Covering and the Elephant

David Schraub in a comment thread earlier had mentioned a book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino as “one of the best five books” he’s ever read. Today, I’ve started reading it and I’ll share a few comments. I hope to get about two more posts on this topic before I’m done. This one is more a listing of scattered first impressions, which true to form, will come in the form of the dread (pirate) Roberts bullet points below the fold.

  • In the past, I’ve been searching for liberal/progressive blogs which are to my view the “equivalent” of Richard Fernandez excellent blog The Belmont Club. Mr Fernandez analysis, thought, and discernment regarding modern political trends and current events is to my eye is unequaled in the blogging world. Mr Schraub tauts this book as “one of the best five” books of a political nature that he’s read. Normally, to be honest, I wouldn’t have given this book any time or consideration, but the reason why may lead to insight why I seem unable to find a good progressive/liberal blogger. covering is an intensely personal/autobiographical book. Political discourse and theory I’ve found interesting and effective has not been of the personal, narrative, or autobiographical nature. For example, neither Bertrand de Jouvenel three books nor Aleksandr Solzhenitisyn’s various lectures mention or give mention of personal narrative. That’s the genre of political thought to which I’m accustomed. Personal narrative is not, for me, an interesting or useful subset of the political genre. I wonder if the inability of mine to find any interesting or to my view, thoughtful, political progressive blogs is due to the fact that many of them rely on different methodology.
  • Where then, does personal narrative, be it autobiographical or fiction, play out. What narrative has “worked” to my mind. For example, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch is a personal narrative, fictional but based in fact, of the what life was like in the brutal slave system that was the Russian gulag system. This book, like covering does to a lesser degree, highlights a different issue. However, neither book, in the absence of theory and statistics are really meaningful. If the gulag system enslaved hundreds of people it would be tragic, but not monstrous. But because it encompassed a population of 12-20 million, it was monstrous in the extreme, perhaps one of the greatest evils of the age. How many people does the story in covering represent? Mr Yoshino tries to make the point that the this problem affects everyone … but that case it seems to me so far to be weak. And that is a key (missing) component to the book (so far). To fix both, it seems drastic restructuring of society are/were called for. Sub-cultural cues, identity, and pressures are omni-present in human society and removal the gulag system required overthrow of the Soviet state. It remains to be seen what Mr Yoshino suggests as to fix things.
  • covering describes the actions and modes of conduct taken by a person to “fit in”. This affects everyone as we all have to change and accommodate ourselves to fit in the subcultural settings in the job or social settings which we decide to join. Some people have to change more than others in order to fit in. However, it seems to me covering as a phenomena
  • There is a corporation, which I won’t name, call it the XYZ Corp (it is however a real company and the practices I mention are real or at least the impression I received when we did some work for them over a decade ago). All large corporations it seems form their own internal sub-culture. This culture varies strongly from company to company. The business and executive layer of XYZ Corp was pretty much universally obsessed with golf. Business travel, perks, and talk centered around links, courses, and all talk pertaining to golf. In at least one case I saw, employment and promotion seemed directly linked to golf handicap not standard job qualifications. If you wished to do well within the confines of the subculture that was XYZ Corp, your hobby and private sporting life was going to be … part of covering? But, if you hated golf, and if that meant a dead end job at XYZ Corp … is that so bad? There are thousands of companies out there. Each has its own often wildly different subculture. Thus it might be argued that the solution to covering was not that one had to cover or pretend to like golf to work at XYZ, but the reverse. In our varied corporate world, one can is far more likely to be able to find a company which will fit your particular person. Of if you haven’t or can’t find one, get an idea, and some like-minded buddies and carve out one of your own.

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