Years ago at work, there was an election for a leadership position. There were two candidates: a very experienced, knowledgeable, competent, feminist woman and a flamboyant, narcissistic, pudgy, outsider man with no requisite experience but with a lot of fake charm and some authoritarian tendencies.
I swear to God I’m not making this up. This all happened. There are people reading this right now who were there, and they will confirm I’m telling the literal truth. We can disagree on interpretations (e.g. he wasn’t pudgy, he was overweight.) But the facts are these.
I strongly voiced my opposition to the outsider. I was loud and obnoxious about being opposed to him because I usually am loud and obnoxious anyway. The people’s vote went to the woman. But the man won on a technicality. I swear, folks, I’m not making this up.
We were all upset. This was a sensitive time for us for many reasons, and we wanted the candidate we knew was competent to guide us through it. But. . . it wasn’t meant to be. The pudgy fellow with a comb-over and a much younger wife (no, seriously, it’s all true, and it happened many years ago) took the office.
On the day that happened, I stopped being upset about it. The pudgy fellow as our leader was now a fact of objective reality and militating against that reality seemed like a waste of time. I found a way to work very productively with this new boss. I learned how to co-exist with his. . . erm. . . peculiarities, and we never had a problem, not once. We didn’t become bosom buddies, I never compromised my integrity or moral character (which was something that this person thrived on), I was always completely open and honest about everything with everybody. But I worked very well and very productively during those years and got this fellow to assist me in everything I needed.
Some people – not everybody but a couple of folks – started something like a resistance. Which, thank God in heaven, they didn’t call that. But that’s what it was. Everything he said, did or suggested was sabotaged or greeted with mute resentment and avoidance. This understandably drove the guy crazy. I had been opposed to him as a candidate but I started feeling pity for the fellow who would suggest something really trivial and completely uncontroversial only to be actively sabotaged again, and again, and again. Please understand that he was somebody I actually knew, and even though I hadn’t liked him as a candidate, I could see he was suffering and I couldn’t avoid feeling compassion. I don’t like to see people suffer.
The result of all this was pretty lousy for all of us. I don’t want to go into details because the post is already too long. Plus it got to the point where the legal system got involved, and I don’t want to get in the middle of courtroom drama. But it all stank to high heaven, and even now, years later and several bosses since, the damage is still there.
And then years passed, and something similar happened in national politics. I’m one of those sentimental doofuses who actually cried when I read Hillary’s concession speech. I had to read and not watch because I was afraid I’d have a fit of hysterics if I had to actually see it. This was a big, big, big letdown.
It took me about two days to get over it. After that, I accepted the facts of objective reality and saw no reason to keep seething, fretting or emoting in any way about them. So it happened. It stinks. Now let’s see what use can be derived out of it, how the bad can be mitigated and the good can be promoted. This is what I actually call politics both at work and in actual politics. Taking a sub-optimal situation – because that’s what there normally is in life – and turning it around to maximize what I believe is good and right.
Unfortunately, though, this vision of politics is outdated. As Zygmunt Bauman warned, the space of public interaction has been turned into the arena for the outpourings of the heretofore deeply private. It’s not about getting anything done. It’s about having a chance to emote in as public way as possible.
I apologize for the uncharacteristically long post. I will now go back to publishing cute stories about Klara, dieting, and productivity planners.