It's been a couple of weeks since I ranted against Corporate America, so I figured it was about time.
Seriously, it's this story (thanks, KJL at NRO) on how some bloggers are getting in hot water with their employers about the things they post on their blogs (yes, I know the article is from the BBC, but they're talking about American companies as well as British ones). And there's a new term for it, according to UrbanDictionary.com: "dooced," which means "losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, website, etc."
Now, I can understand if you're writing your blog on corporate time (that is, after all, a form of stealing) or if you're revealing confidential company secrets (say, insider trading). There is such a thing as proprietary information, not to mention the always popular "intellectual property" arguement.
But what I get out of all this is the overwhelming image of the humorless, soulless corporation - the Dilbert company, in other words. It's the increasing attempt of the corporation to take over the lives of its employees. It's hardly uncommon nowadays to find a corporate "campus" that includes food courts, day-care providers, workout facilities, beauty shops, banks, company stores, medical and dental clinics, dry cleaners, car license renewal services - all the comforts of home, without ever having to leave the office. While it's true that this can be very beneficial to those who work there - especially when the company is located somewhere out in the boonies - it's also true that all these services have the consequence (and, I think, hardly an unintended one) of freeing up additional time that you can spend at your desk.
Think about it. When did you get time to do these errands before? You'd do them on your lunch hour, or on your way home, or in the case of a doctor's appointment you might leave early. But now you don't even have to leave the building to take care of them. And with statistics showing that American employees are working more hours than ever, what could be better than removing all those nasty distractions that keep you from focusing on your job?
After all, the dry cleaners might be closed by the time you get done with that important project. Having the cafeteria open at 7 means you can grab breakfast at the office instead of eating at home with your kids. And if things get too frustrating, don't worry - you can take the escalator down to the gym, run a few laps, and return to your desk refreshed and ready for a few more hours' work. I suspect pretty soon some company will add a vet's clinic, so you can bring your dog in for a trim while you're finishing up at the Xerox.
I thought of all these things today while reading a review of the new movie In Good Company on cnn.com. In discussing the plot of the movie - a long-time employee who suddenly finds himself the victim of his company's new regime - the reviewer, Paul Clinton, makes an excellent point with this rhetorical question: "How do we balance a career with a full, outside-the-office life and a family? The answer is, we don't. Today, it's nearly impossible to have control over both your professional and personal life."
And as you know from this earlier post, Corporate America recognizes this as well. That's why they don't want you to have a personal life. They want you to live for the company, the same way they do - that is, when they're not spending time with their trophy wives out on the yachts they purchased with their multimillion dollar year-end performance bonuses.
Believe me, please, I'm not a Commie, or a Socialist, or anything like that. I believe in capitalism. A lot of companies have done a lot of good things over the years, for America, for the world (witness the massive financial aid for the tsunami victims), and for their own employees. Judie and I owe our employers a lot; we wouldn't have our home, our medical coverage, or the resources to have this blog site, without them.
But as I've said before, Corporate America is its own worst enemy. Even as devout a free-market capitalist as my friend Gary says as much. That doesn't mean the government should get involved; they'll just make things worse. The point is, you can't force a corporation to have a conscience. That has to come from the individuals who run the company.
A conscience they might be able to more fully develop if they weren't so busy worrying about what their employees might be saying on their blog sites.