A Self-Reflecting Case Study in HR

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I have certifications in the human resources field – far more than I get to put to use in my current job. Keep that in mind here. I know many people, especially of my overqualified and underemployed generation, can understand that.

There have been studies done on turnover (that is, the rate at which people quit their jobs) in slaughterhouse and meat packing jobs. It’s mentally rough to adapt to and the training is more about overcoming the associations than learning the physical tasks. Turnover in poultry plants is far higher than in mammal plants. Can you guess why?

It’s because it takes one person to repeatedly debone chickens throughout a day. It takes multiple people to cut up a cow or pig. A job that takes multiple people meets the crucial step from the “survival” to “happiness” chunks of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – beyond food, shelter, clothing, and safety, it creates a social environment.

There have been a series of changes in department structure and desk arrangements that removed the two people closest to me, and now I’m sitting in a corner mostly alone. I can hear other people’s conversations, and easily get up and walk around when I have a moment, but I’m not in a physical situation conducive to social interaction. I’ve been increasingly miserable throughout the day. I’m by myself, gutting chickens.

Beyond the issues I have with functions and structure and direction of my job and career (which existed long before this isolation) I now have the opportunity to sit here and cry all day without anyone noticing. Such was my day yesterday. Now I’ve run out of tissues.

I should hop across the street to buy some more at the store, come to think of it.

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WTF Democracy Part 3

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A third issue with democracy: land versus people.

A common topic brought up in US politics is the structure of the senate: two senators per state. This is not representation divided into districts of similar populations. Wyoming has the same number of senators as California, with 1% of its population. This is skewed, obviously, but I can sympathize with its setup as a matter of space.

I live in a generally underpopulated province (in a generally underpopulated country) but with a vast amount of natural resources. Ontario has ten times Manitoba’s population, and so the federal government is way more influenced – in both the House of Commons and our very-different-from-the-US Senate – by them, proportionately. Per capita Manitoba has more space, more land, more natural resources than Ontario but Ontario could very well have more impact on the decision of what to do with that space. The constitutional scope of provincial versus federal government in Canada helps ease that, but there is still an imbalance in certain ways that can affect the land – which affects environmental issues and falling dominoes ensue.

Manitoba also has a higher portion of indigenous people in its population, and despite attempts at cultural genocide some of the traditional values of those peoples remain and are growing as a new era of cultural awareness and pride in heritage has begun. Within this diversity of cultures there is a common value that the land is a spirit, a consciousness, a god to which humans owe their gratitude. Animals are also a blessing to humans, who provide a gift and must be honoured and respected. The gist of those attitude has me reconsider democratic divvying by population alone: how much power does the land itself have in political decisions that affect it.

Many of the lower population American states are large in size – Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Alaska, the Dakotas – and contribute a lot of the land-based resources that human beings will always need above what highly populated places are known for, like LA and its entertainment industry and NYC and its financial market. Federal American decisions in the house of representatives (that makes up over 80% of congress) reflect population proportions. The purpose of the Senate is as a safeguard, another step bills have to go through, and should be structured differently to ensure another angle of scrutiny. So while it may be mathematically “undemocratic” to have two senators for WY and two senators for NY it helps balance power for the agricultural, geographical, and ecological diversity in the country. Most of the world is urban, now, and that is on the rise. The people who work the land to sustain both urban and rural populations for basic needs in complex societies can’t be silenced.

And even still, the land itself isn’t getting a voice even if sparse states are represented disproportionately high. The people in these states, the senators they elect, may be biased towards short-term gains in abusing this land and that is also in conflict with the common indigenous values towards nature. Democracy is based on an unconscious assumption that the people own the world, rooted in the given-from-(the)-god(s) mentality brought across the Atlantic from the Old World. We can take time to listen to the land more carefully in making political decisions yet we’re stuck on the notions of economic growth that is really of superficial benefit past a certain point. The land is going to have the last word no matter what. Global warming would happen without people but it might not happen so violently if there weren’t so many people whose lives depended on it not happening. There wouldn’t be so many of these people if we didn’t obsess over man-made issues like employment as if they were the old-as-time absolute factors of human life that we think they are. We are not bigger than the planet we live on; we are much, much smaller.

If trees could vote…

WTF Democracy Part 2

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A second issue with democracy: sex scandals.

My sexual morals are becoming looser – or at least more sympathetic – as political sex scandals continue to thrive.

That Anthony Weiner continued his technology-based adultery after resigning from congress with the first scandal (which in my opinion he shouldn’t have done – finish the term and let voters decide then if that was the deal-breaker) is only relevant in political terms because of the story in People magazine that he was a changed man. But he was under political pressure to put on that kind of PR because people cared about his sex life to begin with – and they shouldn’t have. He also shouldn’t have stupidly tweeted a picture of his landscape in underwear to someone, but that’s to be weighed against how well he’s served his constituents and how functional he is as a politician. That he was vocal and stood his ground with the people on so many things should be a bigger factor in evaluating his credentials as an elected public servant. That he first lied about the original Weiner Weiner scandal is something to take issue with, but again less important than the non-personal, impactful things he’s told the truth on when others didn’t.

And talking about his wife standing by him through this is really none of anyone’s business. If you think it reflects poorly on her character as weak and foolish then you should listen to a wider range of opinions to see if they sway or enlighten you in any way. His wife is an ambitious person with the career she’s embarked on, serving as an aide to Hilary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. There are a lot of comparisons you can make between her and Hilary Clinton. They’ve both stood by their cheating husbands under public scrutiny. You can speculate about whether this is just for show or make judgments on their strength of character (but I’m pretty sure the evidence would be against you if you think Clinton isn’t a strong woman because she stuck with her husband) but that is just your speculation. And you’re not looking at an alternative answer for why there is still marital solidarity on the surface, and maybe even still at the core of their relationship: it’s an open relationship most strongly tied by factors other than sex.

There was a recent documentary series on Bill Clinton that I only got to watch a few minutes of, but it was on his earlier life and the beginning of his political career, including how he met, married, and worked with Hilary Rodham. There was clearly a passion for politics and principles and change that lured these two to each other and solidified their relationship. Bill of course has a reputation of another passion that lures him to others but that might not be a problem with Hilary. They may have come to an understanding at some point early on, long before the entire country knew about them, that keeps their shared principles and political drives as the primary bond in their marriage. Open marriages are real. They can function. And it seems that people who enter public office or who have the ambition to work their way up to be a high-end public servant just might have more important things to base their marriage on than sex. Hilary may have been a mentor to Huma Abedin in more than just a political role, and Huma should be evaluated from her own career instead of her choice to stay with her husband.

Moving on: Elliot Spitzer. Another shamed New York politician who resigned from a sex scandal looking to take office (a much more boring office) in the NYC elections. He resigned as governor of New York for two reasons: 1) Albany sucks and 2) he was caught with prostitutes. He was forgiven enough to get a gig as a news commentator on CNN and whatever else he’s done with his career since. Lying and covering things up again is a bigger problem than being with prostitutes in and of itself, but what matters most to me is that he is complacent with prostitution being outlawed and stigmas remaining harsher on women who are prostitutes than men who are clients of them. Prostitution should be legalized, unionized, regulated, and taxed to turn it into a profession that contributes to the economy and can maintain healthy and safe environments for sex workers. The adulterous aspects of people like Spitzer using services should, well, see above.

I will admit that on Real Time with Bill Maher last week, Rula Jebreal made a fair comment that adultery and other acts that would cause public scandal affect political suitability for candidates because of their susceptibility for extortion. This is a very plausible consequence, although I would argue the solution is to stop ruining politicians’ careers because of it. Extortion leads to fraud, embezzlement, and cronyism to meet the demands of those manipulating high political leaders, but even without sex scandals that may have happened anyway. Former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi did all sorts of corrupt things as the megalomaniac millionaire and has been tried and convicted of fraud AND paying for sex with a minor. If a politician is charged with a criminal act, tried and found guilty, THAT is the kind of scandal that should void his career. (Sadly, in Berlusconi’s case, it really hasn’t.) He’s said and done things that expose how he’s unfit for public service – Il Duce apologist, tax evasion, cronyism including getting his mistress in office – and that’s separate from the reasons his wife sought divorce and made a spectacle of it. But still, with this exposure of character, the public voted for him because he refused to resign. Perhaps the same thing would’ve happened with Weiner as a congressman and Spitzer as a governor.

Mark Sanford, former Governor of South Carolina who went missing on a walk down the Appalachian Trail that later turned out to be a woman in Argentina, got elected into public office again this year. His wife didn’t stand by him. He never apologized for falling in love with another woman and cheating on his wife while in office. He’s also a Republican, as opposed to Weiner and Spitzer, and got re-elected. Berlusconi is also a right-of-centre politician (as a Mussolini apologist would be) and has been re-elected despite scandal. Why is it that the supposedly more accepting and liberal side of the political spectrum gets in bigger shit for this behaviour than others?

On a final short local note of this long run-on sentence, I’d like to bring up a local example. Pro-business Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz got divorced from the mother of his two children while in office then remarried someone decades younger than him. It was a bit of a local scandal, but he hasn’t resigned and I don’t think he lost any supporters for that. He has also been under scrutiny for conflict-of-interest practices with his own businesses and does things for his wealthy buddies instead of the public he’s supposed to serve, so his private life should have nothing to do with people’s opinion of him as a mayor. It certainly isn’t an issue with me and why I don’t want him in office.

Alright, wrapping it up – expecting elected officials to be morally pure instead of caring about their corruption and other political practices in conflict with things that actually affect the public isn’t using democracy very well. It’s holding them to the standards of being without sin, holy and pious, and therefore someone whom a Western Christian-based nation can worship like in absolute monarchies where the rulership is not determined by public interest but appointment from God. It’s not much of a democracy when the empowered people don’t affect the political goings-on but just shame people like Puritans calling for witches to be burnt. Don’t let their sex lives distract you from what elected officials are trying to do to your sex lives – and freedoms and dignity and body in general.

WTF Democracy Part 1

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“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work.” – Kent Brockman, The Simpsons

Tunisia was the biggest promise, a small chance to provide an example of smooth transition into legitimate democracy across the Arab world. No dice. Opposition politicians being assassinated. Egypt isn’t quite ready to accept the result of an election and the military is still allowed to act when the people call for change. (I’m very reluctant to say “on behalf of the people” because who knows just how widely the military’s actions are reflective of Egyptian citizens.)

I wrote a series of tweets this morning on the obsolesence of “treason” as a crime in countries (like the United States) that so proudly and loudly declare they’re based on defending freedoms, and that as a democracy the people rule the government that rules them. Accountability and transparency remain noble concepts but have become empty words. The United States has said that if they get their hands on Edward Snowden they will not seek the death penalty when he’s tried. I’m against the death penalty, bottom line, but even if I weren’t I would wonder why something that cost no one their life should be turned, by the state, into something that does. Treason doesn’t work with democracy and freedoms because everyone is allowed to say that they don’t like their country. The intent to aid and abet those who commit actual crimes against people or the state is separate from simply criticizing the nation. Exposing confidential information is a crime in itself, but nobody is holding anyone in the government body deciding to gather this information or keep it secret from the public accountable for their side of this crime. Exposing confidential information isn’t treason. It’s not a violent crime unless it’s done with the intention of driving the population towards violence, much like how war criminals are mass murderers who probably never killed a person directly but ordered it en masse. This too is not treason. Treason shouldn’t exist when there’s no absolute ruler and the freedom to speak against the state that is constitutionally bound to respect those freedoms.

This is just the first issue that shows how democracy has evolved into, or rather returned to, not-democracy with a good costume designer – or, if this is still considered democracy, that it’s not as perfect of a political system as we may think. I don’t mean that it was ever guaranteed to work perfectly, because that would require perfection of the citizens, but that it’s held in moral absolutism as the best political system needs to be seriously questioned. A democracy over 200 years going shouldn’t still charge people with treason.

Tomorrow (or later today; I’m in a writing mood): WTF Democracy Part 2

Writing Not to be Read

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I’ve been writing more privately. On my trip I used a bookstore’s washroom and felt obliged to buy something, so I bought miniature notebooks and started to write. I wrote more while drunk on that trip, and a little while sober, all on a common topic.

Then I tore the pages of that common topic to shreds and threw it out in various garbages at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport.

The writing was bad, for one thing. For another thing the only person who would ever read it is me and I don’t need to be reminded of what will persistently be in my head for a long time. This was intensely personal and that sticks with me.

Yet I’m trying it again on a computer. (After all, I love both paper and typing.) I’m trying it as a narrative starting with the larger issues of other people and keeping my own brain out of it. I’m trying to map out the network of problems the people around me have to make my own problems seem a little more petty.

It’s a practice in style as well. I want to read through this and overcome the complex emotions by liking how it’s written. There’s a problem with not being read by more critical eyes, but narcissism is a skill set I can put to use.

Managing both a need to write privately and a goal to write publicly is a challenge much like getting myself to run in the evenings when I already walked a lot to and from work. But I need to force myself out in multiple directions to convince myself I’m a real person. Writing about other people in private will likely do more for making myself feel real than any public interaction, like traveling, when I need to keep my mind inside my head.

You can’t be aware of yourself without focusing on other people. By writing about them.

V isn’t only for Victory

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Time Magazine should get their cover story ready months in advance to declare “The Vagina” as Person of the Year. Of course Ms. Vagina has been in the spotlight for longer – famously in the US campaign season of 2012 – but with tampons being confiscated at protests and the first British throne-heir to be delivered in the age of the being born today there has been quite a level of influence from the Vagina in our global politics.

The Vagina has deserved this for a long time. It’s not just the controversies or big wins of this past year – the vagina has been a major player in all world events since well before Time Magazine ever started. The very invention, purely innovative and unique, of the bipedal thigh spreading is quite the human accomplishment – and all thanks to natural selection guided by the Vagina.

This is not the first royal baby to come from the Vagina. Most have, in fact. The Vagina is so powerful that even most gay men, naturally averse to this type of figure, have been touched by it (literally) as early as birth. Misogynists have the Vagina to thank for their means of coming to life AND for their sanctimonious purpose in life. Even the Virgin Mary had to use the Vagina, as much as the Catholic Church likes to mask its dignified role in the foundations of the world’s largest religion.

Why wait for Time Magazine to come out in December? Let’s celebrate the Vagina as we should celebrate life – frequently, respectfully, and hygienically.

Worth It, Knock on Wood

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Back from vacation! It was burning hot with a burning sun most of the time. I spent most of my hours outdoors in that weather and walked a lot for even me – to the point that two of my toes exploded with blisters.

Ahem. Anyway.

I spent too much time in each city. I should’ve cut them down by one day each and either come home earlier and relaxed a bit more, or gone somewhere else for that time saved. I didn’t exhaust things to do there, or even things I may have wanted to do, but I’m a restless person when on the move and traveling in my own country affords me to revisit places in case I missed something from the first time there.

I brought back few souvenirs, none of them specific to the cities I was in, and I’m sifting through a couple thousand photos. A friend always sends me postcards for some reason, so I sent him and his boyfriend one from each place. (I even managed to buy the stamps at a Montreal post office en français!) No keychains, no pens, no plush toys of something stereotypical like a beaver or statuette of men wrestling in maple syrup. I met and shared space with people with different arrival and departure dates than me. I don’t know if I made friends, and someone out there may think I’ve made an enemy, but I had opportunities to sleep in a jail cell, insult a non-existing football team, and stumble to the corner store for the second six-pack of beer that night in a city where that’s possible.

Worth the trip, overall. Worth all the walking, worth the blisters, worth the money spent on food and alcohol even though not all of it was that good. Worth the sweating in the sun, the waiting at the airports and train station, and the money that was spent on what I was waiting there for.

I’ll see tomorrow if it was worth abandoning work for a week when I find out what happened to all of the shitstorms I left and I predicted would happen when gone. Or, to put it another way, I’ll find out if my job is worth sticking to for 50 weeks of the year if it can manage me being gone for one.