what was happening. That explains the collapse of the irrationally run BB companies such as Enron and WorldCom. If BB has swallowed the positive-thinking jargon, worships profit margins, and believes that companies can be run with spiritually based, mind-over-matter ideals instead of sticking to logic and the rational literalness of facts and figures, then it’s not surprising that Enron and WorldCom collapsed, is it?
Individuals may be able to live their entire lives in deluded irrationality but it seems abundantly clear that positive thinking and irrational delusions will only get you so far. The rational, logical Amish work ethic has survived for centuries but Big Business seems poised to experience the same ending as their irrational biblical counterparts within the span of a few decades.
And, in case you do not know what happened to those biblical Egyptians—their economy collapsed as their entire workforce walked off their jobs, away from their homes, and out of the country. And the BB security force? Well, they all drowned. Along with the national guard, the armed forces, and everyone else mobilized to chase down the thousands of fleeing workers.
1. Holy Bible. Exodus 5.18.
2. Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, 109. New York: Metropolitan Books. 2009.