"Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind to grasp the concept of insolubility," wrote H.L. Mencken. "Thousands of poor dolts keep on trying to square the circle; other thousands keep pegging away at perpetual motion. … These are the optimists and chronic hopers of the world … It is the settled habit of such credulous folk to give ear to whatever is comforting; it is their settled faith that whatever is desirable will come to pass."
Of course Mencken is talking about Americans in general in his essay, The Cult of Hope; but you know which Americans I think of when I read (and reread) this snarling piece?
There's Corporate America … and there are also Corporate Americans.
Now, not every American who works in Corporate America is a Corporate American. And there are some Corporate Americans who do not work in Corporate America, because they were laid off. But being betrayed by Corporate America doesn't keep them from thinking like, behaving like, talking like and voting like a Corporate American.
What is a Corporate American?
A Corporate American is someone who believes all criticism must be "constructive." So constructive, in fact, that it shouldn't be called criticism at all, but rather, the more neutral "feedback."
A Corporate American believes there is a business phenomenon called "professionalism," that's somehow exalted from the regular-life phenomenon called "showing up even when you don't feel like it."
A Corporate American can say, "best practices" and "world class" with a straight face.
A Corporate American can say, "I am passionate about branding," with a straight face.
A Corporate American is liable to explain to another adult that his or her behavior is "inappropriate," apparently by some celestial standard we're all supposed to be familiar with.
A Corporate American, when you take his very best idea, crumple it up in a ball, stomp on it, shit on it and then present it to him in a flat shovel, smiles and thanks you for your feedback.
A Corporate American, when she hears the parable of the frog dying in slowly boiling water, recognizes herself as the frog, realizes she is dying, shrugs and thanks God it's Friday.
A Corporate American believes the CEO has the hardest job in the company.
A Corporate American thinks businesses are somehow more rational than, say, a family with a controlling father and a desperate mother and hundreds of drunk aunts and uncles who come and go as they please, and usually something's broken or missing after they leave.
A Corporate American can not and does not imagine, however sentimentally and simple-mindedly, how much more physically beautiful the world would be without giant corporations turning our whole landscape into a big LEGO set.
And above all, a Corporate American believes everything is going to be all right. The social media stategy will work, the product will sell, the company will profit, the investors will flock, the Dow Jones average will climb, the country will turn itself around.
A Corporate American, who spends half his waking hours working in Corporate America and the rest of them on hold because all of Corporate America's represntatives are busy right now, resorts to wishfulness about everything.
"The fact is that some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently for thousands of years are not nearer realization to-day than they were in the time of Ramses," Mencken writes (think sustainable energy policy, immigration, binge-drinking on college campuses and communicators getting a seat a the strategic table), "and that there is not the slightest reason for believing that they will lose their coyness on any near to-morrow.
Plans for hurrying them have been tried since the beginning; plans for forcing them overnight are in copious and antagonistic operation to-day; and yet they continue to hold off and elude us, and the chances are that they will keep on holding off and eluding us until the angels get tired of the show, and the whole earth is set of like a gigantic bomb, or drowned, like a sick cat, between two buckets.
Does that paragraph make you a little angry?
Tell me: Why?
Peter Dean says
Like the analysis. What is the remedy?
David Murray says
“‘The fellow condemns without offering anything better. Why tear down without building up?’ So coo and snivel the sweet ones; so wags the national tongue. … It is impossible to get an audience for an idea that is not ‘constructive’–i.e., that is not glib, and uplifting, and full of hope, and hence capable of tickling the emotions by leaping the intermediate barrier of the intelligence.”