#95 Going Postal, a Rational Response (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

If you talk at any length to those of us who works for a large company, you’ll eventually hear some comment about “going postal.”  When you dig a little ways into why they might use this language, you’ll find that they may not be kidding.  Even more to the point, it probably makes sense to consider that line of thinking.

The U.S. Post Office, for instance, is not much different from the worst-case major corporation.  The working class is stressed, strained, and maligned by a management class that is unskilled, unsympathetic, and rarely available or useful. Post Office employees often complain about working under conditions where they are treated as not much more than a part of the machinery.  Management considers their employees' lives to be of no more importance than the junk mail they sort and deliver.  People are hired and fired and reassigned for the strangest, most irrational reasons imaginable.  People are put into situations where they snap.  When they do, they sometimes come to work heavily armed.  They “go postal.”

Using the classic Western model for heroism, the lone gunman who finds protection from injustice by blasting his way through the bad guys, going postal may not be an irrational response.  We are surrounded by a barrage of major powers that don’t care about justice.  The workplace is just the first in a long line of conflicts where we are helpless to put things right.  From the IRS to the welfare system to chain stores where we return defective products to minimum wage workers who could care less if we “have a nice day,” we are powerless to find a fair deal.  If Bruce, Arnold, Sylvester, and the other muscle guys can shoot their way out of impossible situations, why can’t the rest of us? 

Let’s face it, there is nobody out there protecting the ordinary citizen. The people who are supposed to be protecting us are just in it for the power and money.  We’re like Joseph Heller’s man in the street crying “Help, police!” hoping someone will step up to save us from the police, lawyers, employers, government, and our violent neighbors.  But we’re alone against those hazards.  No can or will help us fight those battles.

The Dilbert© cartoon constantly illustrates what life in corporate America is like.  A mindless herd of marching management morons make decisions that destroy the companies we depend on.  MBA pinheads who know more buzzwords than an Air Force general, but who don’t meet that same low common sense standard, decide what we do and when we do it for the majority of our waking hours. 

That’s no small portion of life, either.  Someone estimated that, out of a 30 year working career, most of us get 1 1/2 years away from the job before retirement.  You work until you're mentally dead, you retire, you die.  What a life!  If anything puts the phrase “wage slave” into context, that ought to do it. 

If we screw up and step over one of the thousands of boundaries that define the margins between legal and illegal, the penalties often make the Spanish Inquisition look like the good old days.  We are under threat of imprisonment or poverty for more causes than Sam Clements ever imagined back in the 1800’s when he analyzed the English penal system and found a few hundred capital crimes.  We have crime in the streets, in business, and in government.  We have redefined capital crimes in the twentieth century.  Unless you are a case-hardened criminal, going jail isn’t just “paying your debt to society.”  In the U.S., when you go to jail you might as well be dead.  You can get hung, gassed, or injected through a direct sentence.  You can get any of those things, indirectly, as part of a minimal sentence in our over-crowded prison system.

With the exception of Tim Allen and one other guy whose name escapes me, jail time is pretty much the end of any hope for a normal life in this country.  Rehabilitation is a concept that only applies to white collar prisons.  The rest of us are tossed to the wolves.  So the only honorable way out, when backed into a wall, may be going postal on the folks who built the wall, put you against it, and laugh at your predicament when they escort you to the door.

September 2004

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