“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, April 14, 2005

sympathy for marat

First: my source for the rumor about the NYT reporter in Mexico tells me that the reporter in question has gone back to the States. So the curious non-participation of the Times in this story has nothing to do with lack of Spanish. Second, to get a bead on the culture of our governing class – always an excursion into the farther reaches of psychopathology – LI urges our readers to scan the Daily Telegraph’s interview with Jack Welch. It is a marvel: unintentional black humor competes with mouth-aching sucking up to create the perfect caricature of the way we live: reactionary politics teetering on the edge of the unimaginable in the age of Bush. If this article were published in some socialist journal, it would be dissed as an unrealistic Marxist caricature of the uberrich. Ah, but those caricatures are, unfortunately for the rest of us, real, and they ride mankind. Here’s how the thing starts: “Jack Welch is calling for his housekeeper. ``Maria! Maria!'' he cries, until she appears at the kitchen door. ``Maria, can you describe, without giving away any of the details, what we did in there last night?'' he says, pointing towards the dining room of his Boston mansion.
``Last night,'' says Maria, a little nervously, ``I had an evaluation. And, er, it was very nice.''
Welch, arguably the world's greatest corporate leader, is telling me how to get the most out of one's domestic staff. The method is to write a point-by-point memo and talk them through it carefully. ``Everyone who worked for me at GE got one of those. Boom, boom, boom,'' he says. ``Just do it.''

LI immediately got down to it and called our domestic staff (Maria, Snoopy Dogg Dogg, and Tatiana) on the carpet, and boom boom boom we proceded with the strip search and the video (which we will put up later, only $19.95). But to continue...

Having been wrongfooted by this Ruling Class intro, Melissa Whitworth, the interviewer (who seems more familiar with “one’s domestic staff” than with anything so banal as business – she apparently believes that when Welch took charge of GE it was an “ailing US corporation”) digs a lot of fascinating fascism at the micro level out of old Neutron Jackypoo, as he encourages Maria to call him on her off hours:
`This book is not bulls--t,'' he says bluntly. ``It is not about work/life balance in the language of the company brochure: `We'll allow you so many flexi-days, this and that' '' - Welch blows a raspberry - ``It's about real life, and that's what I'm talking about.''
The trick, Welch explains, to managing your cleaner or au pair is to master the communication skills a successful manager would use in the workplace. Just last night, he and his wife went through a written work appraisal with their own staff: Maria and the Welches' driver, Vincente, sat down together and talked things through. ``We wrote down what we really love about them and we said some things that we thought they could improve,'' says Welch. ``But we always start with all the things they do right.''
There are those who claim that capitalism reflects merit – the best rise to the top. How, then, do you explain the porcine nature of Wentworth’s interviewee? I prefer Acton’s explanation – power corrupts, and absolute power over one’s domestic staff corrupts absolutely. The article actually gave us hope that revolution isn’t dead – after reading about Welch’s power point personality, the idea of putting the heads of a few CEOs on pikestaffs takes on a strangely attractive quality.
Excuse us, now, as we explain to Tatiana the finer points of getting down on her knees and scrubbing the kitchen floor.

3 comments:

Brian Miller said...

The sense of smug entitlement, rationalized through "management science" is amazing, isn't it?

I'm not sure I believe in a "socialist" revolution by any means (wouldn't you agree that in a socialist world Mr. Welch would rise to become a senior "Party" functionary-and that political functionaries may be the only class worse than the plutocracy) but I do agree that severly pruning our corporate monstercrats would be...nice :)

roger said...

Brian, I think there is a pretty broad spectrum between socialist revolution and idolizing such as Welch. Myself, I'm a J.P. Morgan socialist -- the banker once said he thought the manager of a company should earn about ten times more than the average worker. Since the figure is now four hundred times, well... we can draw our own conclusions.

The reality is, every economy is mixed. So the issues are all in the mixing -- and there aren't any universal principles, as far as I can see. There are things private enterprise does superbly, and then stops doing superbly, for various reasons -- the scale of the market changes, monopoly power, etc. There are things the state does superbly, and then stops doing superbly.

As far as the Welches go -- the need here is for constant, private SHAMING. Satire, insult, and general vilification -- regulation from no organized part of the culture, just an overwhelming urge to vomit at his parties. That's what I want to see.
Plus Maria slipping a laxative into his tea...

Brian Miller said...

I think you sum it up pretty good, Roger. We're probably pretty close :)

Of course, I'm a government worker, so what would I know. (Given the aggrevation he faces, I actually think my Department Director SHOULD earn ten times as much as I, but the figure's probably closer to twice as much)

My take on the matter is that the underlying problem is centralization of control and gigantism. That leads to not only gigantic egos, but also organizations that are so unwieldy that only a few people can even pretend to manage them. Hence, the price for their services skyrockets (it helps that Board are full of their friends and fellow class members, too :))