July 1999
s m u g
posedown
by Joe Procopio



¡Viva La Drone!

Where will you be when the revolution comes?

This question should mean nothing to you. It is obtuse and dated. However, in order to gain a perspective on instant history, it is critical to know and understand why this question exists at all. As we approach millennia madness, we find ourselves riding the tail end of a massive and permanent culture shift (and, let me make this clear, the timing is merely coincidence). The post-Vietnam to pre-X gang - let's call them Generation W - has let slip the last bits of their reign on this world, and there are those among them that have let the fear of the revolution become the driving force behind everything they do.

As they ride off into the sunset, whether they be the peace-love-dope set turned coke-hoovering BMW jockeys from the early days, or the final hangers-on who dumped their punk ethic for Matchbox 20 and a quick buck, let me be the first to say, "Nice going." I'll also admit that I empathize, begrudgingly, because I understand that they had it all, the first generation free of world and cold war, the first generation with a sense of self, the first generation with inexpensive, global communications. With all of this at their disposal, forgive me, they screwed the pooch.

I, myself, would be afraid of the repercussions as well.

Consider the world of business. It's not happenstance that we're finding ourselves better equipped to succeed than our elders. (Note: That crap about us believing we're worse off than former generations is just that, crap. Even asking that question of us underscores a divisive antagonism pursued by those doing the asking. If they have to ask, it might be true, and if it might be true, it must be true. Don't buy this for a second.) Generation W also believed they were better, or perhaps better off, than those that came before them, but their claim was based less in reason and more on a vibe, a fleeting feeling of superiority in basic human existence and social awareness. It's no secret that they always felt blessed, and in some sense they were, considering the aforementioned head-start they had, but when that head-start was no longer matched by an equal counter-component of basic human responsibility, it led to arrogance. The result is nothing got done, except, if I'm not mistaken, a huge killing in real estate.

So we circumvented it.

We built an entire sub-economy, based on the Internet. Again, it's not a mistake that we're creating and pillaging companies nearly daily, and Gen W is losing its collective shirt in the market betting on said companies. After all, it's so much easier for them to throw ten grand at an IPO than to educate themselves on just what this intrynet can and can't do. Besides, as far as they're concerned, it's too late. God bless Social Security and the 401K.

Ask someone who's 25 what the impact of Y2K will be. Now ask someone who's 45.

Which brings us back to the original question. Where will you be when the revolution comes?

While the perception is that most of us in our mid-twenties to early-thirties are out there forging brave new mini-Amazons that do nothing but lose a quarter of their value the day after the IPO, the truth is far from it. The vast majority of us are toiling away at medium to large-sized companies, managing tasks well below our intrinsic worth. We're dicking around with old paradigms, trying to make them fit new, perpetually changing challenges. And why is this? Because the ones in control don't grasp the new stuff, and they're too afraid that embracing it will force the dreaded revolution.

They'd be making themselves obsolete.

So they cling to the ideals of an era gone by and in turn force it down our throats. They can do this because they have retreated to the foxhole of middle management. It's where they excel, where they can keep up a smokescreen but not be forced to make any important decisions based on what they no longer understand.

It's the stomping ground of the arrogant bastard.

Far be it from me to attempt to judge or instruct this creature. It's not my intention. What I'd rather do is give you, the reader and my most treasured friend, the tell-tale signs to spot an arrogant bastard in your workplace. Especially if he (the arrogant bastard is usually male or at least "mannish") is the one you're reporting to and, thus, making your life miserable.

  1. The arrogant bastard has a tendency to pretend he knows something you don't. Nine times out of ten the intimidation produced by this act alone is enough to keep monkeys like us in our place. For instance, when droves of us were leaving a firm that was peeling at the seams, our boss demanded to know, one by one, where we were going. When the last person left, our boss took a new tack and simply told that person to say hi to the rest of us at the new job, thoroughly expecting our friend to fall into a mad panic and admit everything. He was dead wrong we all went to different places - but this exposed the fact that he believed we left the firm due to some insane camaraderie. The real reason we all left, the one he'll never come to terms with, is that he was a huge idiot and it had been showing. He never even thought to ask, "Wait a minute, is it me? Do I suck?" He might have learned something. But in his mind, the revolution would have swallowed him whole.

  2. The arrogant bastard has a tendency to talk about you behind your back to other arrogant bastards, never dreaming that you might find out. If you're like me, you always find out. Right this wrong and clue the arrogant bastard in. Wait for the right moment, like when he's toadying in front of his own boss.

  3. Speaking of toadying, the arrogant bastard keeps himself insulated at all times with a two-person deep entourage of yes-folk. He will exchange inside jokes and knowing winks with these minions at most company functions. Just enough to let you know you're an outsider. These flunkies, by the way, are usually brain-dead and/or soulless. When the revolution does come, the arrogant bastard will shamelessly use these people as human shields, and deservedly so.

  4. Here's a simple but painfully obvious one. The arrogant bastard enjoys referring to you either by your last name or by some insipid nickname that he coined and no one else uses.

  5. The arrogant bastard not only refrains from praise (it's a personal theory of mine that they're all still playing the business game with a copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War tucked into a top desk drawer like Mike Douglas in Wall Street), but also belittles any personal accomplishment on your part, making it instead seem trivial. This is the classic whitey-keep-em-down ploy.

  6. The arrogant bastard never picks up a tab unless it's expensed. However, this action doesn't automatically make someone an arrogant bastard. He may just be a cheap bastard. Or broke.

You're probably with me by now. Spotting an arrogant bastard in the modern workplace is akin to spotting an elephant in Manhattan. You wouldn't notice it unless you were looking for it, and then it's right there.

My advice is simple. Stop being shat on by this person. And let's all do this, shall we, or else what have we achieved? The next time an arrogant bastard calls you into his office to tell you how things really run around here, stand up, place your hands on his desk, and lean forward just a little bit. Look him dead in the eye, smile, and then politely ask, "Where will you be when the revolution comes?"

joe@smug.com

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