The Economic Violence Of Cancel Culture
Just because we have a difference of opinion doesn’t mean we can’t work together.
I’m beginning to see reports of people being fired just for having worked for Trump’s campaign or just being a Trump supporter. I still remember the woman who was fired for flipping off a Trump motorcade. Yes, I see that the people who engaged in the riots were encouraged by Trump to show up and “fight”. And it’s true that those people did show up at the Capitol to fight in support of Trump. I also note the irony of Trump supporters being fired for supporting a man whose trademark phrase is, “You’re fired!”
The people who engaged in violence at the Capitol last Friday did so of their own volition. We must assume that they have something called, “agency”. Agency is an awareness that the decisions we make are our own. That means there are no victims, only volunteers. Those people at the Capitol who were committing acts of violence against law enforcement, breaking glass, ransacking offices, and putting up a gallows with intent, are adults. They made their own decisions. If Trump advocated for sedition as some have claimed, and I think he did, those people who followed him had free will. They were not zombies. They could have made different choices.
But to see a story about a talented person who just happened to work for Trump’s campaign be fired, well, that’s beyond the pale. That’s guilt by association. That’s very similar to how some people associate Black Lives Matter with violence and burning buildings. Not everyone in the Black Lives Matter movement will burn a building or even approve of doing that. In every movement, there is a continuum. There are some at the extremes and there are some in the middle. Most of us are somewhere in the middle of whatever movement we might happen to believe in.
I’m fine to agree or disagree with the people I work with at my day job. I don’t really talk politics at work. At work, I talk about work. I stay on point and on topic. I’m aware that people have strong feelings about politics so I steer clear of the subject at work. What matters to me in work and in business is that we get the job done. We all have a job to do, and when the time comes, I expect to get the job done, and not get sidetracked by politics.
I have a little slogan that I put in my signature in my personal emails. It looks like this:
The diversity and expression of human opinion is essential to human survival.
I say this because we all have to start from somewhere, and we might be wrong in our opinions. I’ve seen idiot savants say some very interesting things. I find wisdom everywhere, even in people I may disagree with. I’m always looking for common ground. I appreciate the diversity in our thinking and beliefs for one simple purpose: problem-solving. We are walking, talking, problem-solving machines.
I used to spend a lot of time looking for jobs. While I was looking around, working with recruiters, answering ads, and generally, trying to find a place to fit and earn some money, I noticed that there were a few positions that were “LDS only”. I live in Salt Lake City, so this is not so unusual. But think about that for a moment. There are employers near where I live that believe I must share the same religion they do in order to feel comfortable hiring me.
That requirement is a form of cancel culture. “You don’t believe the same things that I do, so we can’t work together.” At first, I felt resentful, but then I began to see that if they sideline me just because of what we believe, and we’re not on the same page, they don’t get the benefit of my experience, skills, or intelligence by their own hand. And I’m certainly not going to join the church just to get a job.
But there is another aspect to this line of thinking that is often missed. Let’s say we have a group of people who share the same beliefs. One day, that group of people encounters a problem, and because they all pretty much think the same, come up with a solution that looks good on paper, but doesn’t really solve the problem. Their solution may even be fatal to the group.
A diverse group has a better chance of solving the problems they encounter by virtue of the fact that each of the members of the group thinks differently and they don’t always agree. Some of the most interesting solutions come from arguments between people who don’t believe in the same things. I’ve also read that some of the music I like the most comes from musicians who had strong disagreements with each other but could still work together to make the music. The Cars and the Beatles had intense arguments over music, and they made fantastic music out of those disagreements.
We are different in order to increase our chances of survival. Genetics favors diversity. Nature favors diversity. Our survival depends on our diversity. This is something that White Supremacists don’t get, to their detriment. When I work with other people, the color of their skin, who they voted for, or their religion, are factors that are the least in my mind. What matters to me is did we get the job done? Are we satisfied with our work? If it came out well, can we do that again? When I go to work, I expect to work with adults who are focused on the job. I really don’t care who they supported in the last election if we do the job well together.
To reframe the argument, I wouldn’t want to be fired by my employer just because I voted for Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich. What should matter to my employer is not my political affiliation. what should matter is that I get the job done in a way that makes our customers happy. That’s the dope. Happy customers make my brain release dopamine.
When we fire people over politics we’re committing economic violence. Now I also see the irony in a Trump Supporter being fired over his support of Trump, and then having to submit himself to get government support to pay his bills. But we have a social contract that says that we must earn our keep with our labor. How do we do that if employers blacklist us? I saw this in the movie Trumbo. Real skills and talent will still find work, but not without a mighty struggle.
I don’t agree with Trump on many of his policy initiatives. I have found some that I liked, too. But mostly, I see him as the most antagonistic of people in public life. I made up my mind when he mocked the disabled journalist. On the other hand, I have read of some accounts of Trump being a nice person and I have no doubt that he can be a nice, accommodating person. So I don’t think black and white about Trump or the people who support him. I don’t cancel friends and family just because they support Trump, even after the riots.
If there is one thing I know, it’s that the things we love tend to break under pressure. Trump was a walking example of this during his entire presidency. He was all about putting everything and everyone under pressure. That’s kind of his brand, and look at how it worked out for him. He broke a lot of stuff. He’s lost his job. His allies are scattering, and it appears that people are starting to leave the GOP.
It’s not possible to use pressure, as in, threats of force or deprivation, to change the way other people think. That will only increase their determination to think the way they do. They get resentful when treated that way. So I just offer other information and I remind myself that I have no control over how people think. But I have influence. So I plant the seeds of my ideas, my truth everywhere, and then let it go. I am aware that it is hard to unlearn things. I don’t worry about the outcome. I’m not interested in changing minds. I’m interested in spreading the best information that I can around me.
Firing someone just because that person supported Trump is economic violence, even if you disagree with the riots. If the riots teach us anything, it taught us that we cannot get the work of the people done in violence. I’m fine with a war of words, and that’s it. Let us agree to disagree if we want to. But there is still a pandemic in motion. There are still people who need help. If we have the luxury to argue, then let us help them with all that extra energy. Everyone needs to make a living. No one has a license to rage.