October 27, 2007

“You just don’t understand the way business works!”

Filed under: Commentary,Opinion — RS Janes @ 7:54 am

Warning to Older and More Cynical Readers: This is a Morality Tale

A girl I knew centuries ago before my hair turned gray and my belly hid my belt buckle told me a tale about her mother. It started as a tragic story: Her father had died in a car accident when she was a young girl, leaving few assets and a pile of bills behind, and her mother was left as sole support of her and her only child.

My friend said her mother went back to college for a few classes to complete her degree and then went out to look for a job, with her only previous experience two years of secretarial work at an ad agency. At the age of 36, and after much rejection due to her gender and lack of experience, her mother was finally hired by a major US corporation as a marketing trainee.

Flash forward a few years, and Mom had been promoted several times; in fact, she had become something of a spokeswoman for the company. The little family of two moved to a nice suburban home, and her mother began dating a guy regularly. Things were skiddely-doo until her mother’s company had a safety problem with one of its products.

Mom was elected to be the voice of the corporation; she wrote press releases and appeared on TV and radio staunchly defending the safety of the product and her employer’s integrity. Meanwhile, Mom was privately warning her friends and family not to buy the damn thing; the group suing the corporation was right — it was unsafe, and secret internal company memos had been warning of it for years.

My friend was appalled by her mother’s rank hypocrisy. She had brought her up to be honest and responsible, and her mother had always punished her for lying, and now Dear Old Mom was telling a hundred lies a day, eyes wide open and with a smile on her face. A few times, my friend tried to talk to her mother about her public deceptions, but Mom blew her off with a laugh: “It’s just business talk,” she’d say, waving her daughter away casually, “don’t take it so seriously.”

One day things reached a head. My friend had told a lie about where she had been the night before and what she had been doing. Mom found out the truth and hit the ceiling: “How could you lie to me like this? You weren’t raised to act this way!”

Of course, my friend fired back with both barrels, condemning her mother bitterly for her blatant hypocrisy — lying to the public that something was safe when she knew it wasn’t.

Her mother replied with something like, “My ‘lying’ as you call it, is what puts a roof over your head, what puts food on the table! Don’t you get high-handed with me, young lady — those jeans you’re wearing were bought with money I made from my job! That’s no excuse for you to lie to me! You just don’t understand the way business works!” (Incidentally, did I mention Mom was a Nixon Republican?)

I read that Karl Rove has a teenage son named Andrew; I wonder if he has raised him to lie to others, especially his own father? Or, like my friend’s mother, does he get upset when his kid tries to put one over on him, but dismisses with a wave of the hand what he has done for a living as just “the way business works”? Knowing the way these things usually go, Andrew Rove is going to grow up to become a liberal, work for the ACLU, and write a book condemning Dad’s lack of ethics and trying to understand what motivated him.

At least, that’s pretty close to what my friend did in her Mom’s case, only her book will probably go unpublished.

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