Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Courage, Clarity and Conscience: An Anectodal Guide To Quitting Your Job

Below, a dear friend expresses concerns over my decision to split from an institution I had worked for over five years. My position appears below my friend's message. I post it here on this public blog for the sake of both posterity and as a humble guide to anyone else contemplating leaving his or her job in these dark times. If the people are to prevail, courage, clarity and good conscience must be cultivated and nurtured.


Well. I finally read the letter. It feels bad, is all I can say. She obviously invests in Authority as a concept. This faith of hers will catch up to her. It is clearly a weakness that she thinks is a strength. I do wish you were a little bit more willing to deal with (manipulate) other people's weaknesses and needs. I know you are taking the high road here, but no one else knows this, and you're the one who's out of a job. This could be considered your weakness, you know: the moral ground. It just might kill you. Be careful, because its not worth that. Not this kind of fight. Maybe others, but not everything stands for everything. M_____'s stance maybe emblematic of The Man, but your silence and refusal to 'play' makes you more of a threat to yourself than The System. Why don't you work for a political organization? Have you ever?

talk soon, H.

“Each time society, through unemployment, frustrates the
small man in his normal functioning and normal self-respect, it trains
him for that last stage in which he will willingly undertake any
function, even that of hangman.”

"The corporate employee “does not regard himself as a
murderer because he has not done it out of inclination but in his
professional capacity.”

--Hannah Arendt from "Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility”

"The mass of those who serve systems of terrible oppression
and state crime are not evil. They are weak."

--Chris Hedges

Hi H_____

Well, the passages quoted above essentially capture why I felt I had
to resign my position at the school. Don't get me wrong, I have no
martyrdom complex though it may appear that way on the surface. But as
the quotes above by Hannah Arendt so clearly put it, unemployment, or
the threat of it, can make monsters of any one of us . . . if we, both
collectively and as individuals, allow it. By quitting the way I did,
I accomplished several important goals: First, I denied her the
further ability to put me through the wringer. Second, I left under my
own power. Third, as I expressed to B____, I denied her, and
unfortunately B_____, the continued benefits of my skills. Finally, I
kept my self-respect, which is devalued in class societies in general
but especially under Capitalism, but at least to me, is more important
than any individual job or benefit I may have to forsake in order to
preserve it. For me, my mental health and self-worth is a
pre-condition for anything else I may do in life.

This really hit home to me earlier today after reading these pieces in
the New York Times (see here: and
on the streamlining of the process that in the past have kept teachers
run afoul of the system, for whatever reason, in these so called
"rubber rooms." What struck me is how most of these people allowed
themselves to be subjected to this demeaning practice of being stuck
in legal and professional limbo until their fates are decided. For
some, like the individual close to retirement, I could fathom it. But
for most of the rest, I could only think of that passage, I believe
from the bible, that goes "what does it profiteth a man all the riches
of the world, if he loses his soul" and of the above quote of Chris
Hedges that " those who serve systems of terrible oppression and state
crime are not evil. They are weak." M_____ is weak. I am not and that is
why I need not stand behind authority, especially at this point in the
accelerating descent of Capitalism and its institutions into the
dustbin of history, if we are lucky, or, if not, the abyss with all of
us going along with it. Capitalism is dead. It killed itself.

Now, to be fair, I would not quite go as far as pegging M____ as an
outright participant in state crime and evil. However, she has
certainly placed herself, seemingly squarely, in the camp of the
establishment. To extend the point further, her romantic involvement
with a tried and true member of the security apparatus of the state to
me shows that, while not quite there yet, there likely is a latent
capacity for her to become a willing executioner. I simply cannot
fathom, even as supposedly a liberal-progressive as she fancies
herself, much less a radical-progressive, that one would have or
establish a link to to someone (a CIA Interrogator!) working in
perhaps the darkest corners of the security apparatus of this country.
The stench, to me, would be too great and simply should be anathema to
any thinking, aware and conscientious person.

You are absolutely correct in that M_____ sees her attachment and service
to the establishment as a strength and a means to assert her
conditional (thus tenuous) authority. However, as you also said, she
is in for some major disappointment and, more immediately, my
semi-forced departure is going to cost her in the long run. Yes, I
could have manipulated the situation but that simply means I would
have had to go along with the game and out-maneuver her within it. I
did not want to give any legitimacy to the process by my participation
(sort of what I think should happen with the dog and pony show that
are elections in this country) and I normally do not like to contest
something on my opponent's home floor. Besides which, there was
nothing for me to contest as I had already decided during the summer,
as you are aware, that I was not staying on at the school. All that
happened is that I left a wee bit sooner than I planned. Such are the
plans of mice and m . . . people :-).

Overall, as the situation with Julian Assange (wikileaks) shows, there
is a price to be paid for defying authority. If we truly want to
overturn this rotten order, we must practice paying the price. This
includes acts of defiance both large (like Assange's) and small (my
own). Again, no martyrdom complex; just the realization by me that a
stand had to be taken no matter what the short . . . or long term
consequences are. I hope you now can understand why I acted as I did.
For me more was at stake than a job. A gauntlet had been thrown and if
I didn't respond forcibly now why, and under what wherewithal
(emotional, intellectual, ideological . . . etc.) would I do so when
the stakes are higher. Like anything else, using your resolve and
relying on your integrity takes practice. Use it or lose it.
Unfortunately, for most Americans, it seems, the path of least
resistance seems to be the norm. For example, appearing in Scientific
American "Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology &
Evolutionary Biology Guy R. McPherson points out, “79.6% of
respondents to a Scientific American poll are unwilling to forgo even
a single penny to forestall the risk of catastrophic climate change."
This from a supposedly more intelligent and enlightened audience. It
does appear that "good Americans" are going to outdo and put to shame
"good Germans" doesn't it?

Postscript: While I did not respond to it directly, I will do so now. Far from my silence and refusal to "play" being more of a danger to me than the system, the existence of this creative space does show I do have a voice. In addition, you try as best as is possible, as I said in the main post also, to not fight on your enemy's "playground" or strictly speaking imitate plays from his or her playbook.

This is precisely what has been the tact of so-called progressives for years now epitomized by the strategy of lesser-of-two-evil voting. In practice, what that has meant is many a movement suffering death by strangulation or suffocation within that graveyard of movements: the Democratic Party. Now, we find ourselves without a party, movement, advocate or whatever that speaks for the mass of the politically and economically excluded. At this point in history that encompasses the bulk of the population.

Similarly, I did not wish to be buried by a process that is rigged for my defeat and that I could more efficiently and effectively neutralize by dispensing with altogether. Far from being silent, my actions, and not just quitting, but doing so resolutely and decisively in spite of the state of the present economy, speak much louder than words. Basically I said "Take This Job and Shove it!" ( Actions always speak louder than words.

As far as my activism, the closest I've come since departing Internationalist Socialist Organization years ago to being part of anything is considering joining the Socialist Equality Party (International Committee of the Fourth International). Their grasp of the present state of things is, I feel, impressive. However, I do have some differences with them and honestly I am not sure if anything can be done at this point except brace oneself and let things run their course. This reminds me of Villanova versus Georgetown in the 1984 basketball NCAA championship game. Not only would the masses have to be very well organized, but also, like Villanova that year, they would have to play the perfect game to win. Interesting that this happened in 1984.

I must say, this has all been worth it, no matter what else comes, just for the experience. It is interesting how cowed people have become(and just 40 years after the Civil Right's Movement and 30 Years after Johnny Paycheck) that rather than simply supported I've met with, well, fear. Like if a job is the most precious of things and it is eternal or, at least until death anyway. Also, like I should place no confidence in my skills and abilities which, considering the obstacles placed before me, have always seen me through. Sure we all have to eat but is that simply what we want to be reduced to; survival at all costs. Even if that means stripping away what it means to be human? Can we all say moooooooo! I have to wonder if Julian Assange (wikileaks) had thought the same way, was affected by his more cautious supporters or even detractors, we would have ever seen the material his organization obtained see the light of day or if it even would have been made available to wikileaks at all. As Mark Jackson, former Knicks player and now NBA commentator on TNT would say, "come on Man! Y'all better than that! I am, so I did. Yes I did say "take this job and shove it!"

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