Monday, June 7, 2010


As I'm sure everyone has noticed, I have not posted anything in several weeks. This is partially by design and partially by necessity.

In recent weeks, my impulse to write has ebbed. I am not ashamed to say it. To the contrary, I think it is only natural for me to take a long break after writing almost 3000 pages over the past 20 months. Spring and summer traditionally tend to weaken my urge to write. They always have. I've also been coping with crippling migraine headaches lately. But my reasons for curtailing my output now are more substantial than that.

About two months ago, I literally ran out of money. So for the last two months, I have scrambled to find ways to stave off my inexorable creditors. That cut into my writing routine. It also sapped my energy, since commercial venturing took my best time from me. In the past, I had all the time I needed to write. Now, I spend my freshest hours pursuing economic stability. That denies me my most creative time.

I do not regret this in the least. I have doggedly attended this blog since before Obama became President. I think I have largely addressed my life philosophy. I have done what I set out to do. This blog encapsulates my views on so many subjects. It is a living testament. I am proud of it.

On the other hand, I am not exactly the same person I was when I began writing this blog. In some ways, I feel like I am no different than I was on September 11, 2008. But so much has changed in my life since that day. While my core thoughts on many subjects have remained consistent throughout that time, my circumstances and life expectations have changed dramatically. I see no need to continue addressing issues that I have largely addressed in the past. I don't like repeating myself.

Yet my blog will never die. I will return to it from time to time in order to mark evolutions in my thinking. I do not want to obsess about it as I once did. Rather, I want to use my blog to annotate my life when I must. I want to control my blog, not the other way around.

I say that to clear the way for a larger endeavor. If my blogging experience instilled anything in me, it was writing discipline. When I get an idea, I follow through with it. I commit it to paper. And then I've captured it for all time. Applying that discipline, I assembled a formidable array of familiar themes that will guide me in future projects. I plan on writing three large pieces in the coming few years. In large part, they will draw from thematic material I have already explored in this blog. In that sense, I have already written the large pieces: You have already seen their roots right here in this blog. I just need to fill in the blanks now.

I have no intention to ever stop writing for good. I can't. I must do it. Convention appalls me too much to merely go through life in silence. No matter the literary medium I choose, I promise to continue critiquing, observing, satirizing, reminiscing, lamenting, analyzing and philosophizing.

I apologize to all those who have grown accustomed to daily posts. I have simply reached a new phase in my life and it is time for me to modify my writing accordingly. From today on, I plan to post on recent news when I can. I also plan on jotting down the occasional satire when something really tickles me. But I will conserve my main efforts for my larger works. Even then, I will give myself a very long break to reflect on what I plan to do before I sit down to write again.

I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts. You have gained an insight into how I think and how I perceive the world. And when my larger works appear, you will feel yourself in familiar territory. It all stems from this source. This is my testament. Thank you for sharing it with me.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010



By : Mr. Ronald F. Daggett, Assistant Deputy Vice President for Human Resources, The Cockland Group LLC, an Investment House specializing in service to the mortgage industry.

Cockland Group LLC is growing at a rapid pace. Since our founding in 2003, we have secured firm accounts with the Nation's largest mortgage sellers, including HSBC, Citigroup and Coldwell Banker. Our commitment to Absolute Client Satisfaction (ACS)™ is unparalleled. Our earnings have steadily risen in every consecutive quarter since our founding, even during some of the most challenging economic times in our Nation's history. We are proud of our accomplishments and we remain focused on our overriding goal: To deliver timely, effective, reasonable mortgage reinvestment services across the entire financial industry.

We could not have achieved these results without you, our employees. Here at Cockland management, we salute your dedication, hard work and passion for mortgage reinvestment services. At Cockland, it is not just about mortgages. It is about people™. Our people are the best. We know you know that, too. And we are thankful that you share our zeal for boundless client satisfaction. Because when great people serve great clients, everyone wins™.

We owe our success to our unique corporate culture. Cockland drives hard and plays hard. When we enter a market, we aim to penetrate and win. But when we relax, we relax with the same fervor we display when servicing an account. Cockland employees know how to please clients. And that is why clients keep coming back for more. Cockland delivers solid performance: Any time, anywhere--and for the best price™.

Nonetheless, not everyone can be a Cockland employee. We expect the best and we demand a lot. Sometimes it is difficult to overcome stiff competition in the mortgage client service market. We do not tolerate droopers or flaccid account service. Only the firmest survive at Cockland. Our employees don't back down. They stay on top of accounts until they are closed. Cockland employees are not timid. When we service accounts, we never pull out. We do not stop until our clients are completely satisfied™.

We also demand complete devotion to The Cockland Mission (TCM)™ (see employee manual, Chapter 2 for details). Being part of a winning team means the ability to play your position and to cheerfully receive instructions. Knowing your job is only half the battle; the other half is knowing how you fit on the ball club.

Attire is an important part of Cockland's success. Since our founding, we have insisted that every team member in the Cockland family wear either a white or blue button-down shirt at work. Button-down shirts show good taste and respect for client expectations. Clients in the mortgage industry wear button-down shirts. Typically, those shirts are white or blue. It only makes sense that we--as dedicated client service professionals--mirror their expectations. That is why we have always required our employees to wear white or blue button-down shirts. Sometimes conventions are essential. And this is one such instance.

Button-down shirts are vital to Cockland's special place in the mortgage service market. Yet the company has never endorsed an official policy expressing unconditional support for button-down shirts. We believe we have a duty as a company to reverse that trend. It is time for Cockland to recognize button-down shirts. And it is time for Cockland to make button-down shirts mandatory for all employees at the company. It is time to formalize.

From this day forward, every Cockland employee will be required to wear only blue or white button-down shirts while on company business. We refuse to acknowledge any exceptions to this policy. Every Cockland employee must certify that he or she will comply with this policy. He or she must further certify that failure to comply will result in immediate disciplinary action, up to and including docked pay and termination. Cockland must preserve its team spirit. And it must also maintain its winning attire-related traditions. That is why we hereby officially make blue and white button-down shirts a core element of Cockland culture. If Cockland employees cannot accept this, they can find employment elsewhere.

But this does not end Cockland's determination to inculcate attire discipline. In addition to requiring all Cockland employees to wear white or blue button-down shirts, all employees must also appropriately tuck their shirts into their pants.

Without appropriate tucking, blue and white button-down shirts mean nothing. Only a tucked-in button-down shirt can accomplish the goals Cockland expects. A tucked-in button-down shirt is absolutely vital to continued employment at Cockland. Inappropriately tucked and untucked button-down shirts reveal an inattention to personal excellence that is fundamentally inconsistent with Cockland's overriding commitment to unparalleled mortgage service. Our clients tuck in their shirts. All people worth anything in the world tuck in their shirts, too.

It would contravene our most basic company values to tolerate anything less than fully tucked-in shirts among our employees. For that reason, Cockland hereby requires all employees to certify not only that they will wear a blue or white button-down shirt every day at work, but that they will also appropriately tuck in their shirts. Failure to tuck in a shirt will result in immediate disciplinary action, up to and including docked pay and termination. Additionally, inappropriately tucked-in shirts will lead to the same consequences. Cockland simply cannot risk disappointing its clients by allowing employees to appear without immaculately tucked-in blue or white button-down shirts.

We recognize that these policy changes may appear harsh. We also recognize that employees may be confused about what it means to "tuck in" a button-down shirt or to "appropriately" tuck in a button-down shirt. In fairness to our employees, we wish to clarify these matters.

First, a "tucked-in button down shirt" means any button-down shirt the shirttails of which rest against the upper thighs, yet which are concealed and circumscribed at the top by a belt and trousers. As such, if a shirttail at any time appears outside the pants, the shirt is considered "not tucked-in" and will accordingly subject the offending employee to discipline.

Second, an "inappropriately tucked-in button down shirt" means a tucked-in button down shirt the tucking of which is not appropriate. "Appropriate tucking," in turn, means a tuck that does not result in ruffles, creases or otherwise slovenly shirt characteristics above the beltline. A tuck is only appropriate when the shirttails remain at all times below the beltline without bulging out, creasing or otherwise creating an unsavory appearance. The mere fact that an employee experiences "inappropriate tucking" because he or she sat down at a desk for too long does not cure the offense. An inappropriate tuck is an inappropriate tuck. Our clients expect the best from Cockland; and they do not forgive inappropriate tucking.

Neither do we. Inappropriately tucked-in button-down shirts will immediately subject the offending employee to discipline, up to an including docked pay and termination. We realize that compliance with appropriate tucking requirements may at times prove difficult. For that reason, management has decided to allow employees to cure inappropriate tucking by expeditiously removing all inappropriateness from their tucking within 30 seconds after discovering that their button-down shirts are inappropriately tucked. We believe that this rule both fairly allows for conscientious compliance at the same time it justly punishes flagrantly inappropriate tucking.

Cockland management is determined to realize excellence in all employee endeavors. That is why it has decided to implement these new rules concerning mandatory button-down shirt wearing and appropriate tucking effective immediately. Details may be found in the employee manual, Chapter 45, subsection 7(b).

Anyone who is anyone wears a blue or white button-down shirt every day. And anyone who is anyone appropriately tucks that shirt in; or at least corrects inappropriate tucking the moment it appears. At Cockland, we are committed to bringing maximal satisfaction to everyone who is anyone. That is why we must lead by example. That is why we must tuck in our shirts--appropriately.

If you don't like the rule, you shouldn't be on this team. So tuck in your shirt and start penetrating those accounts like a real Cocklander.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010



It astounds me how much material I can mine from newspapers. Every story is rife with hidden biases. Every perspective is jilted. Every judgment is faulty--at least from particular angles. My writing, too, is faulty from particular angles. But newspapers "disseminate information on a large scale." They even claim to publish "the truth." I make no such claim. I am just a lonely Nietzschean in a categorical world. My facts are my perspectives, no more. To say anything else would be presumptuous at best.

Yet I am not writing to attack factual inaccuracies in news reporting. Rather, I write to illustrate the ubiquitous, subtle value judgments that underlie even the most innocuous articles.

Last week, for instance, the New York Post ran a brief article about the new "Limelight Mall" that opened in the old Episcopal church on 6th Avenue. See N.Y. Post, May 8, 2010 at p. 6. For New Yorkers, this is a seismic shift. Beginning in 1983, a notorious nightclub called "Limelight" operated in the space. It closed down a three years ago. It remained vacant. People thought the building was falling apart. They thought it was ugly. Actually, they never liked it much when it was a nightclub, either. People used to have sex, do drugs and dance there.

But now it's a high-end shopping mall. You can't hang out with lascivious nocturnal denizens in the Limelight anymore. You can't get lost in Byzantine mazes searching for chance encounters there. Nor can you dance away the night to the techno beat. No, now the Limelight has regular business hours. And rather than offering New York nightlife, now it peddles $400 dog collars, custom soaps and Petrossian caviar.

This is Bloomberg New York at its finest. Out with fun. Out with uniqueness. In with drab, revolting commercialism. In with chain stores, banks and luxury boutiques. It makes me want to vomit.

Yet the New York Post voices its values by praising the transformation at Limelight. Although the staff writer does not directly say that a boutique mall is better than a nightclub known for rollicking Epicurean license, she uses a surrogate to make the judgment for her. Specifically, she quotes a 30-year-old lawyer with a 7-month-old daughter who came down to check out the new shops. The lawyer said: "It's fabulous. It was really a dump before."

Wait a minute. What could a 30-year-old lawyer possibly know about what the Limelight was 20 years ago? She was 10 years old back then. She probably didn't even live in New York. The Limelight has been closed for three years. That means she was 27 when that happened. Kids usually graduate law school at 25, which means that for three years before that, she probably never set foot in a nightclub, let alone assessed whether the Limelight was a "dump." Even assuming she did have the time, most law students don't go to places like the Limelight; such indulgence might reflect poorly on their character applications for bar admissions.

In all likelihood, this lawyer moved to New York very recently and rented an apartment in the neighborhood at some obscenely inflated rent. She had a job waiting for her, then popped out a kid. She probably noticed that the church was unoccupied. She probably also noticed that the other buildings in the area housed nice little restaurants and shops, so the church looked "run down" by comparison. So when a boutique mall opened in her neighborhood, she probably thought to herself: "How consistent! Just what I expected for my block! Now I can get caviar!"

This is revolting value imposition. Who the hell is this little lawyer to say whether the Limelight was a dump? She could never have gone to the Limelight in its heyday. She was studying contracts and torts during its last years in operation. She merely heard about the Limelight and immediately concluded that a boutique mall is better than a nightclub. That is a value judgment. And it reflects allegiance to quiet bourgeois comfort. The Post endorsed that judgment.

Screw her. I think boutique malls are dumps. I'll take the nightclub.

Alas, she made the paper, not me.

Thus spoke Oesterhoudt.

Monday, May 17, 2010



Reason, Commerce, Justice and Free Beer has just learned that authorities in New York shut down a major city thoroughfare after a Muslim allegedly farted.

Details remain sketchy. It is not known who farted, nor whether the fart constituted "use of weapons of mass destruction" under applicable federal anti-terror laws. It is not even known whether the fart caused any appreciable damage to the surrounding area.

Nonetheless, officials are not taking any chances. Deputy NYPD Police Commissioner B. Leonard Pfurzfinder called the alleged terror fart a "serious attempt" to sow chaos in New York. He warned the public to "keep your eyes and noses open for flatulating Muslims."

Mr. Pfurzfinder gave a press conference shortly after the incident: "I wish to confirm that the Police Department--in cooperation with State and federal law enforcement--have closed Seventh Avenue following the reported emission of terrorist intestinal gas near 35th Street. At approximately 7:45 AM today, a woman named Cathleen Summers passed a man with a long black beard wearing a skull cap and a long white gown. According to Ms. Summers, 'he looked like Osama bin Laden.' As she passed the man at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 35th Street, Ms. Summers heard a very loud noise. 'It was definitely a fart,' she said. Within a moment following the noise, Ms. Summers also smelled a rancid odor in her vicinity. 'It must have come from the fart,' she told responding officers. She also mentioned that pedestrians gasped in horror when they smelled the fart; they fled in all directions. Pandemonium ensued. One man collapsed from inhaling the fumes. Another man said the 'sound of the fart' broke his iPad® digital reading device. Ms. Summers also reported that the bearded man did not panic after the fart; he surreptitiously moved away down 35th Street."

Mr. Pfurzfinder continued: "We are fortunate that no fatalities resulted from the fart. But we cannot let our guard down. Considering the evidence before us, we must conclude that this fart constitutes a serious terrorist attack on American soil. True, the fart did not cause much damage. But it shows that there are men who look like Osama bin Laden in the United States who can emit toxic odors. Worse, it shows that men with beards and white gowns can infiltrate major American cities, eat gas-producing foods and subject everyday Americans to deadly flatulence. We can be glad that no Americans died in this brazen gas assault on New York City. But we must painfully acknowledge that the War on Terror--especially gaseous fart terror--is far from over."

Mr. Pfurzfinder stressed that Americans must do their part to battle terrorism in all its forms: "We salute Ms. Summers for immediately calling authorities after she heard and smelled the enemy fart. And we also salute Ms. Summers for recognizing that suspicious activity is not always visible. In fact, terrorism does not just affect the eyes; it affects all the senses. Since 2001, the NYPD has admonished New Yorkers to report suspicious activity with the slogan: 'See something; say something.' But that admonishment does not encompass all possible terrorist threats. Terror does not limit itself to visible phenomena. As this case shows, terror can be heard and smelled, too. In that light, we hereby modify our slogan to include all the senses: 'See something, hear something, smell something, taste something or feel something--say something.' Although we recognize that some New Yorkers may report things that do not turn out to be terror threats, we believe that the extra caution is worth it. An old woman, for instance, may feel a spider crawling on her neck while she sleeps. She may believe she is under tactile terrorist attack. She might even call police, wailing: "I felt something, so I'm saying something." Yet fielding a few misguided 911 calls is a small price to pay to avoid another 9/11."

Concerning the general terrorist threat level, Mr. Pfuzfinder elaborated: "We are on edge. Within the last two weeks, Muslim agents have tried to blow up Times Square. In the ensuing days, authorities closed down Times Square several times after citizens reported 'suspicious packages' on various street corners. Those packages turned out to contain ham sandwiches, bottled water and cheap novels; but the threat remains. It remains true that Muslims want to kill us. Today's fart incident represents yet another attempt to target America this month. We are in the crosshairs. The Muslims not only want to destroy significant targets in spectacular attacks; they also want to wreak panic by dispersing toxic farts among everyday people who just want to get to work in the morning. That is truly terrifying--and we are working to stop it."

Mr. Pfurzfinder did not specify how the NYPD plans to address farting Muslims in the future. Still, Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C. quickly jumped on the news.

"Today's incident in New York just goes to show that President Obama is not doing enough to stop terror," declared Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). "This is the price we pay for the President's misguided decision to 'understand' Muslims. We cannot afford to understand these people. They want choke us on the nastiest farts you can possibly imagine. We cannot have a 'dialogue' with people who are out to drown us in farts. Put simply, we need to stop talking and start attacking Pakistan, which is where this fart guy is probably from. If we don't, the next fart is going to really hurt somebody."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoed Mr. Cornyn's call for increased action against Pakistan. "I have it from reliable sources that al-Qaeda is training operatives to produce massive amounts of flatulence in their own bodies. They call it 'the natural approach.' CIA infiltrators have shown me shocking pictures of masked men sitting in desert training camps eating goat cheese, falafel, kebab and raw onions in terrifying amounts. We are blind to the truth if we assume that this New York fart suspect did not receive al-Qaeda digestive terror training in Pakistan. That is why we must attack Pakistan now. I refuse to see a single American killed by a fart we could have prevented."

In a statement on the issue, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) shied away from foreign policy assertions. "No matter what we do abroad, I say we need better domestic legislation to punish Muslims who fart. I have already drawn up a draft bill that expands the definition of 'weapons of mass destruction' to include 'the intentional, reckless, negligent or inadvertent expulsion of intestinal gas by a person who is a Muslim, however slight or inaudible.' Ignorance is no defense. I define 'Muslim' as 'any person not a Christian' or 'any person with a suspicious looking beard, unless he is from Texas; but such exception does not apply to African-Americans with beards, or any female, regardless of State residence or race.' If we enforce this law, we will bring digestive terrorists to justice and protect Americans."

President Obama's Attorney General--Eric H. Holder, Jr.--urged a more circumspect approach to the Muslim fart menace. "Our investigation into this matter has just begun. We still need to determine whether the man who farted did so with terroristic intent. This is a legal inquiry: Only farts expelled with a specific intent to terrorize are currently forbidden under existing law. This administration is committed to law. We refuse to indulge speculation. We also refuse to yield to public hysteria surrounding the incident. Until we have reliable evidence, we cannot commit to prosecuting this suspect as a terrorist. For the moment, he is simply a 'person of interest' who farted on Seventh Avenue on May 17, 2010. We understand that our approach may disappoint those who assume all Muslim farts to be terror farts. But respect for the rule of law--and for basic fairness in the administration of justice--dictates that we assemble all the facts before we conclude that digestive terror occurred in New York today."

Rush Limbaugh denounced Holder's statement as "rubbish:" "When a Muslim farts, it's terror. I don't give a shit what the law says."

New York's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg emphasized that Muslim farting is not good for the city economy. "The thing that upsets me most is that this fart closed down Seventh Avenue. There are a lot of really big stores and businesses on Seventh Avenue, including Ernst & Young and roughly 75 Starbucks Coffee houses. This fart caused people to miss work and lose out on pay. It also caused people to refrain from shopping and going to Starbucks. That is not good for New York. So whether or not we conclude that this Muslim emitted a terror fart, he has already terrorized New York's economy. And I don't like it when corporations can't do business."

At present, investigators are searching high and low for the man who allegedly farted near Ms. Summers this morning. Officials expect to reopen Seventh Avenue sometime this afternoon, depending on the FBI's determination that residual Muslim fart fumes have sufficiently dissipated to permit vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

President Obama issued the following statement after receiving word about the incident: "Our hearts go out to the families and to those affected. We will not tolerate digestive terror and we will not shirk our responsibilities. We are a resilient people. No matter how thick the fart cloud that hangs over us, we will persevere."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


You've probably noticed that I haven't posted anything in a few days. Once again, I've been extremely busy handling my partner's health problems. I spent the better part of the last two days in the hospital. I didn't sleep much during that time and when I got up this morning I was too exhausted to think, let alone generate a decent post. Aside from that, I was out of town this weekend and have been occupied with lots of new things; and don't worry: They are good for me!

Still, all these events have denied me my writing time. That bothers me on many levels. It makes me feel better just to let you all know what's going on with me, since I'm accustomed to a certain weekly output. On the other hand, I realize that life does not always offer the best circumstances in which to create. And if I have to go into "writing dormancy" more than usual in the coming weeks, I will have to face it. I apologize in advance if I don't crank out my hoped-for three or four posts every week.

I always get so many ideas during my breaks. When I just live and observe, I amass new thoughts, experiences and impressions. I know those ideas will all buoy me when I settle down into another long writing phase. I've actually jotted down three big ideas for longer pieces in the future. Although I do not have the time or space to discuss them all here, I will say that they involve these issues: Truth; confessions; power; capital punishment; free will; death; sexuality; categorization; identity; desire; subjectivity; happiness; prejudice and reflection. I have conceived both fictional and nonfictional structures in which to explore these themes. But my piece on sexuality will be part reflective, part anecdotal and part polemical. Think of it as a sequel to Foucault's work on sexuality, with a personal twist to make it accessible.

To share some detail from my own personal experience lately, I have been entertaining serious doubts about my own sexuality. And my doubts move in an unconventional direction. Namely, for almost 14 years I have been quick to characterize myself as "gay." But in fact I'm not so sure what that means anymore. By the same token, I cannot say what "straight" means, either. In truth, the only reliable conclusion I've made in this inquiry is that sexual identity is never clear-cut. That is because it reflects basic desire. Basic desire, in turn, is purely subjective. It is impossible to categorize desire because there is no limit to individuals' deepest subjective tastes.

I don't think people appreciate just how fluid sexual identity is. That is what I will address in my piece. In the process, I will discuss the unfortunate human tendency to associate absolute meaning with artificial categories. I plan to show that categories like "gay" and "straight" are not talismanic. Rather, I will show that they are at best "rough guidelines" that exist in various proportions in us all at different times in our lives.

I also plan to discuss why I think the term "gay" is absurd. When it comes to categorizing groups, sexual "orientation" is a dubious--and barely unifying--characteristic. That is not to say that people who identify themselves as "gay" do not merit certain assistance or solicitude under law. My main argument will be that "gay" is not a good identifier, nor is it absolute. There are plenty of people in the world--including me--who find men attractive, yet have no difficulty whatever finding women attractive, too. The bottom line is that one desire never excludes another. And "gay" is a category that essentially implicates a particular sexual desire.

So that's what's on my mind these days. Forgive me for the sparser posting. I promise there is plenty more to come. I have a whole list to get to!

Take care. And thanks as always for reading my archives.


Thursday, May 6, 2010



By : Mr. Irwin D. Gallant, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lexington Property Management Group LLC (A Delaware Limited Liability Company specializing in commercial property rentals to Fortune 500 companies in cities across the Nation); Harvard Business School (M.B.A. summa cum laude 1990); Avid Jogger; Amateur clockmaker and watch collector; Christian; aficionado of numerous activities requiring undamaged arms and legs.

Hey you. Yeah, you: The fat fuck in the wheelchair. Get a goddamn move on it. I've got a whole line of customers trying to get into the store, and there you are struggling to maneuver your fucking lard cart through that double door. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know you're disabled. But it's about damn time for property owners like me to tell you what we really feel: We can't fucking stand your lame asses.

How many times have property owners felt this way? They all do--every day. Disabled people are simply not fast enough to keep up with the pace of business in America. They frustrate normal people with functioning legs who are just trying to go to work, buy a few groceries and get home before 10 PM. And how much money have property owners spent trying to accommodate these worthless crippled fuckers? Let me give you a ballpark: BILLIONS!@!@! And I'll tell you another thing: Building expensive ramps for drooling fucktards with canes has driven numerous enterprising Americans straight out of business.

America faces worse threats than foreign terrorism. As a property owner and businessman, I can say without hesitation that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the greatest threat to liberty this Nation has ever encountered. Fuck the Times Square bomber; he didn't hurt anyone. But the ADA hurts honest business owners every day by requiring them to build costly additions to their properties on their own nickel. And when business owners hurt, the whole country hurts.

Think about it: The Red Lobster on West 41st Street could have hired 100 dishwashers and 50 waiters in 2009 if it hadn't had to install a freaking "supplemental dumbwaiter" to lift paralyzed midgets from the dining room to the balcony. So in the end, a few lazy fuckheads got to eat the fried shrimp special in 2009, while 150 people lost their jobs. Fair trade? I think not.

Liberty is about owning property and doing whatever you want with it. Liberty is also about making as much money as you can from your property without worrying about other people. But the ADA forces property owners to do things with their property that they'd rather not do. It forces them to accommodate people on their premises who do not help them make more money. This violates property owners' liberty. It also robs them blind by compelling them to build doorways, elevators, extra exits and conveyor belts all over the place. That shit is expensive. And when business owners spend money on useless shit like that, it prevents them from paying out dividends, hiring people or opening new locations.

Put simply, the ADA is a terrorist law because it tramples liberty. In fact, most business owners would simply prefer to die in a car bomb explosion than watch their companies go bankrupt after wasting all their money on unnecessary elevators. Castrating a business' economic potential is just as terroristic as slamming airplane into a skyscraper. The result is the same: People lose their jobs--and their lives. And both are scary.

When we reflect on just how much it costs to comply with the ADA, we must ask ourselves: For what? What do we get for destroying businesses and bankrupting property owners? What do we get for boosting unemployment and dampening our prosperity? A society in which crippled fucktards can wheel into any building they want to spend their pension money.

I know it's "American" to say that everyone deserves an "equal opportunity" to see the Yankees or eat at Red Lobster. But who really gives a flying fuck about some paraplegic kid with a tube down his throat? OK, so we build him his own goddamn elevator and his own goddamn entrance door. Once he's in, does he spend money? Maybe his mother buys him a candy bar, a hot dog or some shit… oh wait, he eats through a tube. Never mind. What I mean is that crippled fucktards don't usually have much money to spend, and there aren't that many of them anyway. So basically property owners waste all that money accommodating them; and they get zero in return. In business, that's called a loser bet. And that's exactly what the ADA forces property owners to do.

I know what you're thinking: How can I be so mean when talking about Americans with disabilities? Well, I've got a simple answer: Because I'm honest. Life isn't easy in America. It isn't easy to run a profitable business and pay your bills. Life is fast-paced; if you can't hack it, you can't hack it. It's hard enough to turn a profit even with full body function; you can just forget about it you're legless. If you had the bad luck to get crippled--or you were born with some freakish defect that condemns you to lifetime care--that's your problem. You have no business doing business. You shouldn't be in the race. Sorry about that. That's just the way the ball bounces, mon frère. Apply for charity or something. Just don't stand in line or apply for a job with everyone else. You really annoy us.

Normal Americans just plain don't like being around crippled people. It makes them uncomfortable. When a family goes to the museum, they don't like waiting for a half-dead, moaning retard on a motorized gurney to navigate a narrow passageway. When young professionals go to a discotheque on Friday night, they don't like waiting two minutes for a blind war veteran on two canes to hop his way up the steps. When hardworking American workers get home at night, the last thing they want is to wait for a paralyzed woman to fish out pocket change in line at the grocery store.

In a word, crippled people frustrate and frighten everyone around them. Nobody likes them. Nobody has patience for them. In that sense, it is perplexing that the ADA forces both business owners and customers to deal with them on even terms. If it were up to the American people, they would stay away from cripples like the black death. But the law forces Americans to treat them "equally." This is both wrong and unjust.

To summarize: Commercial life is fast-paced; and disabled Americans are not fast-paced. They simply cannot cut the mustard. From an evolutionary standpoint, crippled people don't belong in commercial life. They can't keep up. That's the truth, no matter what goody-goody rhetoric apologists on it. If it came between hiring an able-bodied man and a wheelchair-bound man for the same job, no rational employer would ever hire the cripple. Why should he? If both men had the mental ability to do the job, why hire the man who needs a special entrance door and elevator just to get into the building? Why assume the extra trouble? In business, we move fast. We avoid inconvenience when we can. And cripples are inconvenient. The bottom line is that we don't have time to be nice. Time is money. So we hire the man who takes less time to do the same job. Plus he can get up and run errands once in a while.

Commercial life is like nature: Only the strong survive. Yet the ADA compels commercial actors to accommodate cripples and hire them on equal terms, no matter how unprofitable it may be. This is not only counter-evolutionary. It is also unnatural. Would a bee colony support bees without wings? Would a cattle herd help a cow with broken legs? Certainly not: Caring for cripples threatens the well-being of the healthy community. Commerce, like nature, is a death struggle against bankruptcy. Just as a herd depends on healthy, contributing members to avoid death in nature, so too do commercial actors depend on healthy, contributing employees to avoid bankruptcy in commerce. And just as a herd abandons crippled members to avoid death in nature, so too do commercial actors jettison crippled employees to avoid bankruptcy in commerce. In this light, the ADA forces commercial actors to unnaturally hire crippled workers who do more harm than good for the enterprise.

Viewed as a whole, the ADA terrorizes liberty and makes war on nature. In the name of "decency, compassion and humanity," it forces property owners into bankruptcy just to accommodate worthless crippled Americans. It hamstrings employers by forcing them to hire employees who are physically unable to make money. And it frustrates everyday Americans by forcing them to watch pathetic cripples take entirely too long to accomplish rudimentary commercial activities, like boarding a bus.

What is liberty if not the freedom to spend money as we please, to hire whom we please and to keep the company we please? And what is liberty if we must spend money in ways we'd rather not, hire clearly unsatisfactory people and keep uncomfortable company with paralyzed invalids who defecate on themselves in public? That is not liberty--that is terrorism.

As a property owner and an American, I say with all my heart: The Americans with Disabilities Act is terrorism. And I believe in freedom. That means the freedom to shut out cripples from movie theaters and fire people without arms. And it also means the freedom to walk into a grocery store at 6:45 PM without fear that a deaf-mute fucktard on crutches will hold up the line for seven minutes.

I speak for all Americans who believe in unrestricted commerce when I say: "Hey lady. Yeah, you, the amputee. Pick up the fucking pace, will you? I just got out of work. Friends is on soon and I'll be damned if you take two more fucking minutes to pay for that soup."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010



Last week, I took a walk in Brooklyn. As I made my way up Tillary Street past Flatbush Avenue, I noticed an incredible commercial message from Charles Schwab adorning a bus stop: "We want to make a difference, not just a buck. Let's make a difference together."

I beg your pardon? Do investment houses really care about making anything more than a buck? Why do people invest money in the first place? To turn one buck into two or more bucks. It's all about making bucks. If investing makes any "difference," it's a differential between the amount invested and the amount returned. And everyone wants that differential to be positive.

But let's leave investors aside for a moment. Let's focus on the institutional guys. You know, the investment bankers who craft bewildering "portfolios" designed to churn fees and hopefully yield a nifty profit for the client. Now, an investment banker exists to do two things: (1) To maximize the monetary return on a client's investment; and (2) To maximize his own fees by selecting appropriate transactions. To be blunt, it is all about money. In fact, investment bankers are more than mere employees; they are fiduciaries. They must subordinate their own interests to their clients' interests. They can even be sued for failing to make enough money, because that shows "they did not sufficiently have their clients interests at heart."

In that light, it is preposterous for Charles Schwab to suggest that investment bankers care about anything more than "making a buck." If they cared about anything else--like "making a difference"--they would lose their jobs, clients and everything else they value.

And what does "making a difference" really mean? Have investment houses suddenly lost their collective minds? Do they want to open soup kitchens or something? Do they want to build houses for the homeless? How about pay for health care for indigents? Is that the kind of "social difference" they want to make? The phrase "making a difference" implies broader service to the public, or even ethical purity. It rings with selfless nobility. Yet such things are completely antithetical to an investment house's primary mission: To make profits for themselves and their private clients. There is nothing "public" or "noble" about that enterprise.

Recent stock market scandals only weaken Charles Schwab's pitiful attempt to appear altruistic. Did Lehman Bros. care about "making a difference" when they lured investors into placing money on a housing market they bet would fail? The bottom line is that people expect investment bankers to engage in dirty dealing. It is par for the course. Worse, most investors would prefer their bankers to engage in the most barely legal conduct possible so long as that conduct yields a maximal return. That is what it means to "make a buck," not "a difference."

Commerce is about making bucks, not a difference. That is just the way it works. And it is the height of disingenuousness for anyone to suggest otherwise, let alone massive investment banks that personify the commercial spirit. If investment banks choose to "make a difference," chances are they do so in order to gain tax advantages, not to soothe their conscience.

Put thematically, the clash between "making a buck" and "making a difference" is a clash between commerce and ethics. It is also a clash between ends and means. Commerce is about ends; ethics is about means. A commercial man only cares about the bottom line, no matter how he gets there (provided he does not risk criminal sanction). An ethical man cares about the way he achieves his goal. When a person commits to making bucks, he has a distinctly result-oriented motive. But when a person wishes to make a difference in the ethical sense, he is as much concerned about the way he brings about positive change as he is concerned about the change itself.

In commerce, means are secondary. Investment houses like Charles Schwab know that. If it suddenly adopted "making a difference" as its primary business model, its clients would leave in droves. And the company's shareholders would angrily vote off the "insane" directors who approved such an idiotic way to do business. In their place, the shareholders would quickly appoint directors with a more sensible business model, namely: "Making a buck."

And the new directors would immediately yank those ridiculous posters from the bus stops.

Hey, at least they would be honest.

Monday, May 3, 2010



Sometimes memories return to me with uncanny clarity. It is not just the clarity that strikes me. More often I wonder why certain memories return to me so long after the event. After all, of all the things I have experienced in my life, why would one day's details suddenly reemerge? What triggered it? And then a more vexing thought crosses my mind: As clear as my memory seems to me, perhaps reality was very different from what I remember? Who can say now? That is one reason why memory fascinates me so much. It is exquisitely subjective. It seems real, but only to ourselves.

I got up this morning and suddenly remembered December 31, 1999. On that day, I worked from morning to night and beyond. Back then, I was a 22-year-old kid with a "bowl haircut" and a jean jacket. I wore ripped $30 pants for days at a time. I was a college senior who memorized Nietzsche quotes without fully comprehending them. I basically had no money; my mother gave me about $20 a week to spend. So starting in 1997 I worked as a DJ to make a few extra bucks. Much to my good fortune, I met a much older guy named Joe who had been DJ'ing parties around the city for decades. He used to tell me stories about going home with women after disco parties in the 1970s. He was a Vietnam veteran and--to be kind--rather eccentric. He lived alone in a food-strewn apartment on 122nd Street brimming with records and 5 or 6 yappy Chihuahuas (one or two died over the years; but a few more were born, so I can't remember the exact number). Basically, the place was squalid. But somehow Joe kept getting gigs and holding his life together really well. He kept a zillion post-it notes all over his bedroom to remind him to do this and that each day--and he always got it done. For years, we worked really well together. He farmed me out to jobs he couldn't do and I gave him a cut of what I made. Plus we became really good friends.

Both Joe and I knew that New Year's Eve on Y2K would be a gangbuster night for DJ's. After all, everyone was partying that night. Some people thought the world was going to end. I knew it wouldn't. But it was an unprecedented atmosphere. And most importantly, entertainers like us were in demand that night. So we could charge huge fees and we knew people would pay. We could name our price for a change.

Joe wound up scheduling a $2000 job. At the same time, he booked me a job for $1800. We agreed I would get $1500. He would take a $300 commission. That seemed fair to me; in fact, I was thrilled. For a kid who wore torn pants and got $20 a week to spend, $1500 was a treasure trove. I could live the whole semester on that--and all for just one night's work.

I remember the job exactly. We did it in a brand new loft apartment on 21st Street near 6th Avenue. Some nouveau riche woman and her husband were throwing a party. Joe and I drove down to the apartment the morning before the gig to set up. Joe drove a virtually unroadworthy mid-80s Chevy station wagon. It had no muffler and a pretty disgusting, food-like crust clung like a glaze all over the interior. The car had roaches. And Joe stuffed in so many speakers, wires, amps and record crates into it that I was amazed the bumper didn't scrape the pavement as we drove. In short, despite all appearances, Joe was a master of limited space management. The cops never pulled the jalopy over, either.

I remember schlepping all our equipment two flights up to the apartment. The woman and her husband were frantically decorating the place and setting up long tables for the hors d'oeuvres. I had a few words with her. She said she liked hip-hop and R&B. I said that was great because "that was my specialty." She seemed to like me. She didn't seem to like Joe too much, though. After all, at first glance he looked really gruff and he spent his time hauling speakers and wires all over the place. He was always polite and even charming. But he just didn't look the part. Some customers really used to treat him badly, and that hurt me.

After we set up the equipment, Joe and I sat in the car for a few minutes and talked about the plan for the evening. I would show up at the gig and do my thing. He would go to his gig and do his. Then he would pick me up from my gig and I would give him his cut. We would drive back uptown together and call it a night around 4 AM. It was a good plan. We then went our separate ways.

I remember the party went very smoothly. I got to play the music I wanted. The crowd was easy and did not complain. My DJ station faced east; the crowd looked west out the windows over 6th Avenue. Joe set up the lights and I controlled them with a little hand console. It took a while for the alcohol to get the party moving; eventually it did. I started off playing 70s funk and rare grooves. That gave a nice ambiance to the early part. Later, people started asking me to play hip-hop and assorted Top Ten pop. I obliged. I remember one Asian chick kept asking me to play Lauren Hill's "That Thing" over and over again. That tune always generated a huge crowd response, so I waited to play it until the place was really hopping. I kept telling her "it was in the pipe." She never quarreled with me; she just kept going back to her friends and dancing.

Before midnight, nervous excitement came over the room. People started wondering aloud whether the world would end at 12:01. I remember people throwing their drinks and hooting in the minutes leading up to midnight. I also remember looking outside and seeing helicopters flying low over the city with spotlights on. There was a lot of honking and yelling on the street below. I could hear it even over the music. Finally, 12:01 came. Nothing happened. A huge cheer went up on the dancefloor. Then the party went into overdrive. "Hypnotize," "Walking on the Sun" and "Backstreet's Back" were particularly popular that night. Oh, and of course "Groove is in the Heart" and "It Takes Two" made everyone move, too, even otherwise respectable-looking bourgeois with jobs: I always laughed when I saw white bankers singing along to rap songs. But by that point at the party, the alcohol was guaranteed to make everyone dance, no matter what was playing. Even so, as a DJ, I felt like I had accomplished something. Lots of drunk, happy people profusely thanked me for "all the great tunes" as the evening approached its end. It was always a nice perk to get compliments, even if the partygoers were fall-down drunk and virtually incoherent.

At about 3 AM, Joe showed up from his party. People had already started to leave. Beer and broken plastic cups littered the dancefloor, along with squashed finger foods and dirty napkins. Everyone was shouting, hugging, hooting, caressing and laughing. The mood was very good. Almost all the food was gone and the wine was running low. Joe went over to the hostess and whispered to her. She then came over to me and told me it was OK to start wrapping up.

Within 30 minutes, almost everyone had left and I stopped the music. The house lights came up. Joe started breaking down the lights and sound equipment. I chatted with the hostess for a while. She complimented me in the highest terms, even though she was utterly shitfaced. I still felt like I had done a good job; for my part, I did not touch a drink that evening. I had a few Sprites and some ice water. Finally, the hostess pulled out an enormous wad of $20 bills and handed it to me. I thanked her. She went away and I started helping Joe move all our stuff downstairs. Meanwhile, the hostess and her husband started brushing trash off the floor with two big push brooms.

It took us a good 30 minutes to haul all our stuff downstairs. We loaded it into the car and--once again--got it all to fit. After that, Joe and I shook hands and congratulated each other on a job well done. I handed him his $300 commission. Then he headed back uptown and he dropped me off at my dorm on 114th Street and Riverside. I wished Joe a happy new year and thanked him for being so generous to me. He said no problem and drove off into the predawn darkness.

I went upstairs to my room on the fourth floor. There was no way I could sleep after the night's toils. It was about quarter to five in the morning, January 1, 2000. I walked over to my single-size mattress. I took the enormous cash wad from my pocket and laid all the money out on the bedspread. I was in awe: $1500 in cash, all for me. I never thought I could ever make that much in one night. It was unbelievable. What a way to start the new year, the new decade, the new millennium. I felt like life could not get any better than this. I even felt that time had suddenly stopped, as if I could never get older, that this moment would last forever. After all, it was the year 2000! To that point in my life--indeed, in everyone's life--it had always been the 20th Century. I couldn't really fathom that life would go on as it always did. On that night, time froze as I sat there ogling my massive money pile. For a few hours, I felt utterly invincible. I felt that I controlled time and that I would never age.

I was hungry. I went out to get some food at Tom's Diner. It was extremely quiet. All the partying was over. A few stragglers appeared here and there, but that was it. I saw a few "2000" party eyeglasses in a trash can. It was still dark. As I headed down Broadway, a New York Times truck pulled up and a man tossed out the morning edition. I bought one. It had an unforgettably bold headline: 1/1/00. Underneath, in typeface almost as big, was a headline saying that Russia's President Yeltsin had resigned. A new man, Putin, was taking over.

Wow, I thought, everything was looking up! It was a fresh new morning in a fresh new millennium. I had $1500 in cash and there was a new Russian President. One era ended. Another was dawning. Time stood still and I was in control.

Then I went to Tom's and ordered a shake and fries. I stayed there for a while. I let myself get tired. Finally, I headed back to my dorm to go to sleep. It was dawning. Time for bed. It was a good night.

I still have never made that much money in one night as I did on January 1, 2000. I think that's why I remember it so vividly. It felt really good.

Too bad life got harder after that. But on that night, I didn't think anything could ever go wrong.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010



Over the last half century, "imperialism" has become a dirty word in American academic discourse. During that time, prevailing rhetoric has extolled multiculturalism, tolerance and multiperspectivism. It has championed the rights of historically disadvantaged groups while denigrating traditionally powerful ones. It has empowered the downtrodden and strengthened the weak. It has justified the historically unjustifiable. In the process, university rhetoric has identified "imperialism" as the worst thing one culture can do to another. Great civilizations, so the rhetoric goes, no longer conquer and dominate others. Great civilizations tolerate everyone and allow every culture to flourish within their borders.

Yet I venture that this is an anomalous trend. In fact, I argue that Nations unafraid to act imperialistically are strong Nations, while Nations afraid to do so are weak.

I understand that this squarely contradicts how we are "supposed to think" about imperialism today. But true to my word, I am determined to speak out this week about uncomfortable subjects. To use Nietzsche's term, I am determined to make "Uncontemporary Observations" concerning subjects we have been taught never to consider any other way.

Imperialism is about national power. In its purest form, it means the purposeful, intrusive projection of one Nation's military and cultural power over another Nation. To understand what that entails, it is essential to understand what "Nations" are. In past essays, I have noted that "Nations" and "States" are distinct terms. "Nations" refer to discrete populations united by common linguistic, cultural, genetic and religious traditions. "States," on the other hand, refer merely to a population's adherence to a particular governing instrument for the sake of common administration and convenience. Many Nations can exist under a common State. But Nations are unique.

Throughout history, some Nations have prevailed, while others have fallen. Nations that have prevailed generally have successfully engaged in imperialism. They have crushed and dominated their neighbors. They have brutally stamped out opposition and imposed their own cultural traditions on their defeated enemies. These Nations cared nothing for multiculturalism or tolerance. They did not blink at brutality. Rather, they felt so secure in their own power that they gladly violated other Nations' territory to absorb them into their own realms. This is not a popular thing to do these days. But history shows that the most influential Nations have been the most imperialistic, too.

Consider Rome. Rome grew to eminence because it projected its values across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. By sheer will and military prowess, it subjugated its neighbors, occupied their territory and imposed its values on them. It even made them speak Latin and build infrastructure according to the Roman model. It forced them to live under Roman law and observe Roman customs. Rome was strongest when it was unafraid to conquer. It affirmed its own beliefs when it ruthlessly destroyed all who stood before it. Through imperialism, Rome made itself great. At its height, Rome conquered and killed without a second thought. It believed so strongly in its own values that it did not hesitate to eradicate whole Nations.

But consider now how Rome fell. Rome collapsed several centuries after it stopped waging imperial wars. Once it reached its territorial zenith, Roman values began to weaken. Its government began tolerating new ideas and new cultural trends. Internal cultural cracks developed. Its military power waned. Barbarians began picking away at the frontiers. Put simply, Rome lost its appetite for imperialism. It lost faith in its own rightful dominance. So Nations with more assurance in their own values filled the void. They overran Rome and destroyed it.

Turn now to England and Spain, the "great" European colonizers of the Americas and Asia. Both Nations achieved spectacular eminence because they shamelessly engaged in imperialism. Both Nations reached their zenith when they brutally laid claim to others' land and genocidally slaughtered anyone who opposed them. They unswervingly believed in their own causes: Just like the imperial Romans, the British and the Spanish believed that their values were far superior to the Natives they displaced. So they killed, enslaved and uprooted them without a second thought. In the process, they reshaped the world. Like it or not, the fact that English and Spanish are among the world's most spoken languages is the direct result of unabashed, vicious global imperialism. Like it or not, the only reason why European white people live in North America today is because England and Spain barged in and killed everyone else who used to live there. The very existence of the United States is the product of an original, shocking act of imperialism by Great Britain.

To summarize, Nations are strong when they conquer. They believe in their own values so much that they do not shrink from trampling and absorbing other Nations. Nations weaken when they lose faith in their own dominance and begin tolerating dissention in their own borders. Imperialism showcases a Nation's shameless belief in itself; and its contempt for any culture that differs from it.

Needless to say, it is no longer popular to endorse imperialism. It is no longer acceptable to say that one Nation is rightfully superior to another, let alone to suggest that one Nation has the authority to seize territory and butcher native inhabitants in another country. Yet it is precisely that vicious cultural intolerance that created the United States. That same intolerance sustained all the world's mightiest empires. When a Nation engages in imperialism without shame, it declares to all the world: "My Nation is so great that it deserves to dominate you."

America presents an interesting case. Despite all the recent discourse condemning imperialism, the United States remains an immensely imperialistic country. Since roughly 1865, America has engaged in imperialism all over the world. First, it eradicated or marginalized native populations in its own continental borders. Second, it overran Hawaii. Then it battled Spain and conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Philippines and numerous Pacific islands. In World War I, it projected its national power into European affairs, playing a substantial role in dictating the peace terms at Versailles. In World War II, the United States achieved monumental national power by almost single-handedly defeating Japan and Germany, then permanently occupying both defeated countries. After World War II, the United States created the United Nations and oversaw "world peace" by policing various national conflicts from Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Central America. Later, the United States invaded Iraq on fabricated "self-defense" grounds, plunging that country into civil war.

America's voracious imperialism does not end with military conquest. Beyond physical incursions into other Nations' affairs, America also engages in unabashed cultural intrusion. Its music and film industry dominate the entire world. Children from China to Germany to Africa all learn English so they can listen to American songs and watch American movies. People in Beirut listen to Michael Jackson and Rihanna. Business people all over the world adopt English as their lingua franca. America's cultural imperialism is so complete that when two foreign businessmen meet, chances are they will speak English to each other, even if neither is a native English speaker. None of these things would ever have come to pass if America had not engaged in overwhelming, successful imperialism over the last 150 years.

In this light, perhaps it is not a bad thing to say that a Nation like the United States is "imperialistic." After all, America dominates the world in a way not seen since Rome. Its culture, language and military cow the globe into submission. All other Nations measure themselves by the American standard. Like all empires in history, America's imperialism shows that the United States ruthlessly believes in itself. It does not tolerate dissention abroad. And it has shown that it will crush any Nation that opposes its power. Put simply, America is strong; and it is not afraid to beat anyone down who thinks otherwise.

Is imperialism unpopular? In university rhetoric, of course it is. But when we look closely at what imperialism means--and what it has wrought in the United States--we discover an embarrassing truth: We are all the products of imperialism. Our "American civilization" arose because England and Spain were unafraid to savagely kill the natives who once occupied this land. We speak English and Spanish in North America because the British and Spanish felt so superior that they had a right to set up shop on a foreign continent. And we now live in the world's most powerful Nation because the United States carried on the imperialistic tradition that gave it life in the first place.

America was born in imperialism. It will always be imperialistic. Imperialism showcases American values. It reflects intolerance for all who oppose us. In a perverse way, however, it also confirms America's health. As long as America is unafraid to savagely destroy its enemies and to project is culture over all the world, it is still--as Rome was--at the height of its power. America has not stopped expanding. Indeed, it is not in our nature to stop expanding. Once we stop expanding--whether culturally or militarily--we are no longer imperialistic. And when that happens, we can expect our power to gradually wane, just as Rome's did.

Thus, despite all the criticism, an imperialistic Nation is a healthy Nation. Imperialistic Nations might act like ferocious animals, but ferocious animals defeat any living thing that opposes them. In that light, we can thank imperialism for giving us this mighty Republic, as well as all the comforts it brings.

This is my uncontemporary observation for the day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010



I want to take some time to mention what I'm planning to write over the next few days. I think it's especially important to lay out my intentions this time because I am about to venture into very difficult territory.

Whenever I set out on a new intellectual endeavor, I always think of my mentor: Friedrich Nietzsche. In this instance, I think about the title to one of his aphorism collections: Uncontemporary Observations. Nietzsche did not care whether he wrote about subjects that ruffled traditional feathers. He purposely contradicted the expectations of the "the present" and "contemporary" society. His ideas at times recapitulated themes from distant history. At other times, they foretold the future. In either case, he was not "contemporary." To the contrary, he purposely defied "contemporary."

Writers face constant pressure to be contemporary. After all, you can't be successful if you don't write to meet present expectations. Yet no one ever evolves without taking daring chances; and writers are no exception. By accident, I find myself in early 21st Century America: A strange, confusing, conflicted, changing civilization. There are certain subjects that we simply do not talk about, or at least we do not voice certain sentiments about them in public. It is irrelevant what we privately think about these "taboo" subjects. We just never voice what we really believe. Sometimes our beliefs are not even conscious.

Race is among those subjects. Personally, race is an obsession of mine. It frequently inspires my writing because it is so maddeningly relevant. Yet there are certain things we simply do not say about it, no matter how often we think them.

Race has played a pivotal role in American civilization from our earliest history. Through race, we have seen just how low American civilization can fall. Through race, we see our principles challenged. All our grand rhetoric about equality, dignity and fairness falls flat when applied to the American experience with race. It is no surprise that much of my satire involves racial realities in the United States. After all, when we honestly view race in America, we see several different Nations living in one. And they aren't all equal, no matter what the law says.

But I struggle with my own conflicts about race. In my writing and in my public expressions, I vociferously advocate equality. I believe that everyone in this country--no matter their origins--should have equal legal opportunities and a fair shot at success. I truly believe that. It is only just. We cannot claim to live in a just society if some people do not have the same chances for success simply because of their ancestry in a certain country or a certain continent.

Yet even in saying this I feel myself a hypocrite. In fact, I come close to a confession when I say that I am a racist. But we all are. Americans simply do not understand that racism comes in many shades. Some are overt, but most are extraordinarily subtle. Everyone in the United States is a racist in their own fashion; you do not have to be David Duke to be a racist. Rather, every American--including declared liberals--harbors deep-rooted cultural expectations about the "ways" of different ethnic groups. Every American believes on some level that people in other ethnic groups are "different" and "act differently" than they do "because that's the way they are." They do not necessarily mean it in a malicious way; but it is ever-present. And it is racism.

We are racists the moment we say: "Two guys and a black guy entered the room." I was raised with these distinctions. I also grew up in a distinct cultural background (southeastern Connecticut; and as the biological product of hardworking Northern European Protestant descendants). Both by nature and by operation of economic forces, that cultural background was racially exclusive. For the longest time, I never thought I was racist. How could I be? After all, I always learned that it was "bad to be a racist" and that I wasn't a racist because I did not publicly say bad things about people in other ethnic groups. But my own family--the same family that taught me these abstract lessons about race with the best possible intentions--cultivated a set of cultural values in me that made me completely dissociate myself from other races. Those values also made me intuitively judgmental toward anyone who did not share them. And on a subconscious level, I began to believe that my values were normal, while others were not. That was racist.

Racism is everywhere in the United States. It is on everyone's mind all the time. And it is intensely private. When white people eat at a restaurant and a black beggar enters the restaurant, I challenge everyone sitting there to say that they do not harbor certain negative assumptions about black people: "Why doesn't he work? Why do they beg? Why are they all so poor? They're all like that..." they think. They might be ferocious liberals and believe in equality. But in that cultural situation, I challenge them all to say that they do not make immediate judgments about black people in their own private minds. And it is not their fault: It is simply a function of their own cultural backgrounds reacting to another cultural background.

America elected Barack Obama. But that does not mean we are not beyond racism. My "uncontemporary observation" on this subject is that EVERYONE IS A RACIST. It is just a question of degree. We may bear no conscious ill-will toward other ethnic groups. Yet when we make even the most subtle assumptions about them, we are racists. Even disadvantaged ethnic groups engage in racism. I challenge any black person to say he harbors no assumptions about white people when placed in a social situation with them: "He's not going to be fair with me. He's not going to treat me right. He's going to condescend to me. He's going to exploit me. He's going to disrespect me. He's going to fire me because I'm black. That's what they all do. White people are mean and will hurt me any chance they get." Racism goes in both directions--all the time.

Overcoming racism is about more than turning to the law for superficial equalization. Overcoming racism is a mammoth cultural endeavor; and we are nowhere near achieving it. Until we truly harbor no assumptions or expectations about "how other ethnic groups act," and until we truly do not think "How typical" when someone from a particular ethnic group acts in a particular way, we are racists. Yet we do these things all the time without even knowing it. We are merely giving expression to the combined weight of our respective cultural heritages. Heritage bears down upon us in America as in no other country on earth. Nowhere on earth have so many disparate cultural traditions been thrown in with one another. And nowhere else has such burning intolerance arisen when those traditions clash.

Let me be clear for the record. I live my life to avoid racism in all things. But I am still as racist as every other American because I cannot honestly say that I do not occasionally make negative assumptions about other ethnic groups in difficult situations. In this sense, we are all racists. When a black youth wearing a doo rag, low pants, a crooked hat and gangster-style sports garb acts rowdy with his friends on a subway train, I intuitively think: "He is up to no good. He's going to cause a scene." I wish I didn't. But I do. I tell myself I shouldn't think it. I challenge any white person from my cultural background to claim the very same thoughts do not flash in his mind in the same situation.

I have no solutions to the racism problem. The best we can do is to forbear as much as we possibly can in our external behavior. We must try to understand one another as best we can for the sake of order and coexistence. It is relatively easy never to "act like a racist" or "say racist things" in public. It is easy not to be David Duke. But it is not so easy to truly drive racist thoughts from our minds in pressing circumstances.

I wish we weren't all racists. I really, really do. But we would all be dishonest if we said we weren't. And I will immediately call anyone a hypocrite who denies his own racism. Racism is not just the overt hatred we hear about in groups like the KKK. Racism is also about unconscious economic segregation. Living in a part of town that no black person can afford is racist, too. Supporting an economic system that perpetuates racial inequalities is racist, too. After all, why do most wealthy white people live in areas that black people cannot afford? Because they won't have to be around black people. When black people are around, it's a "bad neighborhood." Even using the term "bad neighborhood" is racism. It is no coincidence that "bad neighborhoods" are always the poor, black areas. And it is racist to assume the poor, bad areas are always black. Yet people who claim not to be racist use the term "bad neighborhood" all the time.

Consider a white real estate broker who thinks he is not a racist. He says to his client: "You don't want to live above 96th Street. That's a bad neighborhood." Why? Because black people mostly live there. How can that not reflect deeply entrenched, racist assumptions about black people? Think about how often we use terms like "bad neighborhood." They are racist. And most barely comprehend why.

Racism in the United States is exquisitely subtle. It is the inevitable byproduct of placing so many cultural backgrounds in close proximity to one another, along with the natural human propensity to resent those who are different. As such, racism is everywhere. I know it's not popular to say. But that does not mean we cannot honestly grapple with it. Is it terrible? Of course it is. But there are lots of terrible things about American life; and in my view it makes more sense to call a spade a spade than to pretend it's not.

This is my uncontemporary observation for the day.

Monday, April 26, 2010



I am a very polite person. Even when it makes sense not to be polite, I am polite. It is almost reflexive for me to be polite. In my early life, I learned always to be polite. My mother always said: "Be polite! Say thank you! Do not ask for more!" My mother had another name for this institutionalized politeness: "Good manners."

I did not have a choice. I had to be polite. On the other hand, I grew up in suburban Connecticut. People were not out to get me; in fact, most people were extremely nice. Why not be polite to nice people? They deserved it; they meant me no harm. I didn't mind being polite. In the process, I learned to respect everyone I met. They never hurt me, so it was only fair for me respect them.

But things changed as I got older. Once I graduated from college and started living in the commercial world, I quickly found that not everyone was as nice as they were in my Connecticut childhood. To the contrary, I discovered that most people were dishonest scoundrels who would sooner backstab you than help you up if you slipped on a banana peel. In fact, they would probably even laugh if they saw you fall. Even if they weren't malicious, I found most people flaky and unreliable. If someone told me they "would call me again some time," in almost every case they did not.

Yet I was always polite with these people. I shouldn't have been, but I was. After all, it was reflexive. It was a vestige from my idyllic childhood. I smiled with them, said thank you, made small talk. I even did favors for some. Then I received nothing in return. Many even took advantage of my politeness and gained from it.

Slowly, I realized that it made no sense to be polite all the time. Most people exploited it. And almost no one appreciated it. In fact, it seemed that impolite people succeeded much more frequently than polite people. Impolite people ran right over the polite people and got away with everything. What good did smiling and thanking do? Not much.

Still, I was determined not to become just another impolite ogre on the New York streets. I simply learned to be more wary about according respect to everyone I met. I adopted a new rule: Be polite with exceptions. I used my intuition about whether someone deserved my respect. I tried to sense whether someone was worth respecting, or whether they were just another self-interested shark in the water. Sometimes it was obvious to me that someone was a self-interested shark. So I wasn't polite to them. They had nothing ethically in common with me. So there was no need to be polite. Why be polite with someone who would just as soon leave you dead in a gutter? That is just stupid--and servile, too.

I developed a real suspicion toward new acquaintances. Eventually, I could detect immediately whether someone was a complete selfish asshole or whether they were worth further emotional investment. In some settings, I was polite no matter what, as when I interacted with sales staff and other pathetic commercial pawns who obviously meant me no harm. But in all other settings, I kept my guard.

Recently, for instance, I walked back into my building after taking my dog for a stroll. I got on the elevator. A moment later, a very smily, well-dressed woman with a leather portfolio and an expensive cell phone joined me, along with some bewildered looking adolescent who wore his hat backwards. She was clearly a real estate agent showing apartments to this little punk, who probably had just graduated from college and whose dad was definitely paying the rent.

As soon as the doors closed, this insufferable woman opened her mouth. "What a cute little dog! What's his name? What's the breed? This is a nice building, isn't it? The elevator is very nice. It is very convenient. The lighting is good. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH."

I was about ready to vomit. I couldn't help but notice the Cartier bracelet on the agent's wrist as she spewed forth her endless, dishonest pleasantries. I knew instantly that she was just talking to keep things on an even keel with her client. After all, no one likes awkward silence. So she filled the air with condescending blather. "It's a wonderful building! You like it here, don't you? It's such a great location, isn't it? There's a grocery store right downstairs, you know," she told me, as if I didn't know there was a grocery store in my own goddamn neighborhood.

"Yes, there sure is," I said, without a smile. I consciously said it impolitely. "And my dog is a she."

"Oh, wonderful," she responded without missing a beat; and without really registering what I said. God forbid any silence should intervene to make her client feel uncomfortable. For his part, the youth-soaked client just stood there staring at the floor indicator as the elevator rose. He was wearing shower shoes, shorts and looked like a smug, boring-ass moron. On weekdays, he probably put on a suit and shlepped to some skyscraper to type emails for one of his dad's friends. Worse, he probably even felt important for it. I could see it immediately.

Thankfully, client and professional stepped off the elevator two floors below mine. They went about their business. The agent kept chatting the whole time. The client bumbled along a step or two behind. He was probably thinking about going out later that night. She mentioned something about a trash compactor as they faded from earshot.

I thought about how impolite I had been with this woman. It didn't bother me at all. Why should I have been polite to her? What did she mean to me? Would she have helped me with anything? And why was she even talking to me in the first place? To provide confirmation for her silence-destroying questions? She was using me as an instrument to avoid awkwardness with her client and talking to me as if I knew nothing about my own building. I knew what she was trying to do. She was trying to seal the deal with this little brat by appearing "friendly" and glib with everyone she encountered along the way. I was just a bump along the road to her commission. That's what bothered me.

Why should I have respected this woman? Why should I have been polite? I do not award politeness to people in situations like this. I do not respect people who ingratiate in order to fill their own pockets. So I do not smile or act nice. Now, that does not mean I am an impolite person. Quite the contrary; it simply means I am judicious with my natural politeness. It also means that I resort to impoliteness with people who deserve to be treated impolitely. Don't be fooled: They are out there. And it is actually worse to treat them politely.

I have been walked over too often for being polite. That is why I now know when to be polite, and when not to be. Believe it or not, it is undignified--and very weak--to invariably be polite with everyone you meet. On the whole, people don't deserve it. So you need to learn when it works to be polite, and when it doesn't.

Friday, April 23, 2010



At some point in our lives, we all wonder whether we are "good people." We live with others. We know how "good people" act. We have an intuitive sense about what makes a person "good." We even hear things about what makes a person "good:" They are friendly, kind, forbearing, compassionate, ethical, honest, caring, loving, trustworthy, gracious, forgiving and generous. "Good people" do not hurt you. They do what they say; and they apologize if they do not. They consider you at the same time they consider themselves. Aristotle and many other philosophers have written tomes about what it takes to be "good." It is an age-old question.

Of course, not everyone can agree on what is "good." You can't know you are a good person until you know what is good in the first place. What is good in one person's eyes may be bad in another. It is easy to lay down absolute standards for goodness. Yet like all ethical dilemmas, only we can say whether we subjectively feel that we have done right. Nonetheless, we can generally all agree that being "good" involves living without intent to injure other people. In that sense, being a "good person" essentially depends on positive motivation. And that positive motivation shines through in good actions toward others. Good people think selflessly; they refuse to hurt others to advance their interests. Bad people do the opposite; they are willing to hurt others to help themselves.

Being a good person is an individual lifestyle. It does not depend on how much money you make or what you do for a living. While it is possible to identify "objective" factors that hint whether a person is "good," true goodness comes from the heart, not from action alone. Enron fraud artists probably donated some money to charity the same year they robbed millions; that donation did not make them good people. No, being good is internal; and good shines through in external action. It is hard to verify. But everyone knows it when they see it.

It is refreshing to know a truly good person because they are rare. In our world, it is hard to be selfless and honorable. There are so many impulsions to discard goodness toward others in order to advance yourself. By the same token, it is hard to be patient. No one wants to wait or understand others' problems. Nor do they want to waste their time on others without reward. After all, people need to fend for themselves. They only have a limited time to get the job done. If they waste their time being nice to others, they might injure their own fortunes. And no one likes to do that. Put simply, we expect most people not to be good; our society frustrates goodness. That is why it is a welcome relief to meet a good person.

There is no formula to being a good person. Yet people throw the term around far more than they should. In many cases, they say someone is "good" solely because they act in a way that enriches them. That misunderstands what it means to be good. A truly good person acts with malice toward no one. The fact that a person acts the way another person wants them to does not make him good. To the contrary, expecting a person to act in a way that is beneficial to you undermines their value as an individual. It "instrumentalizes" them; it makes them pawns in a game you want to win. Just because someone pays you according to a contract does not make them "good." Merely fulfilling an external legal obligation is no shortcut to goodness. A good person holds to his word because it is his word, not because the law threatens him to do so.

Yet many people think that observing external obligations makes you "good." It is easy to make this mistake. After all, complying with the law seems like a "good" thing to do. But the law is indifferent to intention. And intention is the only thing that determines whether a person is good. In that sense, it is possible to seem good by fulfilling every imaginable legal standard. Yet it is also possible to have only bad intentions while complying with the law. You can be a total scoundrel yet do nothing illegal. If a person did not know you, they might say: "Well, he is law-abiding. So he must be a good person." To that extent, fulfilling external obligations can disguise ethical flaws.

I encountered an example to illustrate this easily confused distinction in the New York Post a few days ago. I read an article about some poor web designer who got run over in a Brooklyn street. See N.Y. Post, Horror hit-run in B'klyn, April 19, 2010 at p. 9. The article quoted his landlord. She spoke about his character: "He works. He comes home. He's a very good person (emphasis added)."

What did the landlord know about this guy? How did she know he was a "very good person?" She based her assessment on the fact that he works and comes home. What does that have to do with ethical goodness or pure intention? Nothing. If anything, it reveals that the landlord thinks the web designer was a "good person" solely because he went to his job, came home every night and ostensibly paid the rent. He might have been an utter scoundrel who doublecrossed his friends and broke women's hearts. Yet as far as the landlord was concerned, he was a "good person" because he adhered to his contractual obligations to pay rent. He also was a "good person" because he quietly went to his job and caused no disturbances.

I suppose this is what it takes to be a "good person" in a landlord's eyes. Landlord apply a "formula" for goodness: Have good credit; make an income; cause no trouble; pay your rent; keep your mouth shut; pay next month's rent; pay a late fee after the first. Your intentions do not matter. And "being a good person" means acting exactly the way the landlord wants. In this case, the landlord happened to like the way her tenant behaved because he did what enriched her. She morally approved him because his behavior coincided with her interests. His own ethical qualities did not influence her appraisal. It was "all about her." And that determined whether he was "good."

This gravely misunderstands what it means to be a "good person." A person is not "good" simply because he acts in a way that enriches another. Nor is he "good" simply because he adheres to contractual obligations under law. Rather, goodness is more subtle than that. There is no checklist. Action is not enough. It takes real reflection to see whether someone is good. Getting a rent check in the mail every month does not suffice to prove goodness.

Criminals and scallywags can mail rent checks, too. That does not make them good people.

But who has time to sit down and really think about character in our society? It seems we only care about character when we want to damage a foe with some embarrassing "flaw." And once again, we do that to merely to advance ourselves at their expense. By hurting them, we help ourselves. And hurting others is rarely good.

Thursday, April 22, 2010



In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes "successful" lives in the United States. In large part, he focuses on work: What draws "successful" people to their work, and why do they enjoy it? In broad outline, he asserts that "satisfaction with work" involves three distinct criteria: (1) Autonomy: You must have control over what you do; (2) Complexity : Your work must involve fresh mental challenges, not mind-numbing repetition; and (3) Connection between Effort and Reward : You must receive compensation in an amount that fairly correlates with the amount of effort you believe you have expended. Gladwell says that all three criteria must be present for a person to "enjoy their job."

I agree with Gladwell that people who have autonomy in their working lives "enjoy" their work far more than people who receive condescending orders all day in a suffocating corporate hierarchy. I also agree that people who face fresh new tasks every day enjoy their jobs more because they do not burn themselves out endlessly doing the same thing day after day. And I agree that people who get paid what they think they deserve obviously feel better about working than people who receive virtually nothing for ceaseless effort.

But who the hell fulfills any of these criteria at a typical American job, let alone all three? Gladwell's formula might be accurate, but it is essentially inapplicable: In America, our employment system is not designed to grant autonomy, complexity or fair rewards. To the contrary, it is designed to suppress autonomy, eliminate complexity and pay the least for the most effort. This is the sad truth. And it is no one individual's fault: It is the fault of private capitalism and its tendency to instrumentalize human beings for private profit. And this is also why no one is really "happy" at their job, at least under the Gladwell criteria.

Gladwell's criteria are antithetical to a private employment system committed to corporate profit. In America, most working people are corporate employees. That means that they serve an incorporeal legal entity that is, in turn, established to enrich those who own it. As such, they are mere pawns in a vast machine that is not working for them; it is working for the shareholders. Indeed, they are not just practically working for the shareholders. They are legally bound to act in their interest. Corporate employees are "fiduciaries." That means they must set aside their own personal interests to serve the corporation. If they put their interests first, they could face a lawsuit for "breach of loyalty."

In this environment, "autonomy" is anathema: Corporate employees must know their place in the hierarchy. They do not control their working lives. They receive orders from supervisors, branch office managers and other "higher-ups." They do as they're told, not as they want. While they might have "illusory" autonomy over a few meager peons in the mail room, in reality they are just pieces in a larger corporate jigsaw puzzle. They have no autonomy. They are instruments. In this light, it is impossible for the vast majority of American employees to meet the "autonomy" prong of Gladwell's analysis. As such, they cannot be "satisfied with their jobs."

Private capitalist employment systems also make "complexity" an impossible goal. In most corporate settings, employees exist for a single reason: To perform a discrete task calculated to maximize corporate earnings. Companies do not expect complicated thinking or novelty from their employees; they expect employees to learn their role and do it every day--forever. After all, companies operate under the so-called "profit principle." They expect a certain profit every month, and they hire employees to carry on the operations necessary to win that profit. If the employee deviates from his expected role, he threatens the profit margin. That is unacceptable. As such, employees cannot rightly insist on "complexity" in their jobs. That would contradict their purpose in the corporate scheme. They exist to do one thing: Process claims; answer phones; file papers; send mail; appear in court; put shoelace in shoe; hammer nails; the list goes on.

Employees are like machine parts. What good is a cog if it insists on being a wheel? Cogs must be cogs and nothing else. That is how our system works. And that is why it is impossible to achieve "complexity" in most American jobs. It would undermine the entire reason why employers hire people: To transform them into single-minded profit generators who do a simple task and no more.

Finally, our private capitalist system also heavily disfavors a "connection between effort and reward." Companies do not employ people to pay them what they think they deserve. Rather, companies exist to generate a particular profit level for their owners. To generate that profit level, managers must examine two factors: Income and expense. Employees are an expense. But they are necessary to generate income, too. Thus, employees represent a "profit balancing act" in the corporate scheme. They must be paid; but never so much that their salaries threaten the expected profit. Employee effort has nothing to do with it. It is all about numbers-crunching to satisfy the shareholders. While a happy employee would certainly like to get money commensurate with his long hours, employee satisfaction is not the goal. Employers don't care whether their employees think they are getting a fair deal. They don't care whether employees feel that they are getting comparatively nothing for their effort. None of that matters. Only the profit margin matters. In that light, almost no American employees--or any employees in a strictly capitalist system--can insist on a "just" connection between their effort and reward. After all, it is not about them. It is about the shareholders.

Considering all these things, it is no wonder that almost no one "likes their job" in the United States. Those who say they like their job are probably just being dishonest with themselves. Perhaps they meet one factor from Gladwell's test and mistake it for true happiness. Maybe they get to perform a novel new task every Thursday and now think their work is "complex." Maybe they have a few college students to supervise and now think they have "autonomy." Or maybe they got a $500 Christmas bonus for working 2500 hours last year, and now think they have a fair "connection between effort and reward." Yet these are all illusory "achievements." They do not change the system. The employee remains firmly under the corporation's control. And he remains instrumentalized: He exists solely to generate profit in exchange for the smallest paycheck possible in the circumstances.

Some will say I am exaggerating how many people cannot meet Gladwell's test for "work happiness." Some will say that only certain job "classes" cannot achieve autonomy, complexity and just reward for effort. But I know from experience that so-called "better jobs" are no more satisfying than "lesser jobs" under Gladwell's standard.

I was a lawyer. People think that lawyers are all rich and have wonderful working lives. They are "professionals," so they must have autonomy. They are highly educated, so they must encounter interesting, new and "complex" work every day. And they obviously must make a lot of money from their effort.

Yet that was not the case: I was a pawn in our law office. I had virtually no autonomy. I had to follow instructions from senior lawyers and the firm's boss. I received harsh criticism and discipline for failing to know my place. I was reprimanded for suggesting novel ways to approach old problems. In short, I was low on the totem pole. I did not control my own destiny. And it felt really bad.

Neither was my work "complex." I did the same things every single day. I filed papers, I made phone calls, I met with clients. Then I consulted with my boss and we discussed how to make the most money from cases. True, the work involved technical expertise that I learned in law school. But it was all dismally formulaic. It was horribly boring and stressful at the same time. It was always the same. There were knee-jerk responses for every type of case. We even sent the same standard questions to opposing counsel in every case. The details may have changed from case to case. But the overall structure was gruelingly banal. There was no "complexity." To the contrary--and applying Gladwell's contrasting term--it was "mind-numbing repetition."

And I certainly did not receive a reward to equal my effort. I made $50,000 a year in the law firm, without regard to the number of hours I worked. I was at my desk every morning before 8. I normally stayed in the office past 6:30 every evening. I even worked weekends. I brought work home. Yet no matter how much I worked or how much I won for the firm, I got the same lousy $50,000. To add insult to injury, I got a $50 bonus for Christmas after breaking my ass all year for more than 60 hours a week. My friend got nothing, so I guess that made me "lucky." In short, there was no connection between my effort and the reward I received.

I mention all this to show that every working person in America faces the same insuperable challenges. Lawyers and Fed Ex deliverymen grumble about the same thing. They are both dissatisfied with their work because they are instruments in the same private capitalist system. The same "profit principle" applies to them. And the "profit principle" does not exist to make workers happy; it exists to enrich owners. That is why Gladwell's test for "work happiness" is hopelessly utopian. Our system does not exist to grant workers autonomy, complexity or fair rewards. It strips away those things because they are inconsistent with the profit principle. If workers suddenly had autonomy, complexity and fair rewards, corporations would start losing money. That would be unacceptable.

In the end, it does not matter whether people are happy with their work. Sigmund Freud wrote in Civilization and its Discontents that human beings have a "natural aversion to work." Strachey, trans., p. 30, fn 5. Additionally, they can never achieve the autonomy, complexity and just rewards they seek from it. People not only just don't like work; they can't get any satisfaction from it once they begin it.

People aren't supposed to be satisfied with their work. Our system is not designed to satisfy workers. And it functions just fine without satisfying them. In fact, it would break down if it did. In that light, Gladwell's criteria for "work satisfaction" are all well and good. It's just that our system works strongly to ensure that no working person ever fulfills them.

No, the only people who enjoy autonomy, complexity and just rewards in their work are the wealthy owners, employers and entrepreneurs. These are the true capitalists. These are the men who instrumentalize others. These are the men who take home the profit after cutting the paychecks. They control their own destinies. They don't listen to anyone but themselves. They get to do different stuff every day. And they set their own salary. They get it all.

There just aren't that many of them. They don't want newcomers in their club, either. So they keep membership low. That leaves more goodies for them.

They might be miserable, wretched, contemptible, exploitive fuckers. But at least they fulfill Gladwell's factors. They are satisfied with their work. Hey, if you had a mountain of money, called all the shots, did whatever you wanted all day and paid yourself a mammoth salary, wouldn't you be satisfied with your work, too? You know you would.

But that's not you. So shut up, get back to your desk and await further instructions from your supervisor.