So yesterday, one of my well-meaning online friends sent me a private message on Facebook that included this bit of warning/worry:
You have a first rate mind .. I’m a little concerned, however about the the posts you make as they might limit your project/career options. You’re in the buckle of the bible belt and political sensibilities are hard to gauge.
This friend was referring to some of the political content and opinions I share on by personal Facebook account.
You may or may not have noticed that this blog remains for the most part apolitical. I keep it focused on business topics, and more specifically those which relate to brand management, marketing, communications, social media and overall leadership. I prefer not to discuss my political beliefs here for two principal reasons:
1. This is not a political blog. It’s a business and marketing blog. If I wanted a political platform, I would launch a blog with a political focus.
2. Politics aren’t particularly relevant to the topics discussed here anyway.
If you have ever worked with me, you know that my politics have absolutely no impact whatsoever on my professional life. If we work on a project together, I don’t care if you’re a liberal or a conservative, if your believe climate change is real or think it’s a hoax, if you think that President Obama is a decent man or a secret Muslim antichrist. I am probably too busy helping your business get out of the ditch to notice or care who you plan to vote for next November, and I certainly won’t be the one to ask. Your politics and religion are entirely your business. If you bring them up, fine. I won’t.
Having said that, I am not an apolitical creature. I have opinions and beliefs, like everyone else, and right now, I feel free to express them on Facebook and engage in political discussions with my friends, and sometimes complete strangers.
The way it works for me is simple:
While I am my own boss, I have no reason not to express my views on Facebook. If anything I post today somehow offends someone’s political or religious sensibilities, there will be no impact on anyone’s business but my own. There will be no backlash, no boycott, no drama on HuffPo or The Blaze, and no awkward conversation with my boss, Legal and HR on Friday afternoon.
Conversely, if I ever decide to leave free-agency behind and take a position somewhere, I won’t feel as free to post or share certain things on Facebook anymore. Employment changes things. It reframes the kinds of discussions you can have online. Right or wrong isn’t relevant. That’s just how the ball rolls: you don’t want to become a liability for your employer. Ever. If self-preservation isn’t enough of a motivator, then professional responsibility sure as hell should be.
But something bothers me about that piece of advice up there. It implies that I should hide who I am or what I believe in order to be employable in the first place. As if being of one political persuasion would somehow make me more attractive to employers and clients than being of the other kind.
That really, really, really bothers me, and it doesn’t bother me because it’s bullshit; it bothers me because it’s true: declaring yourself a democrat in certain parts of the US can cost you a promotion, a raise or your job. Recruiters might decide to put your resume in the dump pile on political conviction alone. A lot of liberals I know in SC are afraid to “be found out” by their peers and bosses because their jobs could be at risk, so they pretend to be conservatives and just go with the flow. I know it sounds absurd, but then again, some people think that President Obama is a secret Kenyan agent working for the Muslim Brotherhood, so our frame of reference here might be a little shaky. This isn’t about logic. It’s about the reality of blind prejudice.
So yes, friend whom I will not name, the concern you expressed on Facebook is valid. Sad and depressing, but valid. And I appreciate your sharing it with me. But I’ve given this a little thought, and…
1. If you have to hide who you are in order to keep your job, you need to change jobs.
2, If you have to hide who you are in order to keep your clients, you need to get some new clients.
3. If your company is a cesspool of discrimination and everyone is too afraid to do anything about it, things will never change. Either accept it and strap-in, or go look for a better company to work for.
Now let me share how I deal with the fear of being black-listed for my political views, starting with what some “businesses” might find objectionable about my political views. Just this one time, let me share with you my deepest, darkest political secrets:
I like President Obama. He isn’t perfect, but I like him. I like Bill and Hillary Clinton too. That isn’t a crime, nor should it be. I don’t believe that women should be treated as second-class citizen (in and out of the corporate world), make less money than their male counterparts, or be called “sluts” when they admit to using birth control. I want gay couples to enjoy the same constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms that straight couples enjoy. I don’t believe that someone is “more American” if they are of Christian and Anglo-Saxon but somehow “less American” if they are Muslim, dark-skinned, atheist or vote Democrat. I actually like that the government defends our borders, protects our forests, our water and our air, and makes sure that our kids’ toys aren’t covered in lead paint or made out of carcinogenic materials. The government does wonderful things that the private sector either cannot or will not do alone, and contrary to Tea-Party anti-government mythology, it does most of them quite well.
People who hate the government so much that they want to do away with it are basically dumbfucks. They probably need to go live in Somalia for six months and see how they like the freedom of anarchy. Then we’ll talk about how evil and “too big” the US government is. Also, I’m a Christian, if that matters. I only tell you this because even though I fall into that particular Abrahamic faith category, I don’t believe that it gives me license to be a faith tyrant. For instance, insisting that creationism be taught in public school might seem like a great idea if you care more about forcing your faith on everyone than actually respecting the US Constitution. But the real problem with it is that it doesn’t exactly prepare our youth to be globally competitive. What it teaches them is to distrust science, knowledge and facts (things that would help them cure cancer, build bridges, design tomorrow’s cars, etc.). Meanwhile, the kids who will be hired for the jobs your kids won’t be qualified for are learning real science, real history, real anthropology and philosophy and literature. Speaking of science and facts, climate change is real. (Just like gravity, aspirin, glacier erosion and Obama’s birth certificate.) Get over it. It isn’t a question of opinions. Believing that there are space aliens out there is an opinion. Accepting the reality of basic science is called being a rational, responsible adult.
By the way, as someone who grew up with universal healthcare and still runs into it regularly, I can tell you from extensive personal experience that it isn’t death panels or the end of freedom; it’s just poor kids not dying of cancer in the gutter. It’s expectant mothers receiving proper prenatal care. It’s your mom not being turned down for treatment because of a bogus pre-existing condition. It’s people living longer, healthier lives and requiring less expensive care over time. Yes, Russia and North Korea probably do it wrong. But France, Canada and other countries do it mostly right. Look into it before parroting absurd nonsense you heard on AM radio.
Social Security isn’t a frivolous expense either; it’s a promise we made to retired people that guarantees that they will not have to choose between heating their houses in the winter and being able to buy food. Yes, it’s expensive to help your fellow Americans. Of course it is. But if you think that a better alternative is to let them starve and die, then you need to ask yourself what kind of person you really are. If money is really a big concern for you, then stop supporting nation-building in the Middle-East and start supporting nation-building right here at home. That isn’t socialism, by the way. It’s just called investing in your own country. Kind of like having a strong military, and fast trains, and good roads and drinkable water. It might even be called building a really cool model that will make you the envy of the world and make other countries want to invest in you again.
Welfare and food stamps are not dirty words, by the way. Go hang out with poor Americans for a few months and see if they’re really just the lazy parasites you keep hearing about. They aren’t. They want jobs. Desperately. You know, it’s really easy to dehumanize people. All you have to do is put labels on them and use stereotypes. It’s what the Nazis did with the Jews, and what the KKK did with African-Americans. It’s also what old white men in corner offices do to women, and what homophobic preachers do to same-sex couples. One thing I’ve learned in my years is that real patriots don’t turn their backs on their fellow citizen. They don’t preach hate or division. They do everything they can to help them. Always let that be your litmus test. Cynicism isn’t a virtue. Compassion is. Try it.
Since we’re on the subject, let me close with this: the political hate machine in the US has become appalling. We can talk about how people like Rush Limbaugh Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann are irresponsible, batshit sideshows of pre-packaged angst and faux paranoia, but they have vast audiences of people who think they are brilliant and spot-on and should be President. When I hear people repeat their rhetoric as if it were gospel, (and I do, a lot,) my spider senses flash passages of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale at me, and it worries me. It really does.
If all of that makes me a liberal, fine. Label me what you want. None of my beliefs stem from a particular political or religious philosophy or agenda, mind you. I have traveled around the world, served in the military, lived on two continents, and worked with people all over the globe. I make up my own mind on what is true and what is false, what is ethical and what isn’t, on what hurts people and what improves their lives. In the US, I happen to fall on the liberal side of the aisle. In France, I easily fall on the conservative side of the aisle. But I’m not the one doing the moving. It’s just that we’re talking about very different lines. So what am I in the end? A liberal? A conservative? Depends who you ask. For some people, I will never be conservative enough. For others, I will never be liberal enough. And for some, I will never be American enough, French enough, white enough or Christian enough. But remove political labels and stereotypes, and you’ll find that I am simply someone who won’t stand for racism, sexism, willful ignorance of the facts, xenophobia, fraudulent behavior, exploitation, irresponsible business practices, hypocrisy and fear-mongering.
If that world view somehow offends a particular business, then let me tell you quite candidly that I have no problem if that business decides not to hire me. In fact, if evidence of my political leanings weeds out businesses that would rather not work with “someone like me,” that’s great. I just did myself a huge favor. It isn’t that I don’t want to work with conservatives or republicans. In fact, I love working with and for conservatives and republicans as much as I love working with and for liberals and democrats. It’s just that I don’t particularly enjoy working with and for small-minded haters.
“But Olivier, aren’t you afraid that admitting all this will hurt your business?”
Not on your life. Here’s why:
1. I am not sitting here all day trying to broaden my options. What I am trying to do is narrow them down as much as possible. The reality of my business model is that I can only work with maybe 100-200 more companies before I retire or move on to a completely different phase in my career. I want every one of those partnerships to count. I don’t have time for the kind of bullshit that invariably comes with working for companies managed by irrational, hateful pricks. That means that I have to sort through tens of thousands of businesses to get to the right ones. Businesses deselecting themselves over something this stupid helps me out. And if I were to decide to go back into the corporate workforce, I am looking at 2-5 employers before the time comes for me to leave again and go do something else. Believe me when I tell you that I have no intention of wasting my time even interviewing with mildly racist or sexist bullies, let alone wasting a few years working in a poisonous corporate environment that idolizes people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.
2. This particular crowd only makes up about 20% of the US population. I’ll do okay with the other 80.
3. The kind of business I want to work with doesn’t give a shit whether I am Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, liberal or conservative. It’s focused on people. More specifically, on improving people’s lives. I don’t care if that comes in the form of designing awesome cars or making killer 3D flat screen TVs or tasty coffee or better artificial organs or portable water filters. It just has to have that people focus, both internally and externally, and it cannot have it if it sort of hates African-Americans, gays, women, Muslims, the French, poor people and whatever other “minority” happens to get on Rush Limbaugh’s radar. I run into enough of that just going to my mailbox as it is. I don’t want it to poison my work life with it too.
So yes, letting my Facebook friends know what I stand for politically lets those opinions radiate outward. And yes, that probably limits my employment options in the deep South and some parts of the mid-west. But maybe that’s kind of the point. I work nationally and internationally. I don’t need to work for companies in the Bible Belt if they don’t want me. And for every company that won’t hire me because I don’t fall over myself to love on Mitt Romney’s charming indecision on every issue, or because I don’t get behind the next BBQ overdose-induced boycott of France, there are 10 who will hire me for what I can do for them. And they tend to be in cool places like San Francisco, Montreal, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Sydney and Dubai. Know what I mean? It’s a big world and it’s full of businesses looking for expertise that not a lot of guys actually have.
So thanks kindly for your concern. 😉 We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
* * *
Social Media ROI – Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organizationisn’t a social media book. It’s a business management book, and it focuses on social media program strategy, management, measurement and reporting. If your boss doesn’t yet have a copy, time to fix that. If everyone on your team doesn’t yet have their own copy, what are you waiting for? (Now available in several languages including German, Korean, Japanese and Spanish.)
CEO-Read – Amazon.com – www.smroi.net – Barnes & Noble – Que
Problem is, my friend, is that here on your blog you sound like the intelligent guy that I know you to be. And on Facebook you’re starting to sound like someone who’s off his meds. Maybe that’s what your friend was trying to say.
If THIS guy would talk on Facebook, I’d hire him in a New York Minute.
There is absolutely no difference between me here and me there, Dick. Same exact guy. Same beliefs, same point of view, same moral compass.
We all see what we want to see, man.
Loved your blog before. . .even more now 🙂 Thanks for the “diversion” from your normal branding greatness.
This is an issue I have struggled with ever since I started doing online stuff. In the offline world, my dad has always been able to talk with our clients, disagree about politics, things like that, but that’s based on hearing voice intonation and in many cases knowing someone for 10-15 years. I spent the first two years of my online life not saying a darned word about politics or religion out in the open, but I changed my mind mostly because I feel the US and the world in general are at a stage where we NEED to talk about this stuff, especially with all of the false, unchecked info floating about.
I still do not understand the trend of people self-identifying by religion first in Twitter bios – unless meeting other people of the same creed is the most important thing. I guess that’s fine, but it seems kind of limiting. As for me, I’m a Christian Jewish Buddhist Wiccan Native American, so that would be my whole bio with room for nothing else.
It’s a tricky world.
We used to be able to have intelligent and respectful debates about religion and politics. Not anymore. The weird nativist movement in the US that has pretty much taken over the Tea Party and infected a chunk of the GOP with its ludicrous beliefs isn’t helping things either. It is what it is. The safest thing to do is to hide your beliefs, go with the flow, and hope for the best. That’s what I recommend you do. People can be vindictive, petty, cruel, and they will punish you for your political views if they can.
I just won’t do the sensible thing, though. I can’t. A significant portion of my family died in Nazi concentration camps because for over a decade, people in Germany hid their beliefs, went with the flow and hoped for the best.
When I hear the exact same kind of rhetoric that gave life to the Nazi party in Germany and Austria in the mid to late twenties being spouted by Tea Party “leaders,” conservative radio DJs, Fox News anchors, half the people I know in Greenville, SC and a healthy batch of people I used to be friends with on Facebook, it’s difficult for me not to express my worry, my outrage, and my disgust with it. But that’s me. My situation is unusual. My situation is not your situation. Okay? Do what you think is best for you. 🙂
Cuz I excel at keeping my big mouth shut….:) I have that on my resume as a special skill.
Fascinating post, and something I’ve pondered often (although not with the depth that you’ve presented here.) But I have a concern, Olivier. Maybe I’m misreading, but toward the end it kinda sounds like you’re saying, “I don’t expect my liberal views to cost me anything. But if you’re conservative, I don’t want to work with you.” Ergo, it’s okay to be liberal and to express those viewpoints publicly, but if you’re conservative you will (and should) lose business unless you keep your mouth shut. I hope I’m projecting the double standard on to your opinion, and that it’s not really there.
I work in a state that is predominantly conservative. To be honest, many of my colleagues probably fall into that 20% bucket you mentioned. Does that mean our clients elsewhere in the world should not do business with us? If they have political/ideological differences with us, should they leave, even if the business relationship is totally professional and they are getting tremendous value from it? Are you saying that only businesses with liberal views are acceptable?
I don’t mean to be combative and I hope this doesn’t set off a firestorm of Dwight hatred. As I said, I’ve thought a lot about this and how to reconcile my love of my company with my distaste with a lot of the political viewpoints around me.
1. I am not saying that I don’t want to work with conservatives. I expressly stated in the piece that I love working for conservatives (and liberals). What I said is that I don’t want to work with racist or bigoted assholes. Unfortunately, many conservative circles have been infected by people like this. But look, to say that bigoted assholes in the Bible Belt tend to be conservatives does not mean that conservatives are bigoted assholes. It’s exactly like saying that most serial killers tend to be white males. It doesn’t mean that white males are serial killers. See the difference? For what it’s worth, I don’t even think that bigots actually are conservatives. I think that bigots are bigots. The conservative thing for them is just a facade.
2. About clients elsewhere in the world should or should not do business with us, the answer is simple: It’s entirely up to them. Nowhere in this post did I recommend that people stop doing business with ultra-right wing professionals. This post is about me. It’s about my choice. No one else’s. But what I can tell you is that if a company’s culture is hostile towards Muslims, Mexicans, homosexuals or career women, then its executives shouldn’t be surprised if most of their clients look exactly like them. An example of what happens when a business follows ultra-conservative stances is Chic Fil-A. Prejudice has its consequences. That’s just how it is.
3. No, I am not saying that only businesses with liberal views are acceptable. All I am saying is that I prefer not to work with irrational, hateful people. That’s a very different thing. If I didn’t like working with conservative companies, I wouldn’t work with a whole lot of companies. 😀
My respect for you continues to build, this was a fantastic piece. Being a blue dot in a (very) red state is extremely challenging at times for all the reasons you mention and more. This restored my confidence that it’s important and beneficial to hash this stuff out, on Facebook, over coffee, wherever. Well said, sir.
Don’t let the bastards wear you down, man. There are more of us than there are of them. Never forget that. Good people are all around you.
This is so f+cking brilliant. Carpe Diem.
It’s just my brain. 😉
I find that, in recent years, people have become very extreme. This extremity has taken the place of common sense & decency. It’s a shame. I agree with you, not on every opinion, but on the philosophy you have shared. I decided long ago, if someone doesn’t like me for being me then I just won’t have them on my priority list. It’s been working out really well. I have a good life & I don’t have to deal with a-holes. Win-Win. Thanks for sharing.
Life is too short indeed. Keep on keeping on. 🙂
Fear and despair always lead to small-mindedness and stereotyping. Sad but, unfortunately, true. In the current economic and political environment I’m not surprised certain folks have gained traction in the Bible Belt.
Bravo on the unambiguous stance mate. Like you I feel life’s too short – business or personal – to deal with douchepipes. I applaud the integrity. For context here’s my personal brand manifesto which I use as a business touchstone
Guess being a Rhodesian-born son of a Scot and an Australian who watched apartheid collapse, married a mixed-race wife, lived and worked on three continents, found time to make friends in numerous countries, my world-view might differ ever so slightly from Nowheresville Idaho.
Kudos for the integrity.
Q – you must’ve read Friedman’s book “That Used to be Us”. Brilliant IMHO but many of those themes ring through in your writing. Nice one.
I’ll read it. Thanks. 🙂 “Douchepipes?” Totally stealing that.
I love that phrase ‘blind prejudice” because it is absolutely what is wrong with America. I was in the UK for three months and never once felt judged for who I am or what I believe and in America I feel like I need to walk on pins and needles around everyone. Keep on keepin on.
I know the feeling. It sucks, doesn’t it?
The world is too big and too diverse and too amazing a place to let small-minded extremism take even the slightest foothold.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world.
Hi, I found your post to be scrumdiddlyicious. I am so glad you posted it. I am gay proud.
I’m not sure what that means, but… thank you? 😀
Listen…don’t change…if you did, then you’d end up with some assignment you’d dread. And no one wants that.
Keep the faith – and let me know if I can come with you on one of those cool assignments.
Indeed, and will do. 🙂
Olivier: great post, and I’m a fan of the aside-type post. I don’t let my politics bleed into my blog, or even into Facebook, mostly because I don’t like debating + arguing via text (too much lost in translation). I like what you wrote in principle, but offer up the following for consideration:
Above, you write: “1. If you have to hide who you are in order to keep your job, you need to change jobs. || 2, If you have…”
This is applicable in theory, and even in practice if you are [a] awesome at what you do; [b] have prospects beating at your door; [c] already successful; or [d] a combination thereof.
But not everyone who is in this predicament has any of a, b, c, or d. And there are reasons for that, sure (they could be really great, but just starting out).
I guess what I’m getting at is that the list of “If you have…” items comes across (to me) as a platitude. As in, “well, just go change x.” I just don’t think it’s always that easy.
I think the lesson still applies, but the applicability and execution of said lesson is the challenge.
You’re right. It isn’t easy. I’ve caved before. I spent years in the corporate world trying to be everything my bosses wanted me to be. I’ve bit my tongue, looked the other way, executed on really bad ideas, swallowed my pride, played nice when I shouldn’t have, etc. I figured that some day, I would get to a point when I wouldn’t have to do that anymore. Well guess what: it’s a waste of time. I only wish I had learned that sooner.
There’s playing defense, Alan,and there’s playing offense. Nobody ever gets anywhere always playing defense. Not only that, but it’s impossible to sustain over time. Sometimes, you just have to risk pissing people off to move things in the right direction. It’s hard, but that’s what tells you it’s worth doing. 😉
I’m coming to that realization, albeit more slowly than you. Thanks for the share.
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” thats what our nation, and all civilized nations SHOULD say.
but in this case, I actually DO agree. But even if I didn’t, I’d support where you are with that. Piety that there’s so much damned extremism on both extremes, I think we are poorer for that.
I know this because tyler knows this.
Ps. I think douchepipes may trump fucktards. Stealing THAT,without attribution. Mark.my.words!
I am Jack’s pernicious grin.
I made you a picture.
You – my friend and brilliant colleague – are one of the very few things I miss from my excruciating time in GSP. I’ve never made the easy choices and have – with increasing intensity – been driven by a mantra from my youth “Don’t Postpone Joy!” Thank you for this inspiring piece.
P.S. – scrumdiddlyicious is a good thing.
🙂 Greenville lost out when it let you leave, man.
Thank you so much for this post! I couldn’t agree with you more!
I moved from Austria to California about 3 ½ years ago and therefore have a pretty good idea about what life’s like in a “social” country/economy. Actually not that bad! But what do I know? I’ve only lived there for about 32 years.
Thanks again for sharing your point of view! Very refreshing…
This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time. I also believe exactly as you do and live in an area where I’m a minority in more ways then one. I work for myself and I’ve had others suggest that I should stay away from such issues so that I don’t turn people off. I’d rather weed out the ones that I’m better off being free of anyway. I can’t thank you enough for spelling it out so beautifully.
Even before Hitler had gained any real power, it was probably unpopular to speak out against the Nazis in Germany. And I know that there came a moment when either being a Nazi or pretending to be on their side meant the difference between getting hired or not. I won’t actually compare the Tea Party to Nazis, but the mechanics are the same: political group takes extreme position. Political group draws an “us vs. them” line in the sand. Political group starts pressuring people to choose a side. Political group begins to paint anyone not with them as an enemy. Political group begins to paint their enemies enemies of the state. That’s the progression. We are going through this process right now. You know how we always wonder why more Germans didn’t just stand up to the Nazis before it was too late? Why more of them didn’t speak up? Well look around. We’re answering that question right now.
Life is too short to suppress your beliefs to work with people who wouldn’t hire you if you disagreed with them.
Whew, my friend. When you get spun up, you do produce some word count! I am pleased for you that you have the luxury of the amount of choice that you have on whom you work with, how and when. Unfortunately, in the corporate world of the current US, many have to make the choice between free expression and putting food on the table. I believe that you refer to as “buckling-in”. Too bad, but just the way things are.
I am glad that you are convinced there are more of “us” than “them”.
Cheers. Safe travels, and don’t shoot that thing.
Depends where you go, man. Out here in the EU, I haven’t run into a single anti-Obama Rush Limbaugh listener. So there’s that. The Bible belt isn’t exactly representative of the world at large, or even the US at large.
But like I said, if I were to be hired tomorrow, the types of conversation and content that I allowed myself to have and post on my FB wall would probably change pretty radically. So I get it.
My grandfather idolized Jack Kennedy and would have dinner table conversations about politics all the time. There were always great exchanges between him and his conservative friends and family. This was Spokane, WA, still a very conservative place. (I wasn’t there, but my father described this to me in detail). He would also type out letters to the pres all the time 😉
But the point is, there was civil discourse, and I think the reason most people don’t dip into politics is because this is almost impossible to do these days, with outlets like Fox News setting the tone and scaring everybody half to death. My wife cut off a friendship because she was getting emails from someone talking about a Muslim invasion, I kid you not. She was like, WTF!!!! is this woman crazy? No, just completely brainwashed. But I’ll try not to go on a rant about that nonsense.
Oh, I do have both conservative and liberal friends. I do hate labels and refuse to choose a side like the media wants me to do. We need balance, not fanaticism.
Very well put. I’ve had to end a few friendships as well in the past year. I don’t understand what’s happened to these folks, or how it is that they went into nativist cult mode so quickly and easily, but here we are. It’s gotten a little weird. I’ve never known a time since I was born when so much nonsense was passing right past people’s bullshit meters.
Fabulous, insightful and passionate post! Once upon a time, our professional and personal lives had a distinct line drawn between them. I recall a moment, about 10 years ago, that never set well with me. I was working in management for a large creative communications corp. One of our HR staff cyber-vetted a new hire (after hiring him) and found his blog. It wasn’t political, it wasn’t pornagraphic, but it was edgy poetry. HR and management made a decision to approach the new hire and ordered him to stop writing or risk losing his job. IMHO, his personal beliefs were not interfering with his stellar work. Imagine a creative comms firm stifling someone’s creativity!
It is a shame that some feel they need to choose silence and go with the flow. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I see social media as a powerful tool to be used to start a conversation about things that matter. I hate to see social media only used to report what our kids do, what we ate for dinner, and report on the (obvious to everyone) weather.
That MLK guy was pretty smart. 🙂
Awesome and honest post, Olivier. Love your passion and fearlessness. If there was more of it, the world would be a better place.
Thanks, man. I don’t know… I’ll take self-awareness over courage. If more people had a better understanding of who they are and what makes them dysfunctional, maybe courage wouldn’t be necessary. 😉
Great thoughts, as always, Olivier, and I could not possibly agree more with what you are saying overall. I do have a comment/question about one small part of it, though – “1. If you have to hide who you are in order to keep your job, you need to change jobs.”
This is true, but – the ability to change jobs is not always so simple (because life is seldom simple). What if, for example, the job you do is critical to the community you serve and you do it for that very reason – out of a sense of duty or because what you do genuinely helps people – for example, if you were the only doctor available to serve a rural community. What if, during your time in that position, while you came to appreciate and care more and more for the people you were serving, you also came to realize that some ideology of yours was changing to something “radically” different from the majority of people you served – in a way that would, however unfairly, improperly, or outright prejudicially, would cause them to mistrust and perhaps even shun you, to their own detriment. If, for example, you were this country doctor in a predominantly protestant Christian community and realized over time that you were, in fact, an atheist. Now, should you be who you are and risk damaging your relationships and therefore, indirectly, damage the health of people unwilling to deal with this “ungodly” physician? Aand yes, I know they would actually be damaging themselves, but part of our responsibilities for our own actions is judging how the reactions of others will affect the people around us. – Or should you hide who you really are and continue more effectively serving the people in your care – at your own expense? Or, should you “change jobs” – potentially leaving the people who were in your care with _no_ similar resource available anywhere close enough for them to routinely use (there are real-world examples of communities in this unfortunate situation)?
Or perhaps a different example, since you were in the military – Should those soldiers who were in the US armed forces during the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” era or the previous outright ban on homosexuality in the military who happened to be gay have abandoned their duties, usually with, at least, a dishonorable discharge, in order to be honest about who they were or was it better for them to remain true and loyal to what they perceived as a higher duty for the good of the society as a whole? Many U.S. army (and other branch) recruits in the past – especially during the years when homosexuality was cause for dismissal – were very young, right out of high school, or even without finishing high school. Most of us are far from figuring out who and what we really are at that point, and many people (in whatever walk of life), at that point have not fully realized what their own natural sexual preferences may be, so many who entered the service knowing about the ban may not have realized that it would apply to them. Should they have changed jobs?
I’m not saying that I know the answer – or that you’re even trying to say what the answer is in cases like this – and I agree that if it isn’t complicated by such factors (or others – and there are many potential ones I haven’t mentioned), that yes, definitely, change jobs if you have to hide who you are in order to keep your job. I’m just saying that life is often far more complicated than we make it out to be – and that I would value hearing your opinion.
Oh, and also – Yes! +1, Like, etc. to what you have said here. 🙂
Hmm. Good question.
First, I am not recommending that you change jobs immediately. So… the simplicity issue is partially addressed there. If it takes 3 years to find another opportunity that suits you, then it takes 3 years. A faster transition would be better, but as you said, life isn’t always simple.
Now about the other “what ifs…”
The rural doctor issue is simple for me: As a doctor, I am there to do a job. That job is to help, treat and save people if I can. I shouldn’t have to hide who I am or what I believe from a community of people that I serve. For me, there are two issues here:
1. Trust: I could not, under any circumstances, compromise the trust that a community has put in me by lying to them about who I am, even if it is by saying nothing. I can’t live a lie. Either they accept me for who I am and we find a way to make it work, or they reject me outright. Better to work that out before I move (or early into the move) than once I have invested months or years into that community.
2. If that community decided to turn against me because of my religious or political beliefs, then that’s their choice. But Russell, wow, what a shitty place to live! If a community is so conservative as to turn on its only doctor because he’s an atheist or a Jew or gay or a democrat, why in the world would I want to live there in the first place? Am I a masochist? 😀 I would try to do my job for as long as possible, but if the community wanted to throw me out, then I would go elsewhere. Why fight it? What would be the point?
The military question is different. I honestly don’t have an answer to that. I personally never cared if I had to share a shower, a bunk, a trench or a fox hole with a straight guy or a gay guy. As long as he had my back and did his job, that’s all I cared about. The gay issue never bothered me. I knew some guys in and out of SF who were gay. They didn’t make an issue of it. Nobody cared. It was none of our business. But the military is a very regimented environment anyway. You give up a lot of your rights when you join up. You essentially volunteer to be a slave to the state. If you’re told to run towards a hail of bullets, you can’t argue that it violates a constitutional right. 😀 So… as much as I hate DADT and find it ludicrous, it’s just another rule, like having to shine your boots and salute officers and stay off the peyote. Know what I mean? If you’re volunteering to be in the service, you have to be ready to do a lot of things you don’t like. Everything then becomes a balance: what do you have to give up in order to jump out of helicopters or fly jets or drive tanks? If you can justify the price to yourself, then stay. If you can’t, leave.
Having said that, I think it takes a five-star asshole to actually kick someone out of the military because they’re gay. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the mentality of someone who would do this. Two of the best operators I know were gay. If I had stayed in longer than I did, there’s a good chance that I would have probably owed my life to one of these guys at some point. So to think that some homophobic asshole would willfully deprive the SF community of even one of those two guys just to satisfy some lame political viewpoint seems absurd to me. It’s unprofessional and irresponsible. It serves no purpose whatsoever. Ultimately, all it does is put our lives at risk.
Anyway, good points. It comes down to personal choice. But there comes a point where who you are wins over who you pretend to be. Living a lie day after day for years and years isn’t healthy. It’s not living. It’s merely surviving. I’m not sure that’s an ideal way to spend decades of your life. There has to be a better way.
Salut, Olivier! C’est ma première visite sur votre blog. Je suis une canadienne qui réside aux États-Unis depuis que sept ans.
I brought my liberal Canadian sensibilities to Arizona, of all places. Even though I love the lifestyle and the people are very nice and friendly, I have been careful not to voice political opinions in my business life.
It has been challenging, as I have definite opinions on most issues. As a U.S. resident, I worry that people who disagree with my views will tell me to go back to Canada if I am critical. And, if they don’t say it aloud, I bet they’ll be thinking it.
The diviseness in this country has deteriorated so much that we are discussing the fallout of individuals’ political views and their job worthiness. I don’t blame you for being concerned!
Only distant relatives perished in the Holocaust, but the “never again” philosophy was drummed into me in my youth. The blatant intolerance and racism I see in this country scares me. How much further can the pendulum swing until moderate conservatives stop kowtowing to right-wing extremists? It can’t come soon enough.
I lost quite a few relatives in the Holocaust as well, and that is something that is now, more than ever, present in my mind. It never used to be. So many movies and TV shows have portrayed the Nazis as the bad guys, racism, anti-antisemitism and prejudice of any kind as evil (or at least deplorable) that I thought that we would be relatively safe from it in the US. But yeah, the hateful fringe has gone mainstream in the last few years. It has hidden behind “conservatism” and religion, and that bothers me.
There is nothing conservative about hate. There is nothing Christian about it either. What bothers me more is how easily it’s worked and how quickly so many people, who five years ago seemed perfectly kind and compassionate, have now turned into hateful, purposely ignorant and morally obtuse assholes. It’s as if someone flipped a switch, and their ability to see the whole field was turned off. Now, they can only see the world through a very narrow (and twisted) lens where the black guy in the oval office is a socialist, a Kenyan, a secret Muslim, an enemy of the state, where Christian values trump freedom of Religion (“freedom of religion as long as it’s ours”), where homosexuals, liberals, Muslims, and poor African-Americans are quickly becoming the scapegoats for everything that is dragging the US down economically, culturally and morally. In 1920’s and 1930’s Germany, it was homosexuals, liberals, gypsies and Jews. It’s starting to happen all over again. There is no logic to it. You can’t reason with people who have decided to hate or discriminate against a minority (or what they think of as a minority).
And so now, the question is answered: how could the Germans allow Nazism to take over their country? How could so many Germans sit by and do nothing while the country went down that road? By making people fear for their jobs, for their social standing, for their safety. But before thugs come to your house to beta you up, there’s the fear of being fired or cast aside for the rest of your career.
The principles don’t change. It’s the same thing over and over again.
Hang in there. It always gets better. Eventually. 🙂
I hope you’re right, Olivier. In the meantime, I commend you for speaking out.
It’s gratifying to know that I am not the only one who sees The Handmaid’s Tale being played out in American politics. The specter of having Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann as our Commander in Chief prompted me to prepare my kids for a move to GB or Canada. Thanks for veering off your normal course and writing an article that encapsulates my feelings so completely.
We’re considering our options as well.
You guys are always welcome in sunny Canada. We recently left GB because the economic outlook remains quite dire.
Lets be honest, for no other reason, Canadian beer has US beer beat.
Extraordinary, Olivier. The passion you deliver through the written word is simply extraordinary.
Thank you. If you think that’s good, you should see how much better it sounds in my head before I try to write it. 😀
I am genuinely happy to read this webpage posts which contains
lots of useful information, thanks for providing such data.
Comments are closed.