One of the problems with getting older is the dismay one feels when shit you and your generation taught people not to do, people are doing again.
Along with many others of my generation in the communication business, I’ve been teaching people for more than 30 years not to junk up the language with unnecessary jargon. (And my professional forbears were teaching people the same shit for at least 30 years before that.) Of course most of my forebears are dead, and most the people I taught are retired now.
And so it was that last week I found on my desk two piles of fresh but discouragingly familiar-smelling dung—one from academia and the other from the corporate world—that hint rudely that my life’s work has been in vain.
An Amherst College economics professor is mad about the school’s “athletic admissions that preference rich white people.” Verb another perfectly good noun? As Bartleby the Scrivener would say, “I preference not to.” The professor went on to casually refer to the athletic admissions policy as “this particular component of the privilegocracy.”
I don’t even understand the argument she’s making, but if this language murderess is right, I want to be wrong.
More egregious is a corporate memo sent last week by the president of a division immediately after a big layoff wiped out a big chunk of the company. This is to the remaining colleagues (and lightly edited to obscure the company):
This team is resilient in delivering a network performance that is the best in the country, maybe even in the world. As we enter the next era of the [industry], these changes will help ensure that the Technology organization will evolve our Network and Applications to create growth opportunities that fuel the business and keep us ahead of the competition. In addition to delivering Best Network – Best Experience – Best Value, our network now needs to become a programmable platform, and our IT infrastructure and services need to evolve to accelerate our journey to become deeply data-informed, AI-enabled, digital-first to deliver best-in-class customer experience.
In April, we introduced the technology domains to drive a culture of cross-team collaboration, build efficiencies, and empower leaders to drive execution. Through this change, we started to streamline processes to eliminate and consolidate work efforts, improve the span of control, and optimize our workforce post-integration completion of this global merger in the industry.Those changes and the steps we took this week have organized us for the next growth phase.
Every member of the go-forward team is critical to our future success and will help us to deliver by staying focused on build precision, and operational excellence, as well as continuous improvements of our processes and evolving our Network and systems for future growth. As we move into the Era of Innovation, our team will stick together like never before and simplify the way we work as one team. I see great things in our future and with a streamlined, agile organization working together, we can deliver.
The person who sent it to me wrote, “I think what bothers me so much is how obviously proud of it the writer is.”
I think what bothers me so much is that it’s best read in the voice of a robot—and is more egregious than stuff I’ve been discouraging since “privilege” wasn’t the problem, the “under-privileged” were; since “woke” was “politically correct,” “trans-phobia” was “homophobia,” misogyny was “women are crazy,” “diversity” was a new term and “downsizing” was a novel euphemism—a whole generation ago.
How much has really changed? And how much has stayed the same?
And why would I burden you with such discouraging words on a Monday morning? I believe it was Bleeding Gums Murphy who said, “The blues isn’t about making yourself feeling better, it’s about making other people feel worse.”