Let’s just say that there were some stark clues early on that I wasn’t cut out for the corporate suit and tie. I was and am one of those odd sorts that cannot and will not politely paint over hypocrisy and deception, especially when it arrives in pretty packaging from “leadership.” And any seasoned recruiter with my resume in hand would arrive at that same conclusion.
Those early days of indoctrination came in the form of a lavishly appointed hotel where our marketing team was sequestered for a few days of consultative sales training. We were taught that selling really wasn’t really about the hard sale, it was more about becoming a trustworthy partner with the prospective client. The trust rests on a thorough understanding of the client’s problem.
And once that sense of trust is established, I learned, pop-goes-the-weasel: I am there to ladle out the client’s solution in the form of our company’s service offering. But silly me, I read too much into the consultative part and figured that as a well-informed consultant I might see a better solution for the client, one offered by our competition.
To be fair, my truth-telling campaigns were delicately titrated to my mortgage payments at any given time. There were plenty of sacrifices. No regrets though. Perhaps now more than ever I nurture the discipline of being an independent thinker, an observer.
It’s tough to stay on the sidelines in an era of tribal affiliation. You declare a side. You learn your team’s mantra. You’ve got friends, maybe even thousands of online followers who will applaud you saying, “right on, brother, sister — keep speaking the truth. It’s the only thing keeping this country together.” You seem to be on the winning side of the fence, the side of moral certainty.
Not so fast. To paraphrase a Taoist saying: “whether you go up or down the ladder, as long as you are on the ladder your position is shaky.”
I couldn’t help but smile when I read Peter Boghossian’s resignation letter. He had been a member of faculty at Portland State University for 10 years. He was swimming against the tide and was exhausted. The campus culture has become a “social justice factory” and when topics of race and gender arose (he taught philosophy) he was supposed to recite the mantra from university leadership, or as he more eloquently put it, “mimic the moral certainty of idealogues.” What he could not do was openly question the ideology and fulfill his role to “create the conditions for rigorous thought” in his classroom.
The fear-driven mob dynamics of digitized social media have slithered their way onto college campuses and into corporate boardrooms. What led to Jennifer Sey’s resignation as global brand president at Levi Strauss & Co.is another story of how trust is actively eroding in our institutions. A clear sign that Rome is burning.
Levi’s, headquartered in San Francisco, has been a bulwark for liberal social policies like gun control, abortion rights, sexual and gender equality, and racial justice. Jennifer had moved up through the ranks during her 20 years there, openly sharing her distaste for Trump and support for Democratic candidates. Considered loyal until she found herself on the wrong side of the fence on the issue of public-school closures due to COVID-19 in 2020. She publicly advocated for their opening and even moved her family to Denver so that her kids could attend school. She was accused of being racist because the San Francisco schools have a large Latino and Black population. Human Resources advised her to do an “apology tour.”
Jennifer’s refusal to accept a $1 million severance package buoyed my faith in mankind (oops, humankind). The money came with strings attached: she could not share her story. (No doubt she had tucked away a few dollars but it reads well just the same).
Peter and Jennifer will be able to pay their bills and so will I. The elites from both the Church of Woke and MAGA movement will most certainly be able to pay their bills, and even more, will make it possible for their bunkers to be filled with loot — before the entire infrastructure heaves and collapses.
You don’t have to put your job on the line to locate and express that singular voice. You were doing it in kindergarten; no one drew a bunny rabbit quite like you. We just have to remember what that felt like.
After years of globetrotting, Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Renew News: usrenewnews.org.