Friday, September 11, 2020

Puny Sacrifices for Infinitesimal Decency

I hired a painting company to do my house, and, mid-way, we're haggling over various issues, shortcomings, and miscommunications on their end. The latest was a fake $1500 carpentry job they tried to get me to sign off on.

The project manager, who stops by a couple times a week to check up on the nice Guatemalan guys who do the actual work, is, himself, a Guatemalan immigrant. But his English is good, and he's bright, and he's been fully accepted into this large white family business. That's quite an accomplishment for a Guatemalan, a nationality at the leading edge of current immigration.

He wasn't deliberately trying to screw me. In fact, he likes me. We talk in Spanish, and sometimes he comes by to share the lunches I cook for the workers. I've earned most-favored-client status with him. What happened was that one of the guys had mumbled something about problematic shingles (the shingles aren't perfect, though no one in his right mind would pay to swap them out), so the issue got automatically added to my roster, and the accounting guy affixed the usual shingle repair price, and the machinery mindlessly spit out a request that I pay $1500 for a job that clearly did not require doing.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

I made the project manager come out and look, and he freely admitted the work was completely unnecessary. He briskly slashed the line off of my file and asked whether I'd approve the remaining (legit) carpentry work. And I unloaded on him. I told him I no longer trust his company; that I am a good customer who feeds his guys and pays on time and makes no trouble. I'm not a cow to be milked (it worked better in Spanish). This was really really not okay.

He tried to explain that the worker had tagged a problem, and the system had picked it up, and, man, he can't supervise everything. I pointed out that supervising everything was literally his job, and that I had nearly paid $1500 for unnecessary work. It was effectively every bit as bad as a deliberate rip-off.

He was stricken at having let me down, plus he'd cost his company the work I'd just nixed. Serious mess-up on his end. And I could have used this tale to bolster my position in my ongoing squabbles with his company. But I didn't. I told them the project manager was doing a wonderful job. He got no blame for anything. I protected him.

Why? Because I don't like how my country is treating immigrants. By protecting him, I compensated in an infinitesimal way.

Persecution isn't fought via lofty oratory about multiculturalism, or raking through Twitter detecting and exterminating RACISM. It's not mitigated by windy gestures, righteous outrage, or the sloppy smiting of seeming villains. You mitigate it with your compensatory gentle touch. Maybe you willingly let certain stuff go by - even if you were wronged. Even if it might help you a little to not let it go by. This is how you tip scales. Again: infinitesimally.

When Trump took office, friends of mine went to DC to march, and they were offended by my comments here about such vain, empty gestures. Marching made them feel better, but did not help. By contrast, the incident with my project manager made me feel a little worse...and helped a (very) little. You know you're helping if you take a hit; if you come out a little worse. If you ever find yourself feeling grand and righteous, that's entirely about you. It's performance; an empty display of self-regard. It's silly and repulsive.

There's very little we can do to help. All we've got are micro-touches and micro-considerations (e.g. the meek puniness of voting). We're not studly super-heros, we're dweeby dweebs. But no one seems interested in acknowledging this. All around me, I see people - particularly young people - shouting into the hot microphones of social media or joining voices in street protests; gloriously projecting their outrage in the macro. But I don't see any consideration in the micro - i.e. in Reality. Nobody’s engaged in the non-heroism of micro-consideration (which, per previous link, is why young people don't vote). Enticed by the shiny allure of Seeming, it would scarcely occur to them to actually Do.

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