Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The liberation of independence…

How often do you have to bite your tongue, stifle your opinions, or otherwise feel you have lost your right to speak your mind on matters important to you because of your job?  This is a fact of life whether you have a job with government or in the private sector, whether you work for someone or are self-employed.

If you want to keep your job or your customers, you have to watch what you say.  You need to be careful not to offend your boss, your coworkers, your customers, your shareholders, or even the media.  Especially the media because even if bosses, coworkers, and customers agreed with what you said, the media often distorts our words to further their own agenda – letters to the editor included.

I understand there are consequences to our words and opinions – we are always responsible for what we say or write.

But being one who is predisposed to thinking and forming opinions on government policy, ideology, and morality, I find it exhilaratingly liberating to be not be working – having neither boss nor customers nor coworkers to worry about offending.  I didn’t realize how shackled my alleged “freedom of expression” was in my employment (most often for a local government) until I retired a few years ago.

Having to be merely “politically correct” isn’t the half it when we are subject to the constraints of employer and customer.  When we are indoctrinated in a particular profession, along with that profession comes a myriad of taboos, sacred cows, and ill-conceived fads.  Professions are full of thought police in government, in education, in businesses.  My former city planning profession is full of proponents of human-caused global warming, “green” development and construction standards (which often prove not cost effective),  poorly thought through “sustainable development” requirements, and proponents of constrictive and wasteful top down regional and state planning.

Peer review of new ideas is one thing.  Peer intimidation and out-casting is quite another.  Fortunately, these things have not happened to me for two reasons.  One is because I hewed the line and didn’t roam far afield from the politically correct way to think.  Secondly, I found a way to relate to the objectives of the places I chose to work so there was a minimum of cognitive dissonance.

But until I removed myself from my profession, employer, and customers, I didn’t appreciate how constrained I was and how liberated I feel now.   I really hate to say this, but as long as we have to be beholden to anyone for our income, we are NOT free – freedom is a myth - with one exception:  Welfare recipients.  Those who receive government welfare as their source of income are more free than those who earn their living.  How?  Because laws require welfare recipients to receive their checks no matter how outspoken they are about anything.    They can march and protest and flash mob to their heart’s content without fear of loss of their income.  Ironic, isn’t it. 

This makes me wonder how much better our society might be if employees were totally free to responsibly express themselves publicly on any topic without consequences.   That is a Pollyanna-esque thought, with the weasel word being “responsibly.”  One mans’ “responsibly” is another mans’ “irresponsibly.”

By the way, from the number of posts in my “Blog Archive” in the top right column of this blog can you guess what year I retired?

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