Wednesday, March 20, 2024

From the Safety of Retirement

Ken Charman’s post entitled “A Career Suicide Note” at The Daily Sceptic is an entirely understandable venting of reasonable Boomer frustration.

Before you get offended, I am not using “Boomer” in the “Ok, Boomer” sense, lading it with the patronizing and refined disdain of the youthful set. I’m a Boomer myself, though just barely. Ken may not be, as he only refers to himself as over fifty, and Baby Boomers are technically 57 and up at present, born between 1946 and 1964.

Retiring Early

But even if Ken is only early Gen-X (a comparative strapling), his response to the inundation of his workplace by woke culture resonates with anyone from 30 to 90 who is not a raving lunatic or complete patsy. It resonates most painfully with those of us who grew up without the slightest inclination, temptation or coerced need to self-censor plain statements of fact — at least, until the last twenty years. That would be (mostly) Boomers.

Ken’s response was to get out. “I have retired from work,” he writes, “and will not be going back. This is why.” Then he cuts loose. Not Footloose, but probably close enough.

Charman describes a career notable for decades of industry experience, accomplishments, lecture opportunities and obvious competence, perhaps exceptionalism, as well as a desire to help others and an amiable disposition. “A useful bag of spanners,” as he describes it. I would agree. And yet, as he says, “If I mentioned my views out-loud to HR they might arrest me on the spot.”

Also agreed. In Canada, HR departments do not have military arms to enforce the arrests of politically incorrect employees, but in the UK, failing to toe the woke line meets with consequences a little more extreme than we are used to on this side of the pond. You can end up in jail (gaol?) over a comparatively innocent (or completely true) Facebook comment.

Offending Against Decency

So what are Mr. Charman’s potential offenses against decency? Hold on. Get a grip now:

  • I believe there are some situations where women who do not have a penis are entitled to separate treatment.
  • I don’t believe all migration is good.
  • I don’t believe all white people are racist.
  • I believe scientific based knowledge is superior to cultural belief systems.
  • I don’t believe it is okay for activists to break the law.

My goodness, how shocking! But it gets worse. Ken also voted for Brexit. Worse, he believes in the importance of tight definitions and reliable data.

Now, Ken is obviously no crazed right-winger. He’s barely right of left, if that. (The phrase “women who do not have a penis”, if not scathingly ironic, would be our first clue.) And yet he feels he has reason to be concerned about expressing perfectly reasonable opinions like those above.

As someone who spent a decade looking over my shoulder for the Human Resources lady every time I expressed an opinion online, I can completely relate to Ken’s frustration. I still use the pseudonym I adopted back then because I may have to get back into the corporate world one day, and it’s better not to burn your bridges until it becomes a moral imperative. But I am all too well aware from the experiences of others what cancelation can cost you and how difficult it is to get what you lose back, if that’s even possible.

How Cancelation Works

I’m also very much aware that the real enemy is not the HR lady, who is usually just a cog in the machine. Our HR lady was actually a very nice person, and quite reasonable once you got to know her. But she didn’t set policy, she merely enforced it. Policy was whatever management thought was necessary in order to remain profitable in our business sector, and that was determined by what the most woke, over-the-top leftist companies are doing, which in turn is determined by the demands of the latest grievance mob. A mob comes to exist whenever a single blue-haired, unhappy, woke twenty-something links to your post and invites her myriad Instagram pals to pile on. Everything else bad is downstream of that. It’s awfully difficult to stop a raging river overflowing its banks.

Likewise, when your cancelation comes, the company that cancels you will probably tell you it knows nothing about it. This is because it almost surely doesn’t. It would have to investigate to find out, and it may not bother. Your cancelation will come because a nondescript functionary in administrative support at your insurance company, mortgage issuer, tech provider, Amazon or credit card company didn’t like your piece on woke culture and simply terminated your account one morning between sips of mocha latte. Getting it reinstated will be a grind, assuming you have the patience to endure it, and if called to account for her “mistake”, the perpetrator will have some plausible excuse ready.

The next time it happens, the person who pulls the plug on you will have no easily discernable connection to the first perpetrator, but of course they know each other under pseudonyms online. This serial abuse of misplaced administrative clout may eventually get unraveled — a mere matter of months or years — but only if you push back relentlessly and reasonably with call after call and email after email. The ball will be in your court, not theirs, and when they are done, the very best you can hope for is reinstatement, of which there is no guarantee. You sure won’t get a scintilla of compensation for what you have been put through.

I assure you from sad experience that most older people haven’t the patience or resources to deal with an all-out online cancelation campaign. It has too many moving parts, and they are way too hard to pin down. It’s actually a form of fifth-generation warfare.

Underestimating the Mob

So then, here’s the problem for Ken and others in his position: they continue to underestimate the feverish determination of the woke Left to utterly demolish Western civilization. He writes, “It’s sad that even from the safety of retirement I hesitate in making these statements.”

Ken, my friend, there is no safety in retirement, unless maybe what you are depending on to get you through the next thirty years is a stack of gold bars under your bed. Even then, you’ll have to find a way to make them fungible again in tomorrow’s ever-changing economy. But if you receive, or will eventually be entitled to receive, a regular pension deposit from anyone, including your government, you remain 100% vulnerable to the least violation an ever-shifting narrative, to be greeted with summary cancelation. Minimum wage employees can (and will) switch you off in a heartbeat. If you depend on a bank account, savings or investments, all may be locked down before you are able to protest that you’ve not done anything illegal or even remotely offensive by the standards of the reasonable man. The fact that cancelation of this sort is only happening sporadically today is no guarantee it will not be far more prevalent tomorrow. There are little or no consequences for the offenders, and endless frustration, provocation and loss potentially in store for you.

Ken says he prefers to watch daytime telly rather than spending every day tying his tongue in knots. I get it. If so, he’d better be careful not to set off the least socially active firecracker who’s managed to hire on in the bowels of his cable provider. That’s how bad it can get.

What Does Losing Look Like?

Ken finishes with “To our tormenters in HR and PR, most of whom would struggle to wire a plug: you won, but you lost.” Well, yes and no. If you think losing means failing to re-educate you or failing to keep you from expressing your opinion, well, yes, they lost. But their objective was never to re-educate you or bring you over to their way of thinking. Their objective was to make you irrelevant in the culture wars. Their objective was to push you out, consolidate their control of the company you worked for and drive it into the ground, while consuming all its assets in the interests of their cause. And if you think taking a package and going home to watch TV means their revenge will not be forthcoming if you continue to express that forbidden opinion, think again.

Am I saying the Left has already won? Not at all. What I’m saying is this: if you are inclined to have a public voice in the culture wars, even the most reasonable and balanced one, count the potential cost of telling the truth here and now. Then count the potential cost of not telling it. If you can’t live with the latter, do the former and trust the Lord. But pushing back is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for those who have no idea what’s coming down the pipe at them and are not prepared to live with the potentially devastating consequences of offending a rabid mob. Mobs do not carry on reasonable discussions. They don’t obey the rule of law. They don’t tell the truth and they don’t do what you have budgeted for, but almost always something worse.

The only thing a mob is guaranteed to do is eventually lose interest in you when some more tempting target comes along. The question is whether you will have anything left when it does.

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