Why do impoverished working class members of the religious right love a corporate America that scorns them and exploits them? The following parable may help explain a state of affairs that is otherwise inexplicable.
The young man had no idea that the CEO himself would interview him. He waited in an outer office for almost an hour, then got ushered into a second office, where he waited for another twenty minutes, then found himself in a third office, where a secretary said to him, "It won't be much longer."
The young man sat on a leather sofa and glanced at one of a pile of in-house magazines full of zest and zeal. Many good things were happening in the company. The company was doing well in the world. The young man uttered a secret wish that he would land this job and that the CEO would forgive him his nervousness.
"You can go in now," the secretary said.
The young man entered the CEO's inner sanctum with great diffidence. The CEO watched him enter, watched his every move, as it were, with a stony stillness that caused the young man to break out in a sweat. As the CEO did not gesture to the single available chair, the young man remained standing.
"You want to work for us?" the CEO said in a voice that seemed amplified. No doubt it was the acoustics of the room--the young man worried how his own voice was going to sound.
"I do," he said; and noticed that his voice sounded smaller than usual. What odd acoustics!
"Are you religious?" the CEO said.
"Yes!" the young man replied instantly. "Of course."
"So you know that God expects loyalty and obedience?"
"And that I am the God here."
The young man hesitated for a split second. "Yes," he replied.
"You know that you can't possibly know what's best for this company. You know that?"
"Of course! How could I?"
"Or what's right or wrong. Here, what is right is what I say is right and what is wrong is what I say is wrong. You understand that?"
Again the young man hesitated. "Of course," he replied.
"Because I've been here forty years and you haven't been here even five minutes."
"I founded this company, just like God made the universe."
"So I require your blind obedience. You can see why, can't know? A company can't function with employees thinking for themselves. The tail mustn't wag the dog. You see that?"
"Good!" He stared at the young man intently. "Now, some of your tasks may seem like odious ones. I understand how odious they are going to seem. Like trying to put every one of our competitors out of business. There are some fine men and women in those other firms. But we need to crush them. You understand that?"
"Yes," the young man said haltingly.
"Crush them like bugs!" the CEO exclaimed, pounding his fist on the desk. The sound struck the young man full in the chest, like an amusement park effect. "Some of them are wonderful people," the CEO continued. "Still, they must be crushed! You understand that?"
"Yes," the young man said in a voice so small that he wondered if he'd been heard.
"And of course our own people can't trusted. You can't be trusted. You know why?"
The young man shook his head. "No," he said after a long moment.
"Because you're human! Human beings are weak and full of sin. Prideful. Self-interested. Devious. Full of a darkness that is so dark that the darkness of the universe is like a summer day by comparison. Therefore you must be watched and monitored. That's why you'll wear the Loving Eye."
"The Loving Eye. It's a small implant that allows me to monitor your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. So that I can always watch you."
The young man felt a chill run down his spine. "Everyone wears that?" he said, trembling a little.
"Everyone! I'm the only one who doesn't. Because I designed all this." The CEO waved at the magnificent room and at all the magnificent rooms and buildings beyond.
The young man gulped and nodded.
"And in return I will take care of you forever--"
At this the young man smiled a small, trembling smile.
"Unless I have to fire you--"
The young man blinked.
"Which I can do at any time--"
The young man shifted uneasily.
"Since I am the only one who knows what is good for the company." The CEO rose. "That's all for now."
"Am I hired?" the young man asked after a moment.
The CEO waved the question away as if it were irrelevant.
"I--" the young man began.
"Yes, you're hired!" the CEO shouted.
The young man couldn't quite believe his ears. "I ... Was my resume that impressive?" he said, trying to make a little joke.
The CEO said nothing and continued staring right through him.
"And to think, I was worried that you wouldn't take me!" the young man said with a nervous laugh. "I mean, with no direct experience in what your company does--"
The CEO blinked. "We take everyone who applies," he replied suddenly. "Since we can do with our employees whatever we want, there's no harm in letting everyone in." You might have called his tone conspiratorial. "We fit them with a Loving Eye, tell them what to do, and if they don't perform or obey we throw them out. Taking everyone in is our surefire hiring method!"
"Then--" He stopped himself.
"Then why the interview?" the CEO said. "To put the fear of God in you! To make it as clear as clear can be that you will be watched, that you must do the company's business, no matter who gets hurt, that there are no ifs, ands, or buts. The company does not exist for your benefit--you work for it. We do not want to hear one word about what you think you are owed, what you want, what you think is fair, what is good for you. Only the company matters!--and me. I gave this life! Do you understand?"
"I do," he said--and he did. It was exactly what he wanted out of a job and out of life.
"Go, now," the CEO said. "Someone will tell you what to do next."
The young man retraced his steps back to the first office. The secretary got up from her desk and asked him to follow her. The young man followed her down the hall. He found himself smiling brightly. He had a job. That was a good thing! Yes, certain aspects of the job troubled him. He suspected that the Loving Eye would take a little getting used to. He rather wished that it would monitor just his behaviors and not his thoughts, as he wasn't sure that he could always think along company lines. But no doubt they allowed for a little mental wandering, since no one was perfect. No, all in all, it was a very fair deal. They owned him, but he had a job. And the CEO seemed so nice, so forthright and clear. He certainly didn't mince his words. He was the God of his company--and that was exactly as it should be.
Eric Maisel is the author of 40 books. His forthcoming is Rethinking Depression: How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning. If you would like to interview Dr. Maisel please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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