Thursday, March 2, 2006

I Wish I Were Charismatic And Evil...

...instead of just plain evil, which I'm not all that good at to start with. See, the other day, I discovered the now-defunct nighttime soap Profit, and even though it's the most melodramatic thing put on television since Kimberly Shaw ripped her wig off (uh, no, I never watched Melrose Place...) and it's full of these unnecessary, heavy-handed computer generated effects that make Tron look state-of-the-art, the show's motivated me to take a new look at my place in the corporate world, where I want to go, and the importance of accumulating dirt on my colleagues. Profit is the story of creatively-named Jim Profit, middle-manager and sociopath, and the blackmail, murder, incest, tennis, and other machinations he uses to climb the corporate ladder, all while smiling, flirting, and sleeping naked in a cardboard box. I vacillate as to whether it's supposed to be a character study examining the effects of Jim's unrepentat scheming and exploitation of those around him, or whether Jim is the antihero in a satire lampooning not so much America's corporate venality but it's corporate pettiness, where any asshole suck-up in a suit and tie facade will be let into the sanctum. Either way, what matters most, I believe, isn't one's skill at the job — most of our skilled labor is being done by computers anyway — but one's skill at cajoling others to do one's bidding.

Hence the whole charisma thing, and I need to take lessons.

I'm not sure what the secret to success is, although Lord knows, as the youngest product of the self-help revolution, I've tried to find out. I was reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People back in fifth grade, like some junior existentialist, if I could only learn time management or how to prioritize or the art of compromise, I'd be the big muckety-muck of elementary school. That never happened. It dawns on me, now in my later years, that success-in-a-book is a crutch, and an unsteady one at that. Success is a measure of how much you take from other people and how little they take from you in comparison, and that's depressing, not in the least because I feel guilty when I take a seat on the subway away from some old lady. I'm sure that I feel a lot worse about dipping into the scarce subway seating pool than the elderly do about taking away my hard-earned Social Security, and that's not the attitude of someone who's getting ahead in life.

At the risk of sounding like one of those jackasses who proudly tells you some unpleasant truth and then refuses to apologize because he was "only telling you the truth," the whole business scene, ever since the first man beat some other guy over the head with a rock and demanded tribute, is all about taking that to which you're entitled. Well, thank God we, as a species, have moved past the feats of strength method of deciding who's best. This is America, where everybody's entitled to everything! Maybe back in 1996, when Jim Profit was scheming, there was a notion of balance; Profit's abusive childhood entitles him to the presidency of acquisitions. Kids dealing drugs in South Baltimore ought to have diamond-studded braces on their teeth and a posse of strippers, and Jack Welch deserved a ninety-four million dollar salary for... what, exactly? It speaks to the general fungibility of our human natures that everybody has their sob story, their overinflated ego, and their same need to push people around that I could be in Donald Trump's chair, unapologetically firing reality-show nitwits, and no one would even notice the difference. Hell, millions of working class Americans have been bankrupt fewer times than Trump, so I'm not sure what he has beyond the gift of self-promotion.

I don't know which is worse: this collective unconscious that says I'm allowed to do anything to win cause I'm just that awesome, or the reality which is that you're really nothing special at all — just good for making photocopies and writing up TPS reports, caring for someone else's children and making their dinner reservations. I wish I could come to terms with the former, because this whole waiting around for people to hand me things just doesn't seem to be a very solid business plan.