16 November 2002
E pluribus units
"One of the more repugnant features of our modern society," says Kim du Toit, "is how we have become increasingly used to treating individual human beings as mere ciphers." There are situations where this is excusable the military, for one, because it's one environment in which the individual truly must be subordinated to the group, and in prison, for another, because if you've gotten there, it's part of the price you pay. (I point out that otherwise, the military and the correctional system are not all that similar, no matter what I told Major Whatzisname back in 1974.)
Back to du Toit:
But I resent the way that corporate "Personnel" departments have become "Human Resources" departments, as though we individuals are just office supplies or raw materials. I remember once threatening one of these "HR" people with a punch in the face if he ever again used the term "headcount" in my presence, to refer to human beings.
I think it's actually worse than that, and I think we can blame the government for it. Under our preposterous tax code, those of us who work for someone else are not assets of any sort, any kind of investments: we are expenses, pure and simple, and it's unrealistic to expect corporate types, forever mired in their bean-counting milieu, to be able to make any kind of connection between Badge #521 and Fred over in IT.
And it doesn't much matter how big the corporation is, either. Were I to leave 42nd and Treadmill, the place would take a substantial productivity hit and would lose one of its few remaining connections to reality it was explained to me just this past week how burning up a couple thousand bucks or so a year on a publication that no one reads and no one will read, which in fact is viewed by its target audience as an annoyance, is considered a brilliant effing idea but as far as they're concerned, it's just a couple of accounting entries to change and a COBRA form to fill out.