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September 24, 2006

Revenge of Marxism

It was busy last week and I did not have the time to devote to making any meaningful posts; work and school have taken their lion’s share of my waking hours. As fate would have it I did have an interesting class session yesterday as I gave a group presentation in my Communication and Change ,a graduate level class. This class is offered through Central Michigan University and taught on an Army Base here in Hawaii. Because of the location a lot of soldiers take classes there on base.

My group came up with a change plan for a fictitious company, Penetrobe Inc., which was experiencing a severe decline in revenues. Our team traced the decline to a problem in Customer Service. As I was explaining the options to fix the problem I used the word expatriate and from the quizzical looks of some of my classmates I realized I was going to have to define the term. It wasn’t until the very end of my group presentation that someone mentioned my use of a stereotype in my description of expatriates and technical support.

Evidently, I made a comment to the effect of, “Have you ever called tech support for something and gotten a voice on the other end that sounded like you were talking to someone at a 7-11?” Perhaps it wasn’t the best way to illustrate that many companies outsource their technical support to India, which explains why if there is any deviation from their scripted technical support booklet they are unable to continue.

What ensued next would make an alcoholic’s intervention look like a second grade playground scuffle. Everyone joined in and had their turn bashing the mean old submariner who made a crude but innocent reference linking tech support personnel in India with native accents to a 7-11 employee with a thick accent.

I tried, in vain, to defend myself but the political correctness earwig was firmly in place. I quickly realized I was Ahab fighting an unstoppable white whale. Wait, can I say ‘white’ or will that offend the whales of color?

I have to give credit to my professor who watched with calculating proficiency and interjected at just the right times to prevent the Buscaglia-fest from erupting into a U. C. Berkeley after-school rally. He tried to get the focus back on track to our group presentation and made a comment about the effectiveness of our training program that will teach the engineers of our products people skills so that they can field trouble calls. He made the comment that engineers usually don’t posses people skills. When I asked him what led him to that conclusion he saw where I was going with it. Even the slightest perception of something can be a stereotype. Engineers are smart and know numbers and such but they don’t have the capacity to learn people skills? Everyone was silent and the professor backpedaled a little bit by saying that the two stereotypes don’t cancel each other out. I made the point that they do reinforce each other.

When class was over someone said that I need to be mindful comments like that when I get into a management position. When I told him I already was in a management position he said, "You’re not there yet." So, by hearing me make one comment in my presentation he drew his conclusion about my management skills in a job he knows nothing about. Hey kettle, you’re black! I told him I would keep his advice in mind as I retire from the Navy next year. He didn’t have much to say when I asked if this was an Army base or a Girl Scout retreat.

I did learn a valuable lesson- the epidemic of political correctness knows no race, color, or education level. My first 5 years or so in the submarine force forced me to get a thick skin. I do not get offended when I am called a redneck, honky, or hauole (the Hawaiian word for ‘honky’). There is an element of truth to every stereotype and it is the forced self censorship of the PC crowd that is making this country soft. Political correctness truly is the revenge of Marxism.


  1. TK,
    Good Post, Thought I would enlighten your day with some Quotes from the "Master" Buscaglia (Grin)
    Read and Meditate:
    "The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position"

    "We all need each other."

  2. Polical-correctness is Marxism exercised by another name, just surprised to hear it has spread and become internalized among the military. Maybe that's not so surprising since it has become amalgamated in the rest of the culture. As a rhetorical tool or device one needs it at hand, at least to be aware of the snares and pitfalls it presents to the unwary.

  3. As a former IT professional, I feel that while the PC problem is HUGE (While I was at Yale, the nauseous amount of knee-jerk bleeding-heart liberalism there made me realise just how old-school conservative I really am, in a lot of ways), a bigger problem we need to address is all this outsourcing of jobs desperately needed by Americans to other countries. The argument that India trains its young people better in technology than America does could be made in some instances (I've worked with a number of BRILLIANT Indian consultants on IT projects), but these people who aren't equipped to actually think about the consumer's problem and can only read scripts over the phone aren't doing ANYONE any favours, particularly when one combines their lack of training with the accent/comprehension problem. (I'm thinking specifically of an evening when I spent about 2 hours on the phone with HP "tech support" trying to solve a problem that shouldn't have taken more than 10 or 15 minutes if I could merely have gotten someone who know what I was talking about on the line.) Sorry to rant all over your comments, but I also just wanted to say "hi" and that I'm glad to get back to reading you. ;-)