Because nothing says "Compassion" like jetting off to the yacht races...
"Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen -- if you'll kindly take your seats, we're keen to get started."
"You tell 'em, Tony!"
"We've a lot of territory to cover this morning. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen -- thanks awfully for such a fine turnout. Now -- "
"We're here for you, Tony!"
"I'm humbled, or whatever the closest thing is to 'humbled' when you have the kind of money I have. In the event, for those whose acquaintance I've not yet made, I am Tony Hayward, and I should like to welcome you to the inaugural gathering of our latest venture, Hayward Executive Outplacement Services.
"Needless to say, we're quite excited about this enterprise, and we look forward to providing the kind of high-end, hands-on executive counseling that has been so sorely lacking in today's corporate environment.
"It is -- and I cannot stress this often enough -- a jungle out there. Quite the jungle, in point of fact, and today's CEO, CFO, COO -- all of us need to be properly equipped to hack our way through it. Not least of all when we're on our way out the door.
"Now, I'm certain that many of you know precisely what I'm talking about. You've devoted years -- decades, perhaps -- to your particular organization, and then, through a combination of wholly unanticipated circumstances for which you have no personal responsibility whatsoever, you are made to suffer the sudden wrath of your colleagues, your shareholders and, in extreme cases, the world at large. So -- "
"It isn't fair, Tony!"
"Quite right -- not fair at all. So the question is, how do you cope? Now, speaking from personal experience -- very recent personal experience, I might say -- I know just how difficult it can be. You want to lash out. You want, most of all, to defend yourself against rank injustice.
"And my heartfelt advice for you is: Resist the urge. When every fiber of your being cries out to be heard, you must keep a stiff upper lip -- and a stiff lower lip as well. Left to their own devices, they will only get you into deeper trouble. You will make statements that can be ripped from context. You will utter phrases that can be made to look uncaring, even hardhearted. You -- "
"You wanted your life back, Tony!"
"Indeed I did -- who wouldn't? But notice how thoroughly a perfectly understandable sentiment was distorted by those who wished me ill. A travesty, really, and yet -- "
"Completely ridiculous, yes. And yet, should I attempt to offer further explanation, the situation would only deteriorate. Instead, ladies and gentlemen, we must learn to forgo the strictly verbal, and operate on the level of the symbolic.
"If, for instance -- and we're speaking hypothetically here, of course -- but if, for instance, one suddenly found oneself tossed to the curb because of some perceived failings of a marine sort -- despoiling oceans, endangering sea life, ignoring devastation to ordinary folk along the shoreline, that sort of thing -- one might find oneself struggling for the proper reply. The snappy comeback, if you will.
"Now, what if -- hypothetically, of course -- what if that comeback took the form of deeds, rather than words? What if -- "
"The yacht races!"
"Precisely! What if your response to claims of haughtiness was to fly off to the Isle of Wight to spend the day watching your yacht -- a nice 52-footer, perhaps -- race against other yachts? Would that not tell them all -- without a single word being uttered, mind you -- just what you think of their accusations?"
"It's brilliant, Tony! Perfectly brilliant!"
"There is the flapping tongue, ladies and gentlemen. And then there is the subtle beauty of the upraised middle finger."
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.