Thursday, May 6, 2010

spin doctors

Because it got under my skin, I wrote a letter yesterday to our local newspaper, The Gazette, about a front-page article describing the new round of personnel cuts at the city's hospital.

In times no one has the nerve to call a Depression, corporations everywhere are realigning their energies and trimming staff to make an amount of money that is acceptable to them. I can see the necessity and need and even the greed.

What irritated me was a line that is often seen in such stories -- a corporate mantram in fact: Yes, there will be cutbacks, but the quality of whatever is produced will remain at the same level as it was before the cuts. Customers can expect the same level of service.

There is enough bullshit coming out of Washington these days without having to swallow additional nonsense locally. If you have an effort that requires 20 people and you cut five, then the remaining 15 will have to pick up the slack if the quality is to remain the same. More work -- or, as the corporate spin doctors like to say, greater productivity -- means that each person will do more ... less well. There are only so many hours in any given day and mediocrity -- both in attention and production -- is bound to result from cutbacks.

This is the way of things and, although I may not like it, still I can see the argument. What I dislike is being lied to. So I wrote a letter to the paper and got a couple of emails from the editor explaining things from the hospital point of view. The impetus for his emails, I imagine, was that I suggested that cutbacks at the newspaper was another good example of creeping mediocrity ... that with a reduced staff, there was no way to assess the corporate allegation that quality would not be affected by cutbacks.

Yes, I was feeling crabby.

But more than just crabby about the corporate mantram or the newspaper's inability/unwillingness to dig into what I thought of as bullshit spin-doctoring, it made me think of how often anyone might allow him- or herself to go along with their own spin-doctoring. Of how we may allow ourselves to excuse ourselves or excuse our friends for what is not really examined.

Yes, it's human, and yes, human beings are frail and flawed from one point of view. That's OK. But for as long as such spin-doctoring is allowed to go unchallenged -- for as long as we can find excuses and explanations without really owning up to the situations or perceptions in our lives ... well, how could anyone expect to be happy and at ease?

It's not a matter of good or bad when it comes to the habits we have. It's a matter of honesty and honestly owning our own choices. I choose to eat a little bread and butter and applesauce and a couple of hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. It's just a choice ... with some positive and some negative results. And the same is true for more compelling habits -- what I like and what I dislike. These are my choice and until I own them, I will keep living the life of a spin-doctor -- someone who cannot or will not address life as it comes along ... plainly. I dislike the wars my country prosecutes endlessly -- Afghanistan and Iraq are the latest examples -- but who owns this distaste? Are my explanations and findings of meaning really the point here -- except if I want to wow or convince others? Not really. I dislike the wars ... that's all. I think they are an abomination ... that's all.

I can't say that I expect anyone else to agree with my point of view. What's important is that I find a way to agree with myself and recognize that what I create and what I think and what I feel ... are my responsibility. I think this is important: Living life at one remove -- like some endless spin doctor -- just doesn't work very well. Bad habits? Yes, my responsibility. Good habits? Yes, my responsibility. And all of it is worth paying attention to ....

Spin-doctoring is possible.

But does it work?

As much I dislike others bullshitting me, I dislike it worse when I bullshit myself.

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