One tale, two interpretations: A painful discovery.

Yesterday I had the experience of hearing a familiar narrative in a different context.  The result was that  I understood  it in a radically different  way.  This  was painful because it involved at some point seriously misunderstanding someone, not one of one’s fun things to do.  Worse, misunderstanding a tale of woe will probably add to the hurt already experienced.  But the switch in understanding is utterly germane to this blog.

So here’s a young (white, quite well educated) man in NY City who is working for a large company.  It isn’t the sort of job he wants eventually, but it might be an entry point into a decent area.  As his job progresses he feels, he relates, that his bosses are against him.  They don’t want him to excel, and they are constantly giving him tasks well below what he could do that would enable him to get ahead in the company.  Other people are gossiping about him, and he suspects they are reading his email.  Any mistake he makes, even if it is very typical for the crew at his level, somehow gets assigned a significance that others’ transgressions don’t.  In short, he feels persecuted.  He feels watched, the subject of plotting and speculation.

Now it starts to sound as though he has a fairly serious  problem.  Could a whole level of a company really start to get organized against one of its junior people?  Are they really thinking about him all that much?  He’s a cog in a wheel, for goodness sakes.

To my credit, I will say that I asked him several times  if he thought it could be prejudice.  He is gay.  He said he didn’t think it was; after all, one of the bosses is gay, other workers are gay, and so on.  So I started to worry about why he was experiencing the job this way. 

Yesterday that all changed, largely because I spent about an hour talking to a friend about how her department was treating her.  Her chair, also a woman, had written saying she should resign from being director of undergrad studies, since the job was too much for a woman with children.  The department had false documents claiming she had skipped out for 3 weeks, someone had shouted at her in the hall that she always looked so unhappy, etc, etc.  Of course, when that male professor just disappeared when he became a grandfather, that was just as should be.  [She was tempted to ask whether he was nursing the baby, but didn’t.  The office staff, all women, who supported him were unsympathetic to her during her pregnancies.]

So later in the day I was talking to my young friend and we got onto the topic of his unhappy past experience.  He was eventually  fired, of course.  And suddenly I realized that his narrative was very close to that of my woman friend.   At least it reminded me vividly of these truths:

  1. The world of bigotry and prejudice is a terrible and disturbing place, and it can make one seems as if one is the one who is disturbed.
  2. It just doesn’t matter if others are not getting it.  My young friend did feel he was somehow noticeable:  very tall, well educated, a strong entrepreneurial arts background and parents who give him too much money for clothes.  He thought his bosses thought he was too uppity in some way, which may have been a large factor.
  3. Do not expect others (women, members of the glbt community, people of the same ethnicity) to oppose your treatment.  They may well be putting a high priority on being a good girl, one of the guys’, someone who is at least safer than you, and so on.

So who knows what the truth really is.  Perhaps he really didn’t try hard enough, but perhaps also he couldn’t succeed even if he had been perfect.

And in case you guessed, he is jj-son, and I feel really bad about all this.  But at the same time, I saw from a fresh perspective how insane making a bigoted environment can be. 

And now I’m going to go away and worry about my blitheful assumption that this all hasn’t really made any of us very disturbed.

24 thoughts on “One tale, two interpretations: A painful discovery.

  1. Jj, this sucks majorly.
    Paraphrasing what an earlier post on here summarised: this world is so used to misogynism (racism, homophobia, what else) that we are desensitised to it, we don’t even observe it as something amiss anymore. And that really is the problem.
    I have many acquaintances who claim to be completely okay with homosexuality, but still call others “gay” and are the first to denounce that they are not gay (“no homo” a sentence that seems to be totally accepted in all kinds of subcultures now) and completely fail to recognise how marginalising that is.
    Well, keeping up the good work here. My best wishes for jj junior.

  2. I think oppression is a social mental illness that we all suffer from but in different ways. Few of us are not in some oppressor class and many of us are oppressed, all of which cost us our very humanity. And, as the poster just above points out, we are inured to the cost and consequences to the degree that we don’t really notice all the time, even when we are on the receiving end of the oppression. And we really don’t notice when we are so privileged as to be in the oppressor class(es). Most all of us occupy both positions. Then internalized oppression can lead us to experience what jj-son was experiencing. It’s all the same illness, manifesting differently and we cope, like folks with a chronic disease copy, sometimes forgetting that we really are all quite undone by social mental illnesses like this.

  3. lar, I think your two comments were nearly identical, so I removed one. Hope that’s ok. i’m thinking through your remark.

    H, as always, thank you!

    It occurred to me this evening that there might be another way of getting at one aspect of what was so striking. There are lots and lots of actions which can be described in a way that makes them seem horrible, but when the true purpose is put into the narrative, they seem at least a lot better. For example, an operation to remove one’s appendix could be described just in terms of being drugged, cut open and having something removed. Sounds like extreme abuse, but it wasn’t.

    The thing about a series of actions that constitute sexist treatment is that when one removes the understanding of the agents’ goals, they sound almost incomprehensibly destructive. Putting the goal back into the narrative, however, does not show the action was alright. We understand it better, perhaps, but that shouldn’t really reduce our sense of how evil in fact it is.

    In addition, lots of people receiving discriminatory treatment have to come to some way of understanding how this treatment, which degrades so much, still in some way makes sense. I expect many of us have done this without realizing that the better understanding is that we are being treated unjustly and indeed malevolently.

  4. (3) is an interesting sort of problem. We all will meet people who will not like us or who will let us down, regardless of what they have in common with us; but in a healthy environment one will have the support and protection that prevents this from being a serious problem. Outside such an environment, though, this ordinary fact of life becomes very, very serious. E.g., in a sexist environment anyone’s consistent mistreatment of a woman might have extraordinarily bad results, whatever the reason, because that’s one of the things sexist environments do: they take away much of what would otherwise balance out things like that (friendly support, reasonable recourse, etc.). It may not really matter who’s doing the mistreating, or whether others like oneself happen, for whatever reasons, to escape it. In an environment already oppressive (for whatever reason), people who are just doing what people always do, acting as people always act, can do massively more harm to others. Little banal malices and negligences end up doing terrible things (on top of whatever terrible things are being done out of the non-banal malices and negligences that are in the oppressive environment in the first place).

    I hope your son finds a better place. It’s one of those cases where one hopes — wishes is perhaps a better word — that it was at least mostly just an unusually corrosive situation — a bad crowd, as the saying goes — and not, as one fears when the underlying reasons are somewhat obscure as in a case like this, something that happens regularly in that sort of industry. (I know too much about the academic world to be able to hope that the sort of thing your friend underwent is uncommon in academia. Lots of variations, but one starts to hear a theme.)

  5. My experience was much like that one. When I arrived for my first day at work, there was someone on the phone talking loudly about how wrong it was to “hire a Zimbabwean” — a managerial decision that she obviously disagreed with. When I finally resigned, the same woman proclaimed triumphantly, “Now we can hire an Australian”. Well, actually, I was a naturalised Australian, but there you go.
    In general this was a very pathological workplace, with many of the admin staff regularly reduced to tears, and an entrenched system of bullying in place.

  6. In his first professional position, my son has been having experiences somewhat like jj-son’s. I think in his case, it’s a clash of values, and the work isn’t inherently rewarding enough for him to be happy there in any case. It is certainly frustrating, as a parent, to see one’s child eager to excel and grow, and to find that circumstances are against him or her, especially when those circumstances are a matter of others’ prejudice or lack of open-mindedness. (The perception of uppityness you mentioned applied in my son’s case, too – some co-worker one day implied that he resented that my son came from a privileged background, by which he apparently meant some non-existent wealth rather than education and ethnocultural heritage.)

    Your #3 seems like a variant on one aspect of betrayal trauma – the situation in some abusive families where the kids who don’t rock the boat are treated with favor and those who do are ostracized.

    I hope getting fired won’t make it too difficult for jj-son to find a new position, and that he can get a good sense in advance about whether his future potential work environments would be less toxic.

  7. thank so much to everyone who expressed concern for jj-son. He’s moved on entirely, and is doing a graduate degree at one of NYC’s design schools, which is utterly fascinating and will lead to a better job, we are all hoping.

    It might be worth thinking about how one can remain whole and sane in such environments.

  8. I only wandered into this site due to a link from another Feminist blog that I had issues with. I don’t imagine that you folks are going to appreciate this, but hopefully it will add some needed perspective.

    By way of background, I’ve been employed at the Director / VP Level in multinational corporations for most of the past fifteen years and have been responsible for profitably operating business units at the 300 to 400 employee level during that time. I can comfortably assure of the following:

    – If in fact someone is “picking on” your offspring, it isn’t coming from the top. At the level this young person came into the business it was his job to be a base level contributor and hopefully over deliver on expectations to position himself to be promoted. Hint – It will be tough to succeed if he automatically assumes that any time things don’t go his way he is being discriminated against.

    – An important component of successfully performing in an initial job assignment is to find a way to assimilate into the corporate culture. There is no significant reward to being an individualist in a corporate environment. This is particularly true when a young person has not taken the time to understand how to successfully navigate in a given assignment. If he doesn’t want oversight and feedback he should stay in school or his mom / dad / whoever should support him in his desire to write the next great American novel or whatever. That way he can continue to be a prima dona throughout his adult life.

    – As a parent of several successful young men I can assure any parents reading this that they are not doing their offspring any favors by trying to convince them that they are being discriminated against in their first job, with very rare exceptions.

    – The most serious performance issue we encounter from educated young people these days is their sense of entitlement when it comes to job assignments, team assignments and the normal day to day logistics of being a successful adult. Most of this is due to these young people having an unbelievable sense of entitlement. A lot of them feel that the work kind of “gets in the way” of their life.

    – These young people have learned this from their parents or other role models. They expect to succeed without putting in a reasonable effort. When they don’t succeed they whine to their overprotective, coddling parents who tell them that they’re being discriminated against. Not a good plan for positioning you child to succeed long term.

    – If you are a parent or responsible in some other way for a young adult I suggest you spend less time convincing them that they are victims of whatever real or perceived slights they may have encountered and more time helping them understand that sometimes you get knocked on your ass and you have to get up and figure out a way to succeed.

    – I have no ax to grind with you folks, but trust me when I tell you that if your kids don’t want to work in “the world” then they should get out of it, as I have no problem hiring many young people that are more than happy for the opportunity.

    Peace / Love,
    Burn

  9. Burn, there’s a lot you say that I agree with. The sense of entitlement is certainly very obvious to university professors and others involved in education, as most of us are.

    Do notice that I didn’t start out telling him he was being discriminated against. In fact, I did exactly the opposite. It was only after a long time and a sudden realization that his experience just about exactly parallel my friend’s that I suddenly saw there might be something else altogether.

    One thing that makes bizarrely sexist behavior possible in universities is that there is, from a humanities department’s point of view at least, no bottom line. That means there’s little in a way of penalities if you get ride of top performers or wreck great program. My original hypothesis was that his place of employment wouldn’t be like that; that the management were motivated to get the best out of their people. It really is not uncommon for a very talented person to have their life made hell in universities, but in the corporate world??

    Do know I also didn’t say this was definitely a case of sexism. I’d be really interested in hearing if you think that it happens much in the corporate world that managers will try to do down their better employees just because they don’t like the way they seem to regard themselves, or maybe feel threatened in some way.

  10. jj – I appreciate what you are saying. I don’t know how you and your associates retain your sanity in the university setting, particularly if you are trying to progress in a given field. It seems to me to be exceptionally subjective and political, particularly in the humanities. I would lose my mind.

    My experience in the corporate world is that we NEVER have enough talent, particularly in the college graduate entry-level positions. One of the ways I evaluate myself is in my success in identifying and promoting smart, motivated people that like what they do and are not afraid of work. My business may be different than your son’s, but normally there are at least two or three promotions that bright high-potential young people can be pathed into to determine if they have mid to upper level management potential during the upcoming years. Since this was his first job maybe this business segment just wasn’t a good fit for him personally.

    My real concern for all young people (including my sons) in their first jobs is that they must “own” their results, good or bad. I’m not saying they should validate a crappy boss or evil co-worker, but they need to understand that they’ve got their nose bloodied now and they’re in the game. It’s real life, it’s a fight worth fighting and they need to embrace their future, own it and find a way to ethically win at it. As a parent it’s hard to see your child not succeeding. The first thing I want to do when I hear that my kids are struggling is to go kick someone’s ass (not literally). That said, I know personally that my true successes in life only came after lots of trying, a good number of failures (some fair, some not so much) and continuing to believe in myself. Most importantly it’s about not giving up, ever, no matter what anyone says. The last thing I would want to do is to cheat a young person out of a legitimate failure that could help them grow into a better person. I think I personally learned more from my bad bosses and co-workers than my good ones, maybe because I had really good parents to begin with, so I kinda got that the bad guys were in fact assholes so when they came after me it didn’t change my day.

    I think those of us that are bosses / educators and also parents are lucky as we have the opportunity to treat our employees or students just as we’d wish others in authority would treat our own children. I always knew I was a good boss, but I became a better one after I became a father because it helped me grow in the empathy department.

    At the end of the day there are a lot of small people in the world regardless of the industry, many of whom want to bring good people down to make themselves feel better. I’m hopeful that the young people coming up will be strong enough to not let the small people intimidate them. The only way to do this is for them to be confident and honest with themselves.

    Be Honest
    Be Kind
    Be Free

    Burn

  11. Ah! so your son was just undergoing a rite of passage, which will strengthen him in due course, if only he is honest and not a liar. The only problem is mistaking a rite of passage for having been beaten, which leads to giving up. But the rite of passage — the bloodied nose — guarantees success, if only it is accompanied by honesty. Otherwise, it would surely not have occurred.

  12. Burn, I’m very sympathetic to the idea that young people have to own their results. This is in fact a huge issue in state universities where one has students from all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives. There are few people they have the power to change, and it is imperative that they put themselves at the top of the list of those who should change when they aren’t getting the grade they want.

    At the same time, I know all too well that for some of them the major cause of their lack of success does not lie with them or with their preparation.

    The evidence, that we’ve looked at in various posts on this blog is that biased judgments of ability are too frequently present. The bias extends beyond business to the criminal justice system and to health care.

    Of course, one doesn’t say to one’s friends that they shouldn’t bother to go to a doctor because they can’t get the best advice since they are women. I don’t tell black friends that they can forget about asking for pain relief since the evidence strongly shows their pains are taking less seriously.

    Still, in understanding their lives and in preparing to get what they can, it is very important for them and me to understand that it is all too possible that what we’ll get is degraded.

  13. Hey Jennifer

    Who defines if it is a beating or a right of passage? It must be in the eyes of the person being hit, correct? Doesn’t that give each of those of us that have been beaten or abused in whatever way the power or ability to control our respective futures?

    I think everyone has been treated unfairly at some point their lives. It’s up to each of us to interpret this for what it is and have it either make us stronger or weaker as a person.

    I’m not saying discrimination doesn’t exist or we shouldn’t fix it when it does. I am saying that no person should ever give another person (particularly a Bad Person) the power over them to define their future by controlling how they react to the ups and downs of life. No matter what we do Bad People will still exist. If we are parents I think it’s our gig to give our kids the tools to deal with those Bad People. We can’t wish them away. Bad People and Bad Stuff happen sometimes.

    For example, I’m probably older than most of you reading this blog, but I was raised in a time here in the U.S. in which it was considered OK for a father to beat his children with a belt whenever he felt it was appropriate. I’m not saying this was OK, but it was standard stuff back in the day. Everyone was doing it. Did it piss me off? For Sure. Did I let it ruin my life? Not even. The really interesting thing is that in spite of this quaint custom back then, most of the good things I am in this life I learned from my father. I can only deal with this by separating his actions, making sure I don’t beat my kids and internalizing the great things that I learned from him. Life isn’t simple. Our kids need to learn how to deal with problems.

    So just maybe we need to ask our kids to step up and deal with more of the reality we all live in. That way when we are in our rocking chairs there will be people in charge prepared to deal with the real world problems that will exist then.

    bHbKbF
    Burn

  14. jj

    I appreciate what you are saying but I just have a very different perspective based upon my real world experience.

    Since the early 1980’s I’ve spent much of my tenure with General Motors, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi being directed to make special efforts to treat all protected classes in a more than fair manner. Human Resources has always been very clear concerning giving preferential treatment in the hiring and salary administration of all minorities & women and any other protected classes that were in fashion at the time.

    The unfortunate manifestation of this activity is that there were many of these of folks that really deserved to be treated as high potential, fast track employees. Unfortunately that fact sometimes got lost when unqualified minorities were promoted into jobs they were not capable of handling and were destined to fail in. It may not be PC, but that is a fact.

    The biggest mistake that is being made is to convince everyone that they are victims.

    I doubt I will change anyone’s mind in this blog, but go find truly successful minorities and they will echo what I have said. Did they have to overcome problems? Of Course. The difference they didn’t sit around making excuses, they went out and did war in the Real World and were rewarded. Creating an alternate reality for minorities or anyone else who doesn’t want to live in the real world will do nothing but delay their assimilation into the mainstream of society.

    bHbkbf
    Burn

  15. Jennifer & JJ – I think I get it. My two cents worth. I’m not sure there is much more I can say. We live in different worlds. I know I’m successful in mine and hopefully you folks are making a difference in what you do. I’m out.

    bHbKbF
    Burn

  16. Just an observation, somewhat obvious but one that needed to be said. Here are two things that are causally related. The fact that “[t]here is no significant reward to being an individualist in a corporate environment” is causally responsible for the fact that “the corporate world … NEVER [has] enough talent” (both quotes from BB). The attitude that BurnBrother displays will ensure that he will never mentor/train truly talented people, since truly talented people very rarely like to fit in.

  17. BB, I know some very, very successful minorities and they are VERY angry at what they’ve had to put up with. You might look at Malcolm Gladwell’s blog – he’s a New Yorker author, NY Times best selling author, adviser to tons of corporations, etc. He’s using the material in his latest book, Outliers to argue about the huge waste of talent in the US, not all of it due to racism and sexism, but a lot certainly. Gladwell, who is very light skinned, remarks on the very different treatment he’s gotten since he let his hair grown a bit longer, and so looks more obviously black. He’s not happy about it, nor is he quiet.

    These are very complicated issues. There are, for example, feedback mechanisms at work. We are social creatures and it is extremely hard for most humans to excel in contexts in which they are regarded as inferior. If the protected class people promoted in corporations are routinely regarded as inferior workers, then the chances greatly increase that they will be inferior workers. They also end up having to do the best in an atmosphere in which they can be quite sure they won’t be recognized, or in effect giving up. (Slightly rude person: I think you are making a related point: the corporate attitudes are doing a lot of selecting.)

    Jennifer, thanks for your comments. I think I did think my son was experiencing a rite of passage until it started to get very wierd. Just as one realizes that the woman who is told a job is too hard for her because she has children is not going through a rite of passage.

  18. I was not going to tune back into this, but in a moment of weakness I took the bait. Some observations:

    – Slightly Rude – Maybe, but I’m a guy that has promoted a bunch of minorities and females to the Director level. In my industry these jobs start at $10,000 +/- per month. I don’t know your background, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve worked in the types of positions that I have. I don’t know if you’re an academic or what, but whatever you are is fine.

    In business what matters is financial success. Businesses exist to make money, pay taxes and support society. Many folks in academia feel that they have taken the “more noble” path, but the truth is that most have no clue about how business works, having never worked in it. In this context most business managers & leaders are considerably different than academics, they have already successfully gone through University and had exposure to the normal academic pitches at that time. They have then moved on to positions of leadership and have also seen the product of American higher education by considering applicants that have earned MBAs and Doctorates for various corporate positions for which they are responsible. I’ve had the pleasure (and pain) of interviewing many MBAs and PhDs for positions in my organizations. Some were great, some weren’t. Kind of like life in general. It’s never ceased to amaze me that nearly all applicants for my open positions felt that purely by virtue of their clearly advanced intellectual capabilities as evidenced by their advanced degrees they should obviously be hired for whatever open position I was interviewing for. Another observation concerning applicants with advanced degrees…many of these folks, who are most likely pretty smart, have significant interpersonal challenges that make their employment a challenge at any educational level. From my perspective the objective of many young people that decide to earn advanced degrees immediately after earning their bachelors is frequently driven more by their inability to be hired into the working world with only a BS or BA. This is further supported by them wanting to continue their university lifestyle, continue to delay entering the adult world and delay the the repayment of their student loans.

    Finally Ms. Slightly Rude – you don’t get it. I’ve been able to career path many high potential employees and see them succeed in my organizations and later on in their careers. It has been an honor to do so. For the record and in front of all those that read this blog I’d be happy to compare the professionals I’ve mentored over the past several decades and the successes they’ve gone onto in later life to your track record. Just let me know through the administrator.

    Now…If Ms. Rude is saying that I didn’t change the rules for those “particularly gifted” individuals that clearly thought they were more gifted than my other employees I would agree. It’s about fairness. Having managed allot of people I can tell you that in general they’re pretty smart, both individually and as a group. If you promote people that aren’t competent your group figures it out pretty quickly and it doesn’t work as an organization. My responsibility is ALWAYS to be fair. That means not giving preferential treatment to people that may think they deserve it for something other than performance. Last time I checked that was the American Way, that is unless you believe that you or whoever else deserve preferential treatment due to your ethnic heritage, skin color, economic background or because their parents told you how smart and gifted your are. Don’t misunderstand, any of these attributes will work when combined with proven competency, but absent that it is unreasonable to expect preferential treatment. That’s why allot of your “truly talented” people remain insulated from the real world, either via academia or family wealth. They either can’t, don’t want to or aren’t interested in doing the work it takes to perform in a real world business environment.

  19. jj,

    I appreciate Gladwell’s work (particularly Blink) and am working towards my 10,000 hours. He’s been the fashionable choice for most corporations over the past twenty-four months and I think he’s done more good than harm. We all should remember that Gladwell has pretty much never held a real job either, but he’s really smart. He’s certainly more wealthy than me, but he hasn’t been where I’ve been and has never run a business.

    I’m sure there are many minority employees that aren’t happy but I can tell you from first hand experience there are a ton of real minority employees that are unbelievably happy about how they have been treated over the past several decades in the corporate environment. I can also tell you that the nature of the beast is that the pyramid narrows at the top and many people, of every color, are angry that they didn’t become the next chairman of whatever company they work at. This isn’t limited to people of color. It is how the game is played in the business world. That’s life. If people don’t like it they shouldn’t get in the game. If they get in the game they shouldn’t expect preferential treatment.

    I agree that these are very complicated issues, but frankly, I’ve personally been aware of a minority female lawyer who was affirmative actioned all the way through Harvard Law and even if she screwed up no one would have said anything. I’ve also personally been involved with keeping an exceptionally weak black executive manager on during a layoff just because he was black. That’s the real world. Like it or not.

    I think that feminists in general would be doing themselves a huge favor if they spent less time trying to find circumstances in which they feel they are being persecuted. There is plenty of empirical evidence as to the improvement of women’s circumstances in general over the past forty years or so. If any of you are looking for it let me know.

    In the interim, if you are a parent, telling your offspring that they are a victim will only delay their venture into adulthood. A better choice would be to tell them to prepare to get in the game and expect to be bloodied. Anything short of that will not position them to succeed going forward.

    Jennifer – let me know when you want to exchange. Is this “Real World” or should I tune into a different channel?

    bHbKbF
    Burn

  20. burnBrother, let me suggest a different take on what’s going on here.

    A lot of what we are discussing here, and the research we refer to, have a nnational (USA) crisis in its background. The country’s economic growth depends on innovation and fundamental, long lasting innovation tends to come from pure scientific research done in universities. But fewer and fewer young American men are interested in putting in the hours and hours required of university science when they can make much more elsewhere. Labs are filling up with foreign students, and there are all sorts of problems with that. One thing is that each new faculty member in many scientific fields requires an initial investment (“start up”) of a million or more. It’s pretty awful to think your university is going to invest that sort of money in young scientists only to have many of them leave after 6-10 years. Further, there is quite a bit of very important research that only US citizens can be funded to do.

    So somewhere in the 1990’s, as the problem was getting more visible, some people realized a very significant fact: over 50% of US citizens did not have much hope of being able to do academic, scientific research. The first person I hear talk publicly about this was a retiring head of NASA. Women, black men and Hispanic men were just about never seen in university labs, with the possible exception of some areas of biology.

    Pretty quickly the National Science Foundation funded a program that would give a university about $5 million dollars to try to transform themselves. One thing, of course, is that they had to do a lot of research about what the problem is. why are the gate keepers not letting women and minorities in?

    Since NSF got involved there has been some progress. Last year physics new hires were 25% female, I think.

    Now sadly no one thinks that philosophy is vital to the country’s economic health, but the fact is that our statistics are about the same as those of the hard sciences and there is no general effort to change the field.

    So that’s what we’re about in part. Namely, trying to understand in order to effect change. But with all such efforts it is vital to distinguish good claims from bad. To put it on a local level, you have to be able to separate strong, plausible claims from weak, implausible ones if you are to be an effective advocate. Back every complainer and you quickly cease to be effective.

    As it is, a lot of state and federal money is being used to preserve an old boys club. I can pretty much guarantee that in all sorts of fields, people not like those in the club are not getting a fair share of the resources.

    Finally, let me stress that the original post on the two interpretations did not claim that jj-son was being discriminated against. It explored two ways of looking at the same situation. As a parent, I certainly want to help my son, and as a teacher I do realize that telling him his bosses are bigots is not the way to go. He is gay, and that means he could be experiencing some discrimination, but the whole time he was employed in that job, I was trying instead to help him find more helpful ways to think and act.

  21. Burn: I’m not sure where you draw the line that distinguishes the Real World from the non-real one. If you have forgotten about your remark in this regard, please check your own comments to find this term. Anyway, if intellectuals are outside of your Real World, then be assured that we have nothing to say to each other, then. It really comes down to what you meant by it, or what you now think you did (which probably is not the same as your first intention.)

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