Chapter 7. Scandal With Care
It seemed that about an hour had passed since the alien disappeared. I had almost given up believing he would return. The computer by now was on stand-by hibernation mode, and I decided to leave it that way in case he would want to continue his research.
Finally I heard clicking in the other room again. HE WAS BACK! I ran into the other room and saw him clicking away at the computer. “Where did you go?” I asked him with great anticipation.
“Many of your websites give information that is simply…unbelievable. I have been to peculiar worlds before that defy imagination and logic. I have been all over the galaxy, a stranger in strange lands but have never seen anything so outlandish as your otherworldly world. I had to see these things for myself”
I was very glad to have my guest back. His visit had not only been unique, but an enjoyable. He continued to click and tick away and I stayed in the room to make sure he wouldn’t leave me in the same unannounced way as he did before.
At last he stopped and looked away and took a deep breath that lasted about a minute. I had become concerned that when exhaled he would increase the miasmic carbon dioxide content of the room, so I opened a window for some fresh air. I didn’t want to inhale from an alien introvert, and was trying to avoid the air particularly when he exhaled as an extrovert. Maybe that’s why I always preferred incremental calculus to excremental calculus any day.
He looked exhausted from his information gathering. He appeared to be in some cognitively dissonant information crisis. What sort of information was he gathering? Raw data? Was he cross referencing? Checking validity or duplication of data? What about the danger of chaotic mis-information, something like randomly chaotic missed information?
He was still trying to digest what he had compiled from the websites. In a sense he was out of site, out of mind – his own mind, that is. He was trying to make some sense of the information, and finally he broke the silence: “Your sources are so varied and contradictory. I wish you could make things look a little bit more logical, like rocket science.”
“Rocket science? Is that easier to understand?” I was chuckling cynically on the inside.
“Not necessarily easier, but more consistent,” he responded authoritatively as he stood up and walked back to the fauteuil in the other room. As he sat down, his arthropod-like legs made a clicking sound that reminded me of our computer peripheral devices.
His mention of rocket science made me think about the physics classes I took in school. I remember having to calculate what speed a rocket would need to attain in order to reach escape velocity and orbit around a planet. I also recalled the thrust necessary to overcome the Earth’s gravitational forces and all the principles necessary to get a ship or craft or some other object into space without having it fall back to Earth.
“What thing in particular is more consistent about rocket science?” I asked with genuine curiosity, followed a split second later by feelings of regret for having asked what I did.
“Rocket science is based on theories and axioms of kinematics are used as a foundation to build technologies that enable you to go places where no man has gone before. It is a very consistent science, at least where no black holes are around to bend space. If you take the time to comprehend it, you will find it much easier to understand than your own financial system.”
Here we go. Now back down to Earth. Back to our financial system. What goes up sooner or later must come down. I would hope the opposite is true, too.
“What I mean is,” continued the alien, “for example, you have this thing called the Federal Reserve which is supposed to regulate monetary policy, or so your websites say. The Federal Reserve provides a banking system, and yet it is not clear who holds the precious money in reserve. This central banking system of the United States and the Treasury Department together are responsible for creating and holding in reserve the great cash resources of the country.”
I was surprised and somewhat dismayed that he had not done his due diligence research on the Federal Reserve. I was disappointed. I would have liked him to teach me about this reserve so that I myself could become more enlightened. His extraterrestrial perspective would have been most welcome, as so many of us human beings don’t really know what critical function the “Fed”, that cryptic but imposing institution, actually serves.”
His words seemed simple enough, and I felt myself qualified to respond: “Yes, that seems right, close to it, anyway.”
He wasted no time in his return volley. “So does this mean that your government, through the Federal Reserve banking system or the Treasury holds money resources?” He asked, trying to make sense out of everything. He was looking for internal consistency in our human institutions.
I wanted to answer him in the indicative, but could only retrieve from my mind a weak answer of the subjunctive: “I guess it does.” I said, and then continued: “At least, we always assumed it does.” That was my inadequate answer for all it was worth, and I immediately realized that my contributions to his research were becoming somewhat inadequate, definitely less than stellar.
“So then there actually is a money reserve out there, then, held by the government. Why does not your central bank just divide up that reserve amongst the people? Would not that make everyone happy? After all, there are so many trillions of dollars in reserve, and the government could also print more money. This is the way the trees do it, very equitably and fair. The lack of equitable fairness just seems detrimental to your species and its society. Do not you see why, human?”
The alien then paused with his eyes open, apparently working to exit some feedback loop so he could continue his investigation into our human woes. He appeared to be demonstrating an impertinent characteristic of his demonically adept species, inspecting me more carefully than before, taking a good long look into my eyes. Like an experienced poker player, he was looking for some sort of tell I may not have told him verbally. Although this did make me feel uncomfortable, I realized that this creature was sensitive to emotional hardships, and it seemed to me he was looking for ways to segue into his next question. His inspection made me feel poked and prodded, as if I had been in the dentist-like chair in a classic alien abduction often portrayed in science fiction movies.
But this scrutiny was different. This alien was looking for signs. I felt he was inspecting to me to see what was wrong with me, why I was unable to get a job so far. Was I simply not hirable? Did I have horns protruding from my head, like those depicted in Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, a sculpture product of the enlightenment? I knew that there was some confusion about the Israelite law-giver having horns when he descended down from Sinai, but that was known to be a consequence of the Vulgate translation of the Bible to Latin. My understanding of the original Hebrew “Qeren,” which really means both “beam” and “horn”, had been translated to the Latin “cornus” relating to horns of the altar to which fugitives would grab for safety, and later ascribed to being protrusions of the Devil. I also knew that “Qeren” is the Modern Hebrew word for “fund”, like those hedge funds whose devilish fiend-managers make millions of dollars hedging against mainstream faith and trust where much of the public’s retirement plans are invested.
Signs - did he see any? Any crop circles under my eyes? I now noticed that the alien had stopped scrutinizing me, and appeared to have ceased looking for some vestigial horns. He was still trying to make sense of my situation and that of the long-term unemployed, attempting to reconcile theory with practice. He hesitated for a moment, and continued his probing a bit more carefully, it seemed. “Why is not your government doing anything positive to get people back to work where they can contribute some value to society?”
Like someone trying to figure out the meaning of the signs in crop circles, I now felt obligated to help my freaky friend get to the truth. “You’re right. So many talented people are looking for work, I said sadly. Many of us are giving up hope. Many talented young people have taken up the task of being sign-twirlers, a phenomenon I have noticed as of late along our busy thoroughfares. It is a phenomenon which has been added to our current job-deficient culture today. Sign-twirling has developed into an art. It is not too different from the way a traditional dance can describe a situation where people are gathering water or crops, just trying to make ends meet. Others like me have taken to the resume dance, trying on a daily basis to make contact and land a job, but are getting so frustrated with the process of answering job advertisements that we give up every day. But we continue every day because we don’t know what else to do.”
At this, he wanted to ask me something, but then he paused, apparently thinking of the most polite way to ask. He was looking me over as if to check if I was able to take a punch in some sensitive place, then slowly and hesitatingly asked, “Please do not be insulted, human, but…could it be that…those of you who have been unemployed for a long time…are simply not hirable? Has your government erased you from the list of people it perceives have value to give? Is it simply writing off the young and restless college graduates who simply want to get started on their careers? Do you and the other long-term unemployed have some sort of blemish on your individual records?”
“None of the above. That may be true for some, but many of us are experienced and eager to work – at anything, in fact. Many of us are recent graduates, ready and motivated to get started in our careers. We are intelligent, talented, and at the prime of our lives. And we spend hours upon hours searching for work, going to employers, to employment agencies, and end up getting ignored. Some of us are so flustered out of our wits from our chronic social disengagement that we volunteer our time for the community or try our hand at writing a book when we feel we have exhausted all other alternatives.”
Like a frog who by definition knows the dawn, the alien’s intuition was driving his behavior. He then peered at me again listening for telling sighs and looking for telling signs. His amphibian-like appendages seemed to swell somewhat, and I soon realized that he himself was reaching some sort of epiphany regarding my last comment. “Please do not misunderstand me, human, but could it be that you have been unsuccessful in finding employment because you simply do not believe in yourself?”
His question made me wonder if he were not some of motivational speaker. He was probably going to tell me that I was to blame for my lack of success in my search for the Holy Grail. I knew how important it is to think positively, but I had hoped he wasn’t going to lecture me on this. “Believe in myself?” I asked suspiciously.
“You cannot give up in your search for work, just like many of your philosophers insist that you humans must continue your search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. These contacts are definitely possible. Just as your race needs to get onto the ‘grid’ of the interstellar network, you yourself need to build your own network. You need to get ‘out there’.”
What ‘grid’ was he talking about? Something like Star-Trek’s United Federation of Planets? Was intelligent life connected to that grid? Had someone succeeded in connecting the star-dots to form constellation figures in three dimensions?
Back down to earth, I responded to his comment about my own search for intelligent life that would offer me a job at a reasonable living wage: “I don’t give up looking. I send resumes out every day.”
I was sincere in what I said. I had been like a SETI probe, conducting on-going search and re-search in my own ‘Search for Employable Terrestrial Intelligence’. It had to be out there. It had to be the truth. Despite my arguments against the existence of intelligent life, I had to wonder: Just because we haven’t had success in finding it so far, should we be giving up a search that has spurred our imagination and creativity?
As if he were reading my mind, the alien then commented: “Your perseverance will pay off, human. You cannot give up your quest in search for suitable employment,” he said, sounding like something from Dale Carnegie or Norman Vincent Peale. Although I was discouraged from my lack of success, I had come to appreciate the power of positive thinking, and didn’t want to go around sounding like the Biblical Jeremiah, often referred to as the Prophet of Doom.
Although I was surprised by his motivational rhetoric, I knew he was right. Millions of professionals and academicians have given up looking for work, and we all knew that this served to lower the media’s oft-quoted ‘unemployment rate’ as compiled by the Bureau of Labor. What many of us were not always aware of was that this falling from grace, this disappearance from the grid, this disregard of the brain drain of wasted creative talent, could most likely become a primary trigger of future social decline.
If the current trend doesn’t stop, the United States of America could go the way of the Roman Empire. Even someone as smart as Malcolm in the middle-class couldn’t prevent such a classic decline and fall. Must all roads really lead to Rome? Do all good things have to come to an end? Now I sound like Jeremiah again. It’s just that I really don’t want our system to decline, even though it sometimes seems that failure is not only an option – these days it seems more like a strategy. To what end, I’m still not sure. But unfortunately, I have a vague idea how it will all end if this keeps up.
“It is good that you continue your search for intelligent employers”, he added. “You are in charge. It is up to you to continue looking. Do not stop.”
I now took notice for the first time that he hadn’t been making use of contractions like so many of us do. He didn’t say “it’s” or “you’re” or “don’t.” I had noticed earlier that he separated the contracted word “don’t” correctly, but reversed the order of “you” and “not”, making the sentence’s syntax incorrect. But though the style was wrong, the content was clear. I would correct this error later. I was more interested in content rather than style.
Intelligent aliens of this kind are probably preoccupied with trying to connect themselves to the societies they are trying to understand. That’s probably why the word “alien” has the word “lien” in it. I would have pursued the source of his weird style of speech, pointing out his misplacement of a pleonastic negative used similarly in the interrogative voice as it is in French, but right now I felt it more urgent to respond to his naïve proposal he made about a while ago about having the government divide up its money among the people. The idea was more than naïve; it was absurd.
Maybe in his analysis he had been talking so much about trees, he didn’t know that money doesn’t grow on them. “First of all, that would generate inflation by weakening the currency, making it more common – too available.” I retorted, thinking over what I had said after I said it. One should always think before signing one’s initials.
Monetary policy was apparently an issue the alien was trying to figure out. After considering the possibilities of inflation resulting from an overextended availability of money, the polymath alien then made a rather interesting remark about our frequently inhumane society when we tend to carelessly throw the restless tired, poor and wretched refuse of employment, to the dogs:
“But does not your government have the duty to care for its people and ensure that they have money to pay for their food and shelter? Does not your government not care if individual people go hungry? Why does not it want to help its citizens out? If your government has cash reserves, why can not it help its citizens in financial trouble?
His misplaced pleonastic interrogative usage was becoming something of a distraction. It was like the sun’s magnetic field becoming tangled due to rotational differences at various places on the surface of that giant hydrogen-helium ball. When the tangled woven web stretches too far it snaps and discharges energy beams leaving sunspots blemishes on the solar surface. A real disturbance, much like earthquakes closer to home which occur after the stress of the tectonic plates at a fault become too great and need to be released periodically. Much like human discharges, too. And unfortunately much like society releasing its potential talent on its way to a downward spiral. Except that in the last case, we humans have the intellectual ability to effect change and prevent such a social decay from happening. If we want to use this ability badly enough, that is.
His grammatical misuse took me on a trip around our star and this was not the best use of valuable but limited space-time so I decided not to correct the grammar, at least for now. Instead, I preferred to focus more on it the luminosity of its intent rather than on than on the style with which it was posed. “I never said our government really has cash reserves, just that it regulates them”, I responded, understanding the absurdity of my statement. Then, in order to recover some semblance of consistency, I added: “They keep telling us the government is flat broke and in fact owes money.”
“So if it is ‘flat broke’, as you say, where is the money coming from to pay salaries to your elected officials? I understand a U.S. Senator will make a million dollars in one term of office. How do you reconcile such lavish payment to your officials who are supposed to be serving you with the government being broke? Why do not your elected officials not see how the cash reserves can help the people that vote them into office?”
The alien obviously didn’t understand politics at the fat places of the Earth. He obviously didn’t understand our politicians, particular those who happen to win elections and begin their stay in the legislative chamber. The longer they stay in their seat, the shorter the blood circulation gets cut off, causing the buttocks to fall asleep. And once the thinking mechanism falls asleep in the seat, the people become more and more restless. True, these elected officials did succeed in winning elections, traversing the Yellow Brick road on a path from Munchkin Land to Emerald City, losing a piece of naïve innocence along the way. But once that winners’ circle quickly becomes transformed into an inner circle inside the Beltway, the circulation gets get blocked in a colossal traffic jam, depriving the voting public of the effective government they had hoped for, effectively cutting it off from that inner circle. This is what happens when thinking organs get comfortably stuck to a chair, including the seats for which the taxpayers pay. As their brains fall asleep, the elected officials forget about the people and get even more comfortable in their seat even though it is incumbent for the incumbent to begin effecting change.
“Help the people? A novel idea, suitable only for science fiction, perhaps.” I said sarcastically, with more irony than iron itself. I found myself inadequately prepared for such a discussion, having spent the morning in another unsuccessful job search. The alien saw that I wasn’t able to provide answers and probably wondered why I, together with so many others, weren’t more demanding of our government officials.
I wanted to tell him how many economists here feel that such financial aid to a segment of our population would stimulate the blood flow of the economy for the. I didn’t agree with the notion that it is beneficial to help the needy. They should go out there and pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get back on the grid. That way the flow will lead the money to the influential affluent whence it trickles down to the masses. That is, whatever water is left over after political influence is taken into account.
Engaged deeply in the brainstorming over our social woes, the alien thought some more, then after some consideration, asked plainly, “if your government has been selling trillions of dollars in bonds, then does not it have money in its cash reserves?
By this time I had seen how unprepared I was for this discussion. The alien had made a very good point. Where DID all that money go that was collected from the bond sales? I can understand why tax revenue would be down as so many people are not earning full income, but what about bond sales which are in the trillions? Where is this year’s bond sales revenue? Where is the offset from sales in previous years?
Right now I was glad that the alien hadn’t mentioned the possibility of going himself to seek the answers from the officials themselves. I was hoping he wasn’t going to insist in the classic sci-fi fashion “Take me to your leader”. I wouldn’t have known where to go to if he had. Our leaders are so inaccessible; so unapproachable.
I now noticed that the oblique appendages from the alien’s head were starting to turn upward like two protruding cranial qerens. Despite the beams of illuminating radiant light he arrived with, I knew he was no Lucifer and didn’t offer me any deals to reverse-mortgage my immortal soul whose equity I worked hard to build up. I wasn’t about to grab the horns of the altar, either.
Each of us waited for the other to break an awkward silence. Finally the alien broke the ice: “I understand what you are saying about how your reproachable elected officials are difficult to approach. It makes sense that you feel they are detached from the people who voted them in. On Zatox we understand the nature of oblivious politicians. We have a saying. Loosely translated, it goes: ‘If the sun had eyes it would see no shadows.’”
That was strange enlightenment, to say the least. But it was like a ray of sunshine. I knew immediately what the alien meant in his depiction of some glistening and wondrous world of perpetual sunshine, perhaps from his travels. But his latest metaphor was a weird and eerie extraterrestrial expression if I ever did hear one. It summed up the situation of lavishly paid representatives who think everything is hunky-dory on a world to which they are oblivious.
That saying turned out to be one which I could relate to. If the sun had eyes it certainly would see no shadows. This reminded me of our own ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil’. Like the three proverbial monkeys associated with that paradigm, our wealthy representatives just don’t know what it’s like to be just a commoner, a member of the third-estate class of the realm who has to struggle every day for sustenance by squeezing every penny from the extremely precious and rare reserve of v-money earned at near-minimum wages. And what the folks of the political brass don’t know won’t hurt them, nor will it make them any less comfortable than with the privileges they enjoy as belonging to the higher caste second estate of that realm with ready access to all the p-money they don’t need.
I thought back to the alien’s latest assertion, and applied it to politics and the human condition. The sun really would see none of the darkness that was out there. Since dark places are those parts where no light beams are absorbed, and no light can be shed on the truth, it is impossible for the wealthy class of comfortable politicians to gain a realistic view of the actual financial worries of the people they are supposed to serve, as elected officials. This is true whether they are enlightened gentle-ladies or their male counterparts in Congress.
The alien’s color now turned to a light aqua blue, and this seemed to reflect a more relaxed state of mind, an easing up of the mood he was taking on. His change of chromosome apparently indicated he decided to ‘lighten up’. Many of us humans would have decided this was a good time to ‘light up’ a cigarette, and I was glad he wasn’t a smoker except for the exhaust that had come out of his ears earlier when my descriptions had exhausted him.
Only now was the room clearing up of the smoke that had been coming out of his ears earlier. I could tell because the light beams from the afternoon sun had all but disappeared as the smoke particles dissipated.
He asked me simply, “Do not my findings make sense? Is my research not consistent with the actual truth? Have I made any observations which are inaccurate?”
A fair trilogy of questions. I forgot that it was not his mission to criticize, but rather to analyze. But I certainly could be critical in the framework of his own clinical research, of which I may have played an integral part. So, I had to confirm his pedantic observations:
“I have to agree with your findings.” I admitted rather somberly. “Many of our leaders do indeed miss the point. Many of them don’t pay attention to what’s important to the people. Too many of them miss the trees for the forest. A portion of them don’t see the shadows, and since they are in power, they are the ones who shed their own unnatural light on the goings-on on the planet. They blame each other and highlight the wrong issues. To suit their own agenda, they focus their own misdirected beams just like the sun’s wasted radiation away from the earth. With help from media which can spin things to their will – or more precisely the will of their sponsoring benefactors, much of this energetic potential is not utilized by earthlings and their life sustaining processes. Just like our sun.”
The alien truth-seeker nodded, and seemed to be attempting to absorb the contents of my diatribe. Apparently he was looking for consistency between the evidence and conclusions we had arrived at independently.
He then asked rather humbly “So why do not your people not complain more to their elected officials? I thought that freedom of expression was the new norm on your planet.”
Again, spoken like a true alien, an outsider. Apparently his own ‘beltway’ was a loop much wider than the orbit of the planets of our solar system, and he was undoubtedly from the outside. His orbit seemed more obtuse than that of Halley’s Comet, though he did seem to illuminate our world both tragically and comically just as that comet had done when it brought us Mark Twain.
Back down to earth, and from my primitive vantage point, freedom of speech seems to be a right we enjoy, guaranteed by law, but I learned a long time ago that in practice there are times when you just can’t fight city hall. Be ready to state your case, but don’t make a federal one out of it – unless you are ready to go the distance to the Supreme Court.
I chose to respond to the alien’s question about why the people don’t complain. All I could say was: “Fortunately, freedom of speech is becoming the norm on our social order. If it were not, I would be unable to relate this dream when the time comes,” I said.
Freud might have said that my recurring dream-experience with two alter-egos was no accident. Nor was it merely a quintessential dream of sensual or existential insignificance. Between interpretation and extrapolation, the dream does seem essential to my essence as a conscious being of limited intelligence. That is, until I wake up.
The alien didn’t react at all to my last comment. Instead, he asked: “So if the people object to this, why do not they complain about not having enough money?”
Good question. How do I answer it? How to I respond to such a basic down-to-earth question as the one he just posed? And for that matter, what good is my right to free speech if I am being ignored all the time? That’s something I thought about many times.
Without thinking, I replied, “Financial help for the people has been an issue of great debate in our society,” I responded, noticing that the alien was wrinkling is forehead in much the same way we humans do when we are perplexed.
At the risk of repeating myself earlier, I wanted to re-emphasize and clarify the picture for my guest, I added, “Although external stimulation of the economy is something that some of our economists think is a good thing, many of us see it as charitable donations. We try to avoid being what is commonly referred to as a ‘welfare state’, and feel the government should not be handing money out to its citizens. They should be free to earn their keep without help from the government.”
I was going to add more, going into the Plato’s socialist Republic as well as Archie Bunker’s criticism of the welfare state that we didn’t need. But I decided not to. It wasn’t my place to promote the general welfare as Jefferson once pre-ambulated. I was never appointed a judge to interpret that phrase, although it was undeniably there.
He had been relentless in his return questions, but they actually made sense and although I was fiscally conservative at heart I understood his progressive principles in my mind. I respected them, even if I didn’t agree with them and didn’t applaud them. My conservative beliefs were important, though I was concerned that with all the excessive infighting we may find ourselves with little to conserve.
“But you just mentioned the salaries that elected officials make”, he asked with a sincerity that crossed thousands of light years and hit me like a beam of light carrying a truth that had traveled space and time without interference or political spin. “How is this possible? Where does the money come from if your government is broke? From a hole in the other side of the universe? Through what your scientists call worm-holes or black holes?
Now I was the one who was starting to become dizzy. I was afraid to look into the mirror to see what my own color was. Where does the money really go? And furthermore, what happens after an election campaign to the millions of dollars in contributions to both the winning side and the losing side? I had no way to answer these seemingly rhetorical questions, and I had never heard any politicians address them.
I agreed with my confounded visitor. The politicians should cut their salary to closer to a wage that reflected their identification with the people. What was interesting was that every time someone asked politicians from Capitol Hill such a question they would prevaricate about the truth, avoiding a direct meaningful answer. The alien and I shared a confusion which seemed further away from a solution than ever, more insolvable than rocket science.
He turned his head to one side, trying to figure out why I had reached an impasse, probably feeling responsible for my own cognitive dissonance. After a brief pause, he continued his line of questioning with deliberate solution-oriented emphasis: “Given the large amounts of money that are flying all over your economy, does not it seem fair that the overflow of that money be used to help out the people who are in need? Can not your government just help out the people financially”?
I decided again not to fix his grammar. He was expressing his ideas well enough anyway, so I left his syntax issue alone. Unfortunately, I understood every word. Having recovered my composure, I had to think for a moment or two. Then finally I replied, “Not really. Many people don’t want that care and are averse to their government just giving out money to people. Most of us want to work for the money and accumulate wealth over the years so that we won’t have to work when we get old. Besides, it seems that the government still needs to hold on to an amount in ‘crash’ reserves, in case of a catastrophic emergency. The federal government simply can’t dole out the money just to ensure that people have enough food. We would then degenerate into that ‘welfare state’ I was talking about earlier.”
I have always said: There’s nothing worse than giving money to the poor and lazy; except for giving money to the rich and lazy. Like our politicians and elected officials and their rampant campaign finance abuses. What I didn’t know was, it usually takes for a politician to become corrupt? Some begin their political careers with unholy thoughts, but others probably begin wanting to serve the public in earnest. Whether they begin corrupt or corrode over time, many people I have spoken with agree that they all end up corrupt sooner or later. I try to avoid sweeping generalizations such as this, and would look forward to seeing this claim refuted.
My extraterrestrial visitor persisted: “All right, that makes cents – I mean sense. But aside from the hard-earned dollars that most people get for long hours of work, a special consideration must be made for those who do not have the opportunity even to work at all for any wage. Your own situation of unemployment is highly unreasonable, and lacking in any logical explanation. Does not your government have the duty to see that people are working for money, adding value to society?”
This question was really tough. Does the government really have such a duty? Is its purpose to care for the peoples’ pursuit of happiness? Does the responsibility of the job-search fall only on the job seeker? Should the government be actively engaged in matchmaking between people and available jobs? I was stumped.
The alien saw I was stuck. He tried to help me out of the feedback loop I seemed to be in. “Look, you said before that you yourself are in an emergency financial situation. You said would be satisfied to get your hands on only $40,000 a year. That is such a small amount compared to the trillions of dollars in reserve.”
I found it interesting that his numbers sounded so digital. There was something different about the way he pronounced them. It was hard to describe. His pronunciation of numbers was so – digital, as I said before. As opposed to my analog-sounding numeric expressions, his digital accent gave his arguments additional credibility.
But in terms of what he had just said, I had to admit he was right. So I responded: “That’s true, and there’s nothing I’d like more than to have that forty thousand dollar salary, but remember that there are so many people in this county who would like the same. If, for instance, you were to open up the central bank and just give forty thousand dollars to the twenty-five million unemployed (though that number could in all actuality be higher), that would amount to one trillion dollars.”
That answer didn’t seem to satisfy my celestially sentient friend, who apparently couldn’t help but ask “So, if your government does not care if people such as yourself are not contributing to the enhancement of society and are being wasted, what happens to human development? Where does creativity and technology go from here?”
I hadn’t noticed that the alien himself was starting to have a govern-mental breakdown of his own facilities. Apparently it was his turn now, as smoke began to come out of his ears again. He was having trouble absorbing the complex ideas.
I couldn’t think of anything to say, even a comment associated with my capitalist upbringing. Admittedly, I never gave the subject much thought, but now I felt it was relevant to the unemployment experience that I was going through, together with so many others like me.
Fortunately, the alien came back from his momentary respite to offer his own comeback: “All right, but let us consider what would happen if these 25,000,000 people were to be offered serious jobs in areas of, say, education, health, or emergency preparedness. Would not that solve what you call the ‘unemployment problem’ while preparing your society for future challenges, by deploying them in areas which appear to be of critical need?”
Even with his digital accent, syntax errors, and his lack of using contractions, everything he said made sense to me. His argument did seem somewhat simplistic and not of this world, but I did I have to admit that I was rather cynically amused. “Spoken like a true alien” I said, rather impetuously. “You have so little understanding of the human mind.”
The ardent alien rebounded rather abruptly, reasserting himself and his cause. “That is true, and is the reason for which I am here trying to figure out why humans think the way they do. Why do so many people who like you, would be satisfied earning only $40, 000 a year are having a hard time finding such an arrangement?”
“Because companies just don’t like to hire; taking a chance on making a new hire is a risky business. It’s a matter of trust.”
“The organization’s trust. The entity that actually does the hiring.
“And whose decision is it, ultimately?”
“I suppose it is the ultimate responsibility of the CEO, who has final approval of all such decisions.”
“What is a CEO?”
“The Chief Executive Officer. He or she is the boss of the executive team, who is in turn the boss of high level management, to whom everyone in the organization reports to. Sometimes the CEO is a woman, but usually it happens to be a guy with a super-inflated ego.”
“And does this CEO earn $40,000?”
“He earns much more than that. Millions a year, bonuses, perks, options, golden parachute.”
The alien seemed to be getting a gradual but delicate understanding of the corporate ladder. I knew how important it was to get a good grasp of the principles of how that ladder works and how it is used in organizations and corporations.
It took me a while before I finally got a good understanding of corporate systems and the players who constitute the moving parts. I learned the importance of that when I finally had figured out why the ‘Who’s on First’ routine by Abbott & Costello was so funny. But until these ground rules had become clarified, I couldn’t understand why everyone was laughing. I had to learn that the first baseman whose job it was to cover first base was a guy named ‘Mr. Who’. His teammate covering second base was ‘Mr. What’, and the third baseman’s name was ‘Mr. I-Don’t Know.’ Once I got this, the rest of the routine was clear, rhythmic, and hilarious.
Just like Costello, the alien was dizzy still trying to figure out the ground rules of upper management and the power of title dictated by the corporate governance rules of entitlement. The psychology of title plays a very important role on the world’s stage where all of us are players. The role-play that dictates what we say in the script turns out to be cast upon us by title rather than by the contributions we made to society. Whether one has a title role in act and action and whether one loses the name of action may already be imminently recorded in the script.
The alien considered further: “This CEO you are talking about. He makes so much money, and wields so much power and influence. Is he really that good?”
“They say he is,” I answered in a rather automated way, as if I were hypnotized and programmed to believe that CEO’s are really and truly the best and the brightest. I found myself talking in a rather mechanized way, giving answers like a simpleton who has never given these ideas another thought. I was being really a commoner, an ordinary person, giving simplified answers. Or so I thought.
“So he must be so good, that he is making money for his corporation or bringing in funds for whatever organisation he runs in his capacity as CEO,” he commented rather naively.
I wasn’t sure how to answer his last comment. All too often an ineffective CEO can damage a company by not listening to the rank and file employees. They are the stakeholders who want the organization to succeed and therefore can provide the most reliable information on opportunities for performance enhancement. The problem is that many CEOs are too detached from the trenches to be able to listen. Either they don’t have the time or they lack the will.
“Not always,” I responded. Just because he has the title of CEO doesn’t mean he’s that good at what he does. Sometimes a CEO loses money for the corporation, even if he earns a huge salary. Sometimes the organization’s profit & loss statement is negative and the resulting balance sheet shows this clearly”.
“So if CEO’s can lose money for their organisations, and yet earns millions of dollars for a dismal performance, why can not anyone be a CEO? Anyone can lose a little money. Is he better because he has shown he can lose more?” he asked naively.
He had a point. I guess anyone could do the job of a CEO if given a chance like Apollo gave Rocky. After all, this was still America, I think. But there’s more than just doing the job of a CEO. The hard part is BECOMING the CEO, the actual politically-ridden title. When someone is named CEO, it is very much a political appointment, not usually based on qualifications, if those claims to the title are examined very carefully.
This argument was probably unnecessary, and I should have known better than to argue it. I had a long time ago come to the conclusion that there were three types of activities, three levels of engagement for which an employee was selected: Focus, Awareness and Political. Unlike the last of these, the first two add value to the system. The last of these is valueless, but its members use their political power to evaluate the others. It’s very hard to join the political elite. In is often acquired with one’s frequently through some sort of lying or treachery which epitomizes the ninth and lowest circle of Dante’s inferno. I don’t know if the alien was ready to understand this. I wouldn’t mind explaining it, if he wouldn’t mind the descent into our human Hell of fame.
“It’s a very special position,” I said after some misguided reflection. I was doing the best I could to answer his question, but apparently coming up short.
The political realm seems to transcend the other activity levels at work. Both the focus and awareness levels are at the subservient whim of the political level. It is the realm above the facts. But without the political people lying to the rest of us, where would we be? In both work and in government, aren’t those of the political realm the ones who make promises, and that in itself motivates everyone else? Are these liars sacrificing themselves? Are they carrying a cross? Should I be careful about these cross-references?
There seem to be more applications of the political level than just the CEO. Politicians who become elected officials use their political influence to dull the public’s awareness level of what’s really going on in the country. As the perception becomes distorted, so does the public’s evaluation of the performance of their elected officials. This seems to be typical of a society which has changed from a dictatorship of intimidation to a dictatorship of ignorance.
A perfect example of this is in the public’s evaluation of the Department of Homeland Security. In order for the people to understand how effective the leadership of our defense agencies has been, it would need to get some information on performance. But the public never receives such information, since that is always considered too sensitive. The agencies are after all, cloaked in a Maxwell Smart cone-of-silence, in a sort of hush-hush environment about which only KAOS knows for sure. Meanwhile the citizens, who are the ones who are supposed to be protected by their government, do not have the necessary information in order to review performance on the very intelligence agencies and security institutions created to protect them. The inability to pass judgment is more than merely another example of how awareness is trumped by politics. It shows how the intelligence community is beyond reproach and not open to the scrutiny in this age of DIPS-Dictatorship of an Ignorant Public kept in the dark, far away from beams of true intelligence.
Politics definitely trumps awareness, and good judgment, too. Otherwise, how could one explain why in the 1920’s marijuana was generally legal in the U.S. but alcohol was prohibited, while half a century later alcohol possession wasn’t a crime while the war against marijuana was at its peak even though more car accidents were caused by drunk drivers than high ones.
Public awareness is often distracted by political folly. Another example of this relates to the tunnels in Gaza which Hamas terrorists use to bring missiles, rockets and other weaponry to attack citizens across the border into Israel. Instead of destroying the tunnels ahead of time, and keeping the people secure, the government in true political fashion distracts its people by performing a once-in-a-decade incursion and bombing of innocent civilians on the other side. Maybe it’s easier than to provide day-to-day security in a small strip of land through reliable reconnaissance. But innocent people on both sides always have to suffer at the hands of the politicians. Once again, politics trumps not only awareness, but of common sense as well.
In the 1950’s while Senator McCarthy was destroying careers in the name of the fight against communism, the public was distracted from what was really going on right under the nose of Republican President Eisenhower, The Soviets sent the first satellite, the Sputnik into space, and Cuba was in the process of becoming a Soviet island from which to potentially launch antiballistic missiles, and where Castro’s regime still survives. The Middle East was becoming fertile ground for violent Soviet-supported Baathist type regimes, and both South Korea and Taiwan were becoming more and more isolated by Communist regimes. It was Eisenhower’s stalwart Vice President who later as president would visit both China and the Soviet Union in order to engage these Communist countries in a détente initiative. All these things were part of a reality from which the people were distracted. And the diversion was put in place a right wing conservative, Senator McCarthy.
The separation between the awareness and politics realms connects strongly not only with the trust people have in their government, but with the trust the government has in the people. The schism probably began with the JFK assassination. Foundations for a wall of mistrust began to be built first on a subconscious level as the people became separated from their elected officials. Maybe the people were feeling a bit guilty that their support and enthusiasm was what drew the president to the crowds that November Friday. In any case, the event brought an end to hand-shakes with crowds, high-profile motorcades and intimate meetings with crowds of enthusiastic supporters. Everyone was now a suspect who could be holding a gun. Mutual trust between government and public began a slide that continues into this day.
It has often occurred to me that CEOs of a corporation behave just like politicians. They strike fear into the hearts of the people, while politically distracting them from what’s really going on. Many CEO’s show themselves to be incapable and untalented, but since they have achieved the title of position, they obviously somehow have shown their worthiness to fill the role.
The alien was apparently focused on this last point. He then he surprised me: “It seems that the CEO is a position anyone can fill. ANYONE can lose money. Humans in particular. So, why do you not try to be a CEO? Then you would have much more than $40,000 per year plus all the additions you mentioned.”
Interesting point. It made me think how interesting it would be to have a reversal of the “Undercover Boss” show. Instead of having the executive pretending to be an hourly employee, have one of the employees take on the role of some remote executive who will be making senior decisions for several days. That role reversal would be very enlightening. I’m sure such an hourly minimum-wage employee could play CEO for several days, if not longer. Such an hourly worker could quite probably perform even better, since such a person would know the organization from top to bottom.
Such a scenario could probably never happen. An integral part of the executive team’s power is in their purview to prevent information from getting out, holding back important facts from the focused worker and that makes the worker unaware. The ignorance of the details is what prevents advancement in the organization. If you are ignorant then you aren’t worthy of advancement. Such a worker is silently degraded, classified as being below the appropriate pay-grade because you are ignorant and therefore aren’t worthy to receive information. It’s a vicious cycle of chicken and egg merit and promotion. That’s why the most important aspect of the executive team is to keep secrets and prevent breaches like those that could happen if an hourly employee were allowed to be on the executive team even for a short time.
In response to the alien’s question, my answer seemed one which justified my current state: “I’m probably not good enough to be an executive. But the truth is I never tried. If I can’t get even a simple job, how could I even dream of one such as a CEO?”
He looked at me with a hint of disgust, and then said. “If you lower your standards, the standards will lower you. Your self-defacing sentiments notwithstanding, you seem to be capable and bright enough to do such an important job – that is, when your beams are on and you are off the couch. You have shown me you know how to figure things out, and you have helped me exceedingly in my colossal efforts to understand humanity – and that is no small enterprise.”
“Thanks…I think.” I was glad I could explain some complicated aspects of the human game after having lain what I thought was the groundwork. But I had no idea of the exhausting work that lay ahead in just the next few minutes, in terms of clarification of CEO concept.
“The CEO sounds like a senior powerful politician. Something like a rogue mobster with tentacles and listening devices everywhere.”
Having already cast aspersions on the high-flying business class I turned to cast some doubt on his last comment about listening devices, because it didn’t seem like anyone was listening.
Then we seemed to have fallen into a black hole of the type that resembled an Abbott & Costello fast-paced burlesque dialogue. “If you cannot be the CEO, then who can?”
If I were Abbott I would probably answered the alien’s question with the quip “Who can’t be the CEO. He’s on first.” Instead, I answered rather flatly and without due process of thought. “The CEO must be someone who is high profile, well-known, respected, and feared. A veritable Who’s-Who on First.”
The alien looked up a bit miffed by my last remark. He obviously didn’t even know what I was talking about. Our subsequent Abbott & Costello-type comedy-of-the-absurd dialogue reflected the socially affable insanity prevalent in our time, particularly when considering the fair evaluation of talented people. Although the alien tried to regulate it, the back-and-forth dialogue seemed to just flow naturally, with a current as fluent as the Blue Danube:
“Let us slow down the flow here. Could you please answer me a simple question?”
“Okay, I said.” This was getting weirder than the time Peter Griffin started addressing the Family Guy Audience and told them that things were getting weirder than that other time that…
“Could you please tell me how a person qualifies to be a CEO?” he asked.
Once again, a question regarding the acquisition of political power. I never knew how to join that elite, but it is well is known that CEOs and politicians can make strange bedfellows. For though Heinrich Himmler was exceedingly psychopathic is his sadism, we should never forget: Hitler was his boss. He was the politician. Politics once again made strange dead fellows: The boss was closer to Satan than even the sadists he appointed. Any part of the soul after the sale isn’t worth a sou.
“He’s just good at is, I guess.” I was sorry I didn’t tell him the truth, but he left me no time to correct myself. I was now awash in a current of tears that comprised my own Cocytus River of Wailing.
“How has he shown it?”
“By being a CEO at another place.”
“And how did he get that job?”
“By being a CEO at another place before that.”
“But how did he first get to be a CEO?”
“By having the experience.”
"But how did he first become qualified to be CEO?”
“He was able to get a lot of things done, and was considered very important.”
“Why was he considered important?”
“He was the CEO.”
“So how was he able to show that he could get so many things done?”
“By being CEO, he was able to acquire a team of executive assistants, VP’s, GM’s, assistants, and an entourage of people to help him get the job done. The strange thing is that these executives always agree with the CEOs ideas and never show any signs of dissent.”
“But it seems he obviously could not have done all the necessary work done all by his lonesome self. How did he get such a supporting staff?”
“He is the CEO. It comes with the territory.”
“Why does he need to have all these people to help him?”
“He’s a very important person. He’s the CEO.”
“Okay,” he capitulated.
He was getting exhausted. That was evident from the exhaust coming out of his ears again. It was understandable. You probably could read the above laconic transcription backwards from his “okay” to my “okay” and make the same sense out of it.
We were running in circles like the Three Stooges and getting no place fast. Like a beltway loop. Now, the nature of spin was more apparent to me than ever. My drain was brained, and I felt as dizzy as a bee.
Abbott and Costello used baseball spin to make us dizzy, but today this is seen more frequently in a mass-communication media. Any idea can be spun to the satisfaction of those that sponsor a program in order to extract a distorted aspect of the facts. In baseball, one could argue that the 1927 Yankees were a terrible team since they lost 44 games and that the 1962 Mets were a great team because they won 40 games. You could argue that Cy Young was the worst pitcher ever because he lost more games than anyone else on the mound. Perhaps Nolan Ryan was the worst because he walked more batters in his career than any other pitcher. Or it is possible that Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, and many other Hall of Famers weren’t such great hitters because they struck out over a thousand times in their respective careers.
The great American past-time was a quirky sport with weird rules. Why is first base always on the right side? Can’t it be played on the left side like on a British highway? Why do we have the tradition of showing the number of errors in a baseball box score summary together with hits and runs, even though only the runs really mattered?
Baseball is used to such rough-and-tumble arguments. You could also spin a real baseball-style “rhubarb” that there’s no practical difference between a .200 hitter and a .300 hitter because the only distinction is manifested in one at bat out of ten. In most games batters don’t have more than 4 or 5 at-bats. In the other nine at-bats, the two players are equally successful. Yet any sane manager will decide to bench the former and keep the latter in the starting lineup.
Macbeth’s prophetic witches could also spin a blessed curse or two in their coven cave, in a brew-ha-ha over whether a fly ball is foul or fair:
· Double toil and triple-tongue spinning
· When hurling and brawling are done for the inning
· Or thunder, lightning and rain stop the hitting
· And the battle’s lost and won with no winning.
Rhubarbs can be fun. Many of the media folk who don’t like government regulation could also engage in a baseball argument that the game shouldn’t have umpires, because the game needs to be fair and balanced. The two teams already balance out the game, and if there is any dispute let them fight it out some other way. Who needs regulation? The players and managers can ensure fair play just as if it were FINRA or the SEC.
Spin has been going on long before our planet cooled. One can spin any argument about the direction of the Earth’s spin depending on what side of the planet you are looking at. It’s more than about the polar vortex. It’s about spinning tops and spinning bottoms. If you are looking down on the Earth top-down from Polaris towards the polar bears, penguin-less planet could be seen as rotating counter-clockwise and orbiting the sun counter-clockwise as well. If you were to look at the planet bottoms-up from the penguin’s south side, then it would appear to be rotating clockwise and orbiting the sun clockwise without any polar bears, either. One could claim that polar bears don’t exist, and another could argue that penguins are undocumented mythical creatures. From bear-paws to bird-claws, everything depends on one’s angle of observation and ability to argue and convince others about the spin of this particularly bi-polar planet.
Developing spin is a basic process. First, you decide WHAT results you want to have from the propaganda, including which prejudices should be used when propagating it. Then you decide on HOW to disseminate the propaganda, and WHEN is the best timing to do so in order to maximize impact. The question of WHERE is no less important, but may be considered last because the propaganda is rather ubiquitous and movable from place to place.
All issues and questions need to consider the spin of the agenda. My favorite example on this reminded me of the Sesame Street song with the verse “Can you tell which thing is not like the others?” The young viewer would be challenged to find the one item different from the others. A good example would be if you were presented four seemingly disparate items such as Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, or Chevrolet, the answer would depend on your current spin. If you’re in a ball park, you may select baseball as the only sport or hot dogs the only food they serve there. Those of us who aren’t sports fans would say apple pie is the only dessert. Others who work with cars as a livelihood or hobby would probably select Chevrolet as the different item on the list. It all depends on the spin you’re in.
Now comes the other part of the quiz: What do all the items do have one thing in common? Besides going together in the good old USA, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet all have something to do with spin. For each item has had to go through a spinning process as part of its utilization or production, whether that process entails pitching a baseball, rotating a frankfurter on a spit, using a spinning device to produce a circular pan that holds the dough of apple pie when it is being baked, or when driving a vehicle with rotated tires. Spin is essential for all the items. It unites the members of the group which otherwise have nothing in common.
Spin is more than just magnetic turning of atomic particles to create a field of dreams. It’s about convincing others to see things a certain way even if both sides agree on the facts. The question is, when does the spin go out of control? When do we perceive ourselves as being too dizzy? For although I am against the principle of our country being a nanny state, I could see someone spinning an argument based on premise or promise of freedom. No one wants a broken promise under the guise of a broken premise which could happen if one stretches the nanny-state principle too far. You can spin a good case that the war against drugs should be called off because it makes us a nanny state, and you could argue that tobacco or alcohol should be sold to children. You could spin further arguments involving prohibition and its repeal, the sale of fireworks, the positioning of four-way stop signs at some intersections, the Clean Air Act, loud music in the suburbs, breast feeding in public, keeping dogs on leashes, dumping, stalking. Since this is not a nanny state, you could spin a rather effective argument that would enable child molesting and kidnapping. The most important thing is that we not live in a nanny state.
With the right spin is you can influence your audience in any way you want in order to induce a particular point of view. It is similar to viewing objects under certain types of light. The color red looks different under a florescent light. It will appear differently under incandescent light than it would under light closer to infra-red, and even different under sunlight or ultra violet light. Like all types of spin, an object’s appearance can look completely different depending on the beams of light that strike it. The same news story can be spun differently depending on who spins the dreidel. A left wing “liberal” news media will spin it differently that the right-swing one with the back-spin. The information may even be the same, but different aspects of the story will be emphasized depending on the spin. Like matter-antimatter, the two spins cancel each other out. Then we don’t know what to believe, and the mute button goes on. The media may be the message, but the spin cycle can brainwash both woman and man and the clothing that make them.
There are so many types of spin, including those party particles of half-integer spins of unlimited occupation. These bosons can occupy Wall Street and any quantum state including the Higgs bosons blue states. Then there are the full-integer spins of the fermions, which have exclusive ownership to the quantum space each one occupies. The Pauli principle theorizes that no other fermion can have that state. No vacancy in this hotel; the fermion space, named after the physicist Fermi is firmly fermé. It was an unsolved mystery like retrieving Fermat’s elusive centuries-old mathematical proof of a bold claim regarding a general Pythagorean theory. There seemed to be little room to swing a cat or spin a yarn for the feline to play with, between Fermat’s arithmetic claims and Fermi paradoxes about spinning the possibility of the existence of other planets with intelligent life. Whatever mathematical proof is necessary, and whatever party your particle statistic model complies with, Bose-Einstein or Fermi-Dirac, in the final analysis it’s all about how one spins the data.
Give me a place to stand on and I will spin the world my way. I will move the earth my way or the high way, and in any direction I want. The center of all revolutions contains such a spin axis. It’s like any debate with rotating arguments where spin is at the axis of movement. Spin provides the torque of any argument and of any claim one can stake. For with the right light component and appropriate spin of well-placed beam sources, you could argue any point: Why liberalism is bad and libertarianism is good; why Denver is high even without legalized marijuana; why some cities’ names end in “burg” and others in “ville” and still others in “town”; why TV shows today need a multitude of executive producers but only one writer and one director; why the planet Mercury is the best source for the mercury for our thermometers; and why it is actually possible for a baseball team to hit into more than one double-play in an inning. With the right spin you could argue anything. And with the left one, too. You could argue that eyes in the head of the fool on the hill couldn’t have seen the world spinning round from his vantage point. You could argue as Mr. Banks did on Mary Poppins that when all is said and done, there’s no such thing as YOU. You could argue that there’s no such thing as a no-spin zone, even on a pool table. You could even spin a news story that there’s no such thing as spin.
And if one talks about political spin, the antics of Halliburton can’t be ignored: No other corporation has been spun around so many axes of power that it defies any and all imagination known to man. In the company of men, between human vices, presidents and chief executives, few other corporate entities have been singled out for passing the buck towards a controversial buildup of debt, public and private.
But perhaps the most impressive spin seen on the news networks relates to book promotions, something I know from first-hand, rather than ghost-hand. When a ghost writer writes a book with a news celebrity’s name on the cover, the sponsoring cable network buys up hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies at a bulk wholesale rate. This does two things: First, it gets the book to be a best-seller right away, a very suspicious result considering the short time between announcement and purchase. Secondly, it allows the front-running of the book to go up in price so that all retail purchases gain a profit margin when sold as separate books. But since this isn’t part of the regulated stock exchanges, front-running is never an issue. Now THERE’s a spin even the Cat-in-the-Hat couldn’t balance even some books and a rake and a fan and a birthday cake.
The literature is haunted with ghost writers, the backbone of true creative spirit. The problem is, they are hard to find. One needs an Ovilus or Ouija board or an EVP detection device in order to re-awaken that elusive spirit of creativity. We shouldn’t be scared by a revelation of disembodied spirits, those ghost writers with the gag orders. They are the ones who write the gags from the shadows and are ordered not to say they wrote the material. We need a more than a spirit box. We need ghost-busters who can think outside the box.
Back in the spinning trenches between you, me, and the lamppost, we try to fight an honest battle. That’s why we employees get dizzy from performance reviews at the workplace that seem to contain more spin than all the planets combined. First the decision is made by the hierarchy of the advantages and disadvantages to giving a positive or negative review to an employee, then the details are filled in, spinning the good and the bad in order to justify a raise in salary or no raise at all. More often than not, the performance review is about the employer wanting to save money. Any good thing is open to criticism. Even happiness itself can be criticized…for being late in coming.
The alien appeared to regain composure. He had been insisting on getting the story straight with no appreciable spin: “You said a moment ago that the CEO’s support team-members never disagree with him. In such a case, how can an organization with such a CEO sustain itself over time? If it is a business, how can it expect to grow if trusted and honest feedback is discouraged?”
An intriguing question. Evidently the alien didn’t realize it, but he had asked a question many of us mortals ask about those high level executives who happen to placidly agree with the CEO on any and all ideas. Unlike the president of the United States who can’t sidestep Congress without setting a bad precedent for presidents of the future, these CEOs have practically unchecked power. Members of his executive team are known as “yes-men”, a term that can include women executives as well. But though I realized this was overly simplistic, I had noticed that it tended to be the perception of many people.
“I can’t answer that question,” I said somewhat apologetically. “It’s above my pay-grade.”
The alien’s color then turned back to a bright greenish hue, reminding me this time of the Geico Gecko. Tree-hugger as he was, the verdict of verde seemed to suit him well. He had gone green not just behind the appendages which resembled ears, but everywhere else with the exception of his eyes which did not change color. I was glad his eyes weren’t green, as that showed he wasn’t jealous of anything on our planet and didn’t covet the resources such as our equitable trees. With a consistency of a pine tree needles and the light absorbing nature of chlorophyll in leaves on the trees in the summer, and with the dominating presence of American paper currency, the alien’s current shade of green seemed to indicate naïveté. My latest comment probably had added to this effect.
“What do you mean ‘above your pay-grade’?” he asked, tilting his head to one side.
“That’s an expression we humans use to humbly admit that we do not have the information to make an informed decision. We do not have access to that info because we are not high enough on the political hierarchy and are ‘kept in the dark’ about the situation that prevails.”
The alien continued to look puzzled and paused to absorb the latest piece of information. After some more reflection and pondering, he remarked “Such a CEO could very well be the root of your problem. Instead of nutrients going equitably to the leaves in the trees, they take all the water and minerals, keeping almost everything close to the roots in the ground. But what about the regular workers from the rank-and-file, those terrestrial leaves that absorb the sun’s rays and provide sustenance to the tree itself while enabling the production of oxygen necessary to support animal life on your planet?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question, so I decided to go into some detail about the human work experience, detailing the focus and awareness parts first: “Employees tend to fall into one of two types. There are the managers who guide the work effort. Their activity level is that of awareness, in that they need to know what is going on in their realm of responsibility and to guide activity and steer their small section within the larger realm. They balance resources depending on priorities and need to make judgments as to where to apply greater emphasis of available human and capital resources.”
“The other group is the larger one, that of the at-large worker, whose activity level is not about awareness as it is the case with the manager, but rather that of focus. Unlike the manager, the rank-and-file employee does not have to be aware of the true goings-on in the department. It is the duty of such a regular employee to perform a task as defined ultimately by the task-master manager. Because such a ‘grunt’ is focused on the task at hand, he or she is distracted from seeing the gestalt full-and-complete picture of what is truly going on. The focus on attention to detail distracts from awareness.”
“Mid-level managers tend to be both focused and aware. They are focused on the department they are managing and are charged with being aware of what is going on within. But within the organization and at upper levels they are kept in the dark. Consequently, they are the first to be fired in the management hierarchy, seen by the upper echelons as overpaid-grunts.”
“But the CEO is accountable, too. How can the CEO avoid being blamed by the board of directors to whom he is accountable? You mentioned an action plan.”
I didn’t know how to explain the political nature of the CEO, so I decided to explain more of the behavioral aspects of the chief executive officer’s role.
“Often this is a political ploy designed to divert attention so that any blame for failure to reach objectives on the management team. This includes individuals who had themselves claimed to be qualified to serve on the executive team but were unable to deliver on a promise. The CEO in this case will either fire the executive or move that person to another department. Sort of like musical chairs.”
“How does moving that person to another department help the CEO?”
“It takes focus off blunders by the CEO. Sometimes the mid-level managers – whose activities are essentially awareness-based - become too aware. They figure out what is really going on. They come to some realization that someone up there made a mistake. The mid-level managers have to be politically correct too. Otherwise, they could become players in another round of musical chairs or Russian Roulette,” I said with a cynical chuckle.
The alien was not amused by the musical chair reference. Nor was he moved by the momentum of roulette spin. But he did seem to understand some of the ideas. He was struggling with others. I wanted to help, and so I decided to try to adjust my claims:
“I’m talking a form of systemic cleansing; a discarding of sins; something of a human sacrifice to satisfy the gods. Sometimes the CEO’s action plan is to move people around so that his own job is never in danger from a purge of the board of directors. In this way organizational change is an important tactic. By keeping things moving and keeping people off balance, through the element of surprise, focus will not be placed on CEO performance but rather on circumstances brought on by having the wrong people in key positions. Once the purging and cleansing takes place, the CEO will claim ‘NOW the organization is on the right track’ The CEO can simply explain to the board of directors how the organization was not on the right track before, but now IS on the right track, thanks to him.
I guess no cleansing is permanent, not in corporations, political scandals, clothing, dishes, or even spiritual atonement. The one exception of this could be money, but otherwise cleansing is always an on-going thing in the human realm, and we should never think of ourselves as permanently clean.
“The CEO sounds like a country’s president who can fire a minister or cabinet member and claim that things are NOW on the right track.”
The parallel between a CEO and a country’s president was striking. Maybe that was the original platform that Alfred E. Newman held when he ran for president as a conglomerate face of other politicians including a pre-presidential Reagan and a post-presidential Eisenhower.
“I guess that’s why the U.S. president is known as the Chief Executive,” I said.
Like a chief of the executive branch of government, a CEO needs someone on whom to blame the executive team’s vices. That’s why there are so many VIP’s who are VP’s in an corporation: VP Development, VP Marketing, VP Human Resources, everywhere a veep-veep. Like a viceroy sent by the royalty to collect vicious taxes from the colonists, the royal elite see themselves as politically too important to have vices of their own. But despite the multitude of vices the scapegoat must shoulder, the president, as Chief Executive has only one whipping boy. Both kings and presidents are above vices. That’s why they have veeps and viceroys.
Sometimes an ex-vice often becomes president and begs a pardon from his own vice with a promise of a rose garden. When the new ex-vice becomes president he pardons the ex-vice-ex-president for the creepy scandalous vices. It becomes a vicious cycle of vice to vice, just more water-under the-bridge-gate type of scandalous acts at the top, which doesn’t stop spinning at the top, and vice-versa.
Then there are presidential sex-scandals, a male vice which underlies a potential fact of life: That women might make better chief executives than men. They don’t have the male sex drives to distract them. They are driven differently and are focused on the matters at hand. When voters consider which Clinton spouse would do a better job as president, such matters may matter most.
“Chief Executive?! Chief Executive you say?” He asked somewhat dumbfounded himself. “I never knew that your president was known as the chief executive. Our scholars on Zatox never saw that expression used in the U.S. Constitution. I have heard of ‘corporate governance’ before, but this is ridiculous.”
I didn’t know how to explain it to the alien, that like a president or other influential politician with controlling power, CEOs are looked up to like an omnipotent and all-powerful Super Being, who thinks that he is the CEO because He just is that He is, and has as a consequence special rights and privileges even though their biggest accomplishments may have been to put the “cuss” in the customer and the “dust” in the industry. They may think they put the “plan” in the planet and “u” in the universe, but they hold the reins of power, we all nevertheless owe these titans big-time: $pace-time, that is, where time is money.
I was about to explain to the alien that the Constitution was designed in order to form, establish, and provide for a framework for a new nation whose total strength and capabilities were greater than the sum of its constituent citizens. It was the politics and politicians in their political parties that made the nation weaker than the sum of its potentially potent people parts.
The alien looked down, still a bit lost in thought. And I was still lost in mine. I didn’t know how to tell him that the CEO was looked at by the public as a big cheese who held all the cards and was the top scrooge whose stooges execute the executive orders given to the firing squads through the rank and file while the CEO was off at some exotic luxury resort. I had no idea how to explain to him that the CEO’s job was to be a pilot light to guide the employees but could fire anyone not perceived to be fired up. The problem is that when the boss fires an imaginative person, that person’s imagination can get fired up, too. It would be no easier than trying to comfort those who received pink slips, expecting them to be understanding while they try to comprehend their new reality and survive the CEO’s “muck and mire policy”, without replacing the “m”s with “f”s.
I didn’t know how I would tell him calmly that people looked upon the CEO as someone who sends employees directly to the unemployment lines. The CEO was seen by the people as the sire who was wont to fire, having been known to do this even if the only reason was that the employees knew too much, and the organization headed by the CEO didn’t have the option to behead or in any other way kill anyone (much to the executives’ relief) because there was no money left over in the budget for bullets or other fresh killing utensils after all-expense paid executive retreats at luxury hotels emptied the expense accounts. They would have to wait for next year’s budget to make the cuts. The CEOs are not loath to be loathed by the little dots whom they connect in order to form a line segment that has over time become a seemingly continuous long-term unemployment line.
My extraterrestrial friend was in the process of regaining composure, and I would have had the time to tell him more about how CEO’s rise to power but I didn’t know how to do so without coming across too irrationally. I would have liked to explain to him how important it was for me to earn even only forty thousand a year, and how vital it was to keep my home from being foreclosed at the same time when the CEO rakes in millions of dollars, making outrageous fortunes even the soothsayers couldn’t have foretold. And while amassing large debt in corporate expense accounts, they bring in highly unaccountable and questionable value for the organization. I would have asked him this: Why do we assume that earning such a high salary actually motivates the CEO to do a real bang-up job that adds the same amount of value to the organization in return?
If I could, I would have set him straight about how the public feels about CEOs. They are held in great fear and disdain. The perception is that many of these upstarts began their careers lying with their pants on fire, attending private parties keeping “company” with subversive types, polishing up the handle of the big front door, and then opening it. As junior clerks who copy so many letters in a big round hand so free, then serving writs of corporal punishment on potential rivals. As junior officers they learn to know their place and hold onto it like a good lieutenant should. The fast track continues as they are promoted to rank of officers of the organization, bringing major problems with them. They are eventually promoted further to a political rank of general nuisance before finally retiring with a golden parachute and watch to match, having wasted time that could have been spent building the organization while tempus fugit, and having lost millions for the organization in the process of continuously pulling rank and file. Their only talent is to look busy and bark out orders like they were man’s best friend concerned with the welfare of humanity. And no one thinks about raising objections even if it would make a stink that would make even the most obnoxious old farts jealous.
We all knew this to be true in many cases. But how does one connect the dots for such a logical alien about such a small elitist segment of the population that wouldn’t mind tossing both company and people into the abyss in a scorched earth policy? THE CEO is above rebuke in any on-the-job jobation, and is beyond rebuke or probation, while ruling with an iron fist the organization. He holds a rank even higher than captain of industry, although he doesn’t have to go down with the ship despite all the investors’ faith and trust in the CEO’s ability. And while the ship goes down together with all the lavish sunken costs, the victims of his firing squad suddenly can’t afford to pay their mortgages and are in a new danger of having their homes go underwater together with the sinking ship. All the CEOs have to do is to blow out hot air and to just stay close to their desks and never go to sea. Only in the employee’s earthy ashes and dust do they ever need to trust.
So, I didn’t go into this detail. I sensed he could figure it out in his determined quest to get at the truth. He was like a mood ring that changed colors with every capricious change in the wearer’s current state of mind. At times he was emotional, as indicated by his chromosome-oriented shifting to all colors from the rainbow, but he did possess a curious nature worthy of a scientific research analyst, and genuinely wanted to know why we humans agree to having a corporate system of CEO compensation that wastes resources. After a few seconds of reflection, I responded in true classic capitalist fashion: “Your solution about putting twenty-five million people back to work by giving them serious jobs makes a lot of sense, but these days there’s so much talk against government spending.”
Without hesitation but with some emotionally charged alien gesture, he then retorted: “It is not government spending if it is done the right way. Rather, it is more like government investment in the people. An investment of the federal reserve to take advantage of the human workforce reserve which is just sitting out there and waiting to be tapped. Would not this be better than just having people like you sitting in an easy chair or lying down when there is so much important work to be done? And what about building technology that could save the human race from the great disasteroid...” Then he paused in mid-question, regretting the mention of that possible future crash. He apparently had momentarily forgotten he was under strict orders not to divulge celestial events that were already set in motion in the stars. So, he continued his interrogative sentence “…or drought, or floods, or famine, or contagious germs?”
I caught that word “disasteroid”, the one that caused him to pause. It hadn’t escaped me. He used the term before, and once again it intrigued me. What future event, if any, was he talking about? Were we on course for an apocalypse when this massive body would hit our planet? Would this lead to civil disruption as a first step towards some Armageddon? This was really food for thought, and I wasn’t ready to give a response to his deep query. So, I answered rather weakly, “I guess there are people already at work to solve these problems – the best minds are probably already at work on technology that could save the human race.”
Then I realized that we were, after all, in a human race against time, and it was only a matter of time when we would be able to solve the problem of creating a solution that would prevent our destruction. Time has a way of virtually separating anticipation from eventual reality.
Could it be possible that our governments don’t really care about the future of civilization? Is it the case that they don’t think there is anything that anyone can do about it in the present? Although not caring for future generations could be considered scandalous in the future, the results of the scandal haven’t totally surfaced today – and that’s all that seemed to matter to the present governments.
Were we placing our future in jeopardy? I don’t mean with reference to Alex Trebec or Art Fleming, but something truly serious about the future, not trivial like a game show where the viewers don’t win any prizes.
The judgment of future generations is often painfully telling. Sometimes it’s even somewhat unjust. One thinks about the humility of President Lincoln and what he would say about the memorial structure in his name. His modesty may have caused him to disapprove of this sanctuary shrine on the east bank of the Potomac. He may even have said it was disrespectful and too gaudy, appearing too much like a temple of worship. But the irony is in the paradox that he is now in no position to judge it, or his deeds. It is the future generations who are charged with that. None of us is in any position to do so when we perish, even if judgment of the descendants is one of greatness and gratitude.
He then turned his head to one side again, and this made me uncomfortable. “Are you positive about that?” He asked seriously. I guess I really was being too positive about our future. He then continued, “If so many people unemployed, underutilized, and just not working, how can you be sure that your problems will be solved? Maybe there is no disasteroid in your stars. But perhaps there is a virus out there destined to attack the population. Have your people come to their senses to cooperate in working out a plan to solve this?
He had raised an interesting question about disease. It reminded me of a phrase Art Linkletter used to use, which I corrupted: ‘Out of the mouth of babes, oft-time come germs.’ Future generations, beware!
“What about droughts and famine?” the alien continued. “What happens if your rains become very infrequent? Does not this interest your species? Or are you so short-sighted that you ignore the consequences of chapter 11?” He asked this with digital articulation, rising up from the fauteuil in which he had been sitting.
I wasn’t sure what he meant by “chapter eleven” with his extra-digital hexadecimally-accented stress. My analogic was not digital, and I had assumed he meant some sort of bankruptcy of the human socio-economic genre. Maybe he meant something elementary that many preschool children would think, that one and one equals eleven. Coincidentally, that’s how a digital computer represents the number two in binary code.
It was then that I thought of something funny to say that may have caused his hexadecimal digit circuits to jam and fall into a feedback loop. I only wanted to caution him about his coining new words and phrases too loosely as if he were a mint that made good cents and later printed new money. He might get caught in a feedback loop.
“Be careful, my alien friend, of the dangers when coining new phrases that start with good cents, since this can’t prevent rhyming infatuation with inflation or currency stagflation in our nation,” I said like a robot after being fed a litany of oxy-morons.
My last comment was the straw that broke the back of this stellar savant and seemed put him over the edge, having reached a tipping point some moments ago. I should have asked him instead what he meant by “chapter eleven”, but at this point his system seemed to shut down. He just froze up and went silent, staring off into space. It was possible that he felt he said too much already, or perhaps I did, and my last sentence didn’t help the situation. Or, perhaps he realized he had given unauthorized information into future events on our planet such as a disasteroid on a destiny-driven collision course with the earth.
It may have been possible that my statement had caused him to blow a fuse, overloading his circuits as he was trying to figure us humans out like robots on the planet Mudd in Star Trek. Like them, he may have become cerebrally paralyzed like when a computer is fed commands that cannot be executed, but must be executed. It like instructing a computer with the command: “Do not perform this command”. The alien’s condition reminded me of our computers that freeze up on us today. His mission of understanding humans was not possible because there was no way to understand us. We were prone to too many misunderstandings.
In the same way I was still stuck on his comment concerning chapter eleven. His intent couldn’t have been more confusing if it had been quoted by that mythical cult of privileged but advanced class of earthling poltroon philosophers who called themselves Vertébrates and who, because of their arrogant sophistication, could sometimes be classified by errant taxonomists as spineless.
If the alien really did have a message regarding chapter eleven, it was as obscure as a randomly lost quatrain-of-thought from the medieval period, composed whenever some nutty old soothsayer tells roughly ambiguous details about many unforeseen situations.
The words of the interloping stranger from who-knows-whence sounded like one of our psychics. I always had a problem with the notion that there were some people who could predict the future. There was a paradox involved. If they are frauds then should be treated as outcasts by society. If they were not frauds then they possessed some special power to predict the future – in which case they should be arrested for not having warned the people about upcoming catastrophes. I called this psychics’ paradox. A true psychic would have been able to warn the authorities about the 9-11 attacks, for example. This is the case with other disasters that are part of history. Whether a psychic fortune teller is authentic or not, the very claim to be able to predict the future casts the person in a shadow of doubt or compliance. Either fraud or conspiracy: Take your pick.
But my alien sidekick was no such psychic. Unlike those humans that claim to be psychics, this alien would have nothing to gain. I felt like a white dwarf in the presence of a red giant, despite the notion that we were both products of star-stuff. His changing colors reminded me frequently that I was engaging in a competitive battle of wits against a formidable opponent. Speaking for myself, I may as well have been a puzzlewit competing against a superior adversary while waving a blank white flag to indicate my surrender.
But he really wasn’t an adversary. I sensed he was serious and really came to understand my adverse situation and those of my fellow humans. Appearing frustrated by the lack of common sense which my answers had been providing, he began thinking and deliberating, pondering and wondering, mulling over his research, trying to put together everything he had learned. He appeared to shake his head for a moment, although I’m not sure if that was a headshake at all. For a moment I thought I saw smoke come out of his ears again, or from his antennae or whatever appendage he called it.
He just stood there, staring into space, apparently digesting the food-for-thought, perhaps homesick for some other spiritual nourishment in a region of space where rationally understandable physical laws make good common sense.
He was in gridlock, just like our government. And the results were the same: He just stood there, doing nothing. He tried to think outside the box, but was prevented from doing so because of irrational, illogical ideas. In his mind, innovation was being opposed by traditional thinking. Our planet was like that: We humans realize that tradition conserves things that have been built up, while it can have a tendency to lock out freshness, including healthy tendencies to think outside-of-the box. The innovators argue that tradition draws back new innovative ideas, while the conservatives worry about conserving that which has been put in place and sustained us in the past. The two forces are vector opposites: Tradition is a regime; innovation is organic. When the two meet in wedlock - gridlock results. Which is why we were sometimes as motionless as a golem.
The alien didn’t seem ill, just mentally still. Perhaps he was contacted by his superiors like Mork from Ork being summoned by his operator, sending weekly reports with lessons learned. Maybe he was being instructed not to divulge too much or give away any ideas that would change our course of history which may have been on a collision with a disasteroid like the one that may have killed off the dinosaurs to climax the Cretaceous. Perhaps he had said too much already.
Although he had not appeared to have broken down physically like he had done so before in such a scary way, I started to become concerned about the alien being’s well-being for the second time today. True, he was supporting his own weight by standing up tall, but he seemed now as lifeless of the Golem of Prague in the spring. I wished I could help him out with some cure, but there was no balm in Gilead to be found; not that day.
I supposed he became another victim of paradoxical thinking which can be often the case when analyzing the human condition. Apparently we are much more intricate than the complex applications of rocket science as these pertain to quantum mechanical relationships between matter and energy. For while these relationships are fraught with never-ending loops and black holes within which light is gravitationally trapped with no chance of escape, the complexity of the human spirit is free to take these intricacies to the next level particularly when exotic social theories are entertained and applied.
He was at a loss, and I knew how he felt. It was like being in a helpless situation looking for employment but not understanding the basic logic of the world around you. I was sorry about his condition, and blamed myself. Here was this wonderful wizard of laws. He had traversed many atmospheres, including Oz’s ozone layer, and visited the many wondrous lands while performing spectacular feats of stratospheric skill. But now he couldn’t move even an inch, still-motionless like the tin-man who needed his oil can in order to be lubricated every now and then. All I could do was think of a rhythmic lilt he or one of his buddies would have sung:
I was going to add another stanza to this, but decided to postpone it until later, hoping the alien would revive in the meantime. Unlike a motion picture, he was as stationary as the TV stations are without a remote-control. The seasoned traveler from the stars was now was stiff, still, static, and on stand-by mode, paused like a movie at intermission or commercial break.
I had found our encounter more interesting than most of the material from our stand-up comics these days. This guy’s current stand-up routine was now one of silence, which also had more imaginative content than many stand-up “comic” routines that claim to be funny. Sometimes I think people laugh at those routines just so they can get their smiling face on camera to tell their friends they were on TV.
The alien’s knowledge about the fabric of time and space was apparently beyond our capabilities and was extraordinarily adept at understanding how the universe is woven. Instead of trying to analyze us humans, he should have taken up knitting. It may have been safer than being prodded and pierced by his own knitting needles.
Though I knew he obviously had issues with materialism, I was not sure what the matter was. Perhaps it was simply dark, or even non-existent. Just because nature abhors a vacuum, doesn’t mean that it’s infatuated with matter, or anti-matter, for that matter. I guess it just doesn’t…matter that is, unless mixed with antimatter. Then we’re back to nothing about which much is ado. And so, everything is canceled out and we can start all over.
The matter-antimatter explosive action-reaction has often resembled a conflict between two superpowers, or perhaps like two major political parties claiming to espouse détente and peaceful coexistence. Each one thinks it matters and the other is against it. It is like a bull market followed by a bear market, or perhaps vice-versa. For me, the reaction resembles a period of economic growth with hiring followed by recession and layoffs. Working and firings due to lack of work are like matter and antimatter. They cause explosions like fire-works on Independence Day, where the independent worker becomes a dependent welfare case.
Throughout our encounter I suspected that the alien was a socialist-minded Marxist and therefore was by definition against material gain. But I knew he couldn’t have been against matter, and I couldn’t say he was anti-matter either, especially when it was related to energy. He seemed to be stuck in a loop searching for the key which would open a vulnerable power-grid-lock that threatens our existence. What happened to the alien is probably what would happen to our computer technology on which we depend so much, when that grid is locked and then forced down. No science fiction horror movie could be any scarier.
He had been motionless another several minutes, and I didn’t know what the matter could be. This, of course, reminded me of another childhood song:
Seriously, now: What should I do? Should I call an ambulance? What sort of hospitalization plan did he have? Did he have any medical coverage? Was it single payer insurance, paid for by his government? Would he admitted or turned away from intensive care on Earth because of his alien status? Were our medical experts trained in his weird anatomy? Were they at all qualified to treat such a queer looking fellow?
All I knew was, I had a desperate emergency on my hands. The alien now looked like a statue in the park without the pigeons and sparrows and therefore probably a lot cleaner. I didn’t know what to do next. This was turning into a real nightmare, if it had been a dream at all.
If this were his dream and he died, would it be the end of me?
Will he wake up out of this stupor? Will we survive?
Is this just a short recess? An intermission?
Why do things like this happen to me?
d d d d d d