A Tale of Two Factories

Posted Jun 26, 2016 at 08:47. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

For many years, two similarly sized factories in a small manufacturing town produced similar products but produced their product using very different employee relations.

The workers in the first factory were paid like dirt but treated like kings. Management was solicitous toward the workers and was concerned about both the personal and work-related problems of its employees. Management tried to fix problems that workers encountered in doing their work, and the workers were happy with their working conditions. These workers were not unionized and had good employee relations with management.

The workers in the second factory were paid like kings but treated like dirt. Rudeness and patronizing condescension toward the workers were the order of the day for management. In turn, the operating philosophy of most of the workers was “Make sure you screw management before it screws you.” Employee relations in this factory centered on a strong union that was forever engaged in ugly and often stupid fights with management.

It should be clear from this that unions are only partly about pay levels and safe working conditions. The way employers treat people and the dignity the people enjoy usually matters a great deal more. In all relationships genuine manners are cheap, and rudeness and arrogance are expensive.

The moral of this story applies far more widely than just to factory labor relations. The Brexit event and turmoil in Europe and North America are all a direct consequence of the “establishment’s” misunderstanding of how to deal with its “peons.” The “establishment” easily lulls itself into complacency by believing that its superior education and wisdom entitles it to lay down rules that will protect the ignorant masses from themselves – similar to the way a farmer looks out for a barn full of animals. The peons further feed the complacency by not fighting back until they erupt over the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and at the wrong place. Rational observers are then dumbfounded over the uproar when the peons finally “have had enough.”

This elitist perception develops in somewhat different ways in extreme conservatives and extreme “progressives,” but the common thread is that they both treat average people as inferiors. Conservatives see these people as inferior and needing to have correct thinking done for them by the knowledgeable and informed. Progressives often see average people as bigoted and lacking a politically correct tolerance for those who differ from themselves, so many “progressives” subscribe to a twenty-first-century version of the “white man’s burden” – a patronizing and demeaning compassion for those whom they regard as helpless dopes.

In both cases, the greater wisdom of the elite must prevail, and with the same results. This force-fed wisdom belittles and insults the worth and competence of average people – a guaranteed formula for strife in both labor relations and politics. When looking down on people finally results in strong, nasty unions or a revolution at the ballot box, the elitists who have caused the problem simply cannot believe that they have had anything to do with bringing about an upheaval.

The more enlightened people in the labor and business worlds understand that they must cooperate as much as possible to avoid the ill will that comes from destroying the dignity of those in lesser positions. An enterprise requires employees to function, and employees require an enterprise to have jobs. The economic need to make money is a powerful incentive for reasonableness on both sides.

Enlightened government bureaucrats also recognize the need for enlightened and respectful treatment of the entities affected by their actions. When managerial power runs amuck as much as it has in the European Union (EU) bureaucracy, it often adds a stiff and inappropriate dose of morality and self- righteousness to the managerial mix. No matter that most management decisions inherently lack a moral dimension; these bureaucrats often see violations of moral precepts everywhere and believe stomping on these violations to be their moral duty.

The self-perception of regulators is critical to how effective their regulations will be. Those filled with self-righteousness toward the business community can generate more problems than they solve. Regulators do much damage when they go on blind, self-serving power trips and impulsive missions to stomp out evil. When they don’t see the folly in this approach, the prosperity of all is hurt.

A much better regulatory paradigm is one based on a superficially contradictory view of the regulator’s responsibilities. The regulator needs to be a loving parent toward those regulated and wants to do everything possible to help the regulated children succeed while tolerating no misbehavior. Regulators that do not carefully listen to the regulated only make lawyers rich at the expense of the rest of society. Historically, war happens when the failure to listen gets bad enough.

The current penchant for political correctness adds a level of managerial patronizing that does not sit well with the average worker. The average person’s perception of his or her situation is what matters, and that perception may, in fact, be either right or wrong. The patronizing bureaucrat’s summary dismissal of the average person’s views only further inflames the situation. Moreover, people who profess to be concerned about “the little guy” often dismiss any resistance they meet from the average person as ignorance, bigotry, or intolerance.

The backlash from the masses extends to not trusting politically correct reporting by the media. A case in point is the initial reporting by BBC radio of British MP Jo Cox’s assassination. By being politically correct and omitting immediately available facts, the automatic suspicion by listeners was that the assassin was probably an Islamic nut case. In an injustice to the Muslim community, the BBC took its time to make it clear that the assassin was not a UK immigrant or Muslim. (After all, whatever your religious views, race, nationality, and ethnicity may have no relationship to anything except bigotry – so those endowed with superior righteousness must not report politically incorrect facts!) Moreover, hours passed before the BBC revealed whether Jo Cox was campaigning for or against remaining in the European Union. Why was this quite significant and immediately available fact delayed for hours?

Similarly, matters have not been helped by the reluctance of EU bureaucrats and the press to recognize fully that large groups of people, especially in Europe, have valid, real, and genuine concerns about how large-scale immigration impacts their culture, safety, and way of life. In various instances, these concerns are in fact intolerance, but the patronizing elite’s demeaning denial of the views and feelings of its electorate often infuriates the extremes on both the right and the left. The elite sees such condescending arrogance as morally justified resistance to the ignorance of the masses even though the issues the people are worrying about are real. This insulting attitude by “leadership” guarantees a revolt sooner or later.

The elitists have little awareness that they have not understood the message in A Tale of Two Factories. Looking down on people as if they are ignorant, stupid, or bigoted does nothing to add to love and understanding. Someone needs to tell the elite that even though the average person may, in fact, be ignorant, stupid, or bigoted, none of those attributes necessarily mean that the person is wrong. Wrong is a fourth attribute, and only mutual respectfulness can trump wrong.

Unless genuine respect and tolerance can become the order of the day, the EU is doomed. Peons always know something, and they will be infuriated by the condescending arrogance in being accused of bigotry. Such accusations infuriate even more when they contain some truth.

A proven way to correct the antagonisms among current EU citizens exists, but it is probably not practical. The people in the EU, and their bureaucrats in particular need a common enemy to stop them from acting like a cage full of gerbils that eat their babies. They already have that common enemy: themselves. If that enemy isn’t good enough for them, Vladimir Putin will do his best to fill in.

EU bureaucrats seem to have an immunity to learning that is beyond the range of their myopic overspecialization – a direct consequence of ever-growing complexity. Europe needs to be put into a large conference room with lots of beer on the table. Once in the conference room, no one will be allowed to leave or go to the bathroom until all the beer is gone and everyone has agreed to respect each other and work together.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Jun 26, 2016 at 08:47. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Dec 14, 2019 at 17:10.
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