Friday, December 30, 2011

Prejudice against Business-folk

And no, I'm not talking about people who are labeled "socialist" simply because they don't bow at the throne of capitalism.I'm talking more about the idea that those who work in artistic, human service or any lower paying job are somehow inherently more caring, driven, passionate or Christ-like than those who sit behind a desk. It springs from the same vein of the oft misquoted "money is the root of all evil". The actual verse being...

I was on Facebook today and saw a friend's post that got under my skin a bit. He admitted to being eluded by the intricacies of business and continued on to marvel at the fact that every toothpick, shoelace and bathroom deodorizer came from a business effort, headed up by companies with specific goals. Fine...though I've learned to think about these things involuntarily, I realize that most people don't. What got me though, was that he followed up by questioning the manufacturers' love of said toothpicks, shoelaces and deodorizers and then to pose the question of them being motivated by money instead of love for a product. I've run into this attitude in many areas of my life, and I find it entirely off base for multiple reasons.

First off, some people love weird things. They're in the minority, but there is that guy who's running a paperclip factory that's deeply in love with the paperclip...just as in love as the one composing symphonies or helping children. If we're going to evaluate the altruism of an act based purely on internal emotional feeling, they would come out tied. 

Second, just because a job serves people, or is counter culture, doesn't make it inherently beneficial. It took me a second to realize and accept this, but there's a lot of selfishness in my martial art. I see no difference in working 50 hours a week to build a bank account and make CEO than I do working 50 hours a week to improve a skill and win a competition. In both cases, you work to serve yourself. Those goals are not wrong, but the path you walk to get there is what makes the difference. 

Third, a job being inherently subservient does not then make the people performing said work universal martyrs. I've met some twisted human service people. It's not frequently admitted, but while human service jobs seldom offer much pay, the do offer a LOT of power. A VP can fire, cut pay, and cause some serious emotional damage...but still...a teacher can derail a child's progress in life permanently, a counselor can sexually manipulate, a social worker can ruin lives with one decision, a missionary can abuse the very people they were sent to help. The difference? Vulnerability. People do not open up their souls and emotions in the world of the corporate. Of course those things are affected by sheer exposure, but there is little expectation that a supervisor is trying to improve someone's overall life. That's one very honest things about the coldness of business. It's a in exchange for money. That contract limits damages to a degree...but in the human services, people are openly and rawly exposed to those around them.That why a person being apathetic about their job in business doesn't bother me too much, but in human services, I find it offensive and irresponsible...possibly even malicious. 

This is one of the respects in which the world of Brazilian jiu jitsu (which I practice), reminds me very much of the church. The bulk of the practitioners align closely with surfer culture and there's a distinct air of self-righteousness in their having "rejected" more traditional life-styles. How does that line up with church culture? Well, while the institution does carry the hierarchical worship of those with higher incomes, when it comes to the morality of the actual work, those that work in business (not all of whom are bringing home huge paychecks) are seen as moral bystanders, not doing anything wrong, but not carrying on the work of God in their daily lives, though they may be following God's calling on their lives to the letter. The ones who have given up corporate work for the sake of missional pursuits are praised without question. Those who work as teachers and counselors and house-wives are seen as sacrificial and holy (though oddly at the same time looked down upon, which I attribute directly to churches picking up and welcoming in broader cultural norms). 

I've known all this but it was nice to see it articulated in Why Business Matters to God. I'm still working my way through, but it's a great read for anyone working in business and anyone who knows someone who is.