The Office Manager’s Sign, 2016


The manager of a professional office places on the wall of the break room, among the fliers and announcements, a poster with people of different races working together on a project and the slogan: “Celebrate Diversity.” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of racial diversity among employees? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a celebration might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of office managers never think about the slogans they put on their walls, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our manager from the enterprise headquarters along with the pens and coffee packets. He put it on the wall simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration on the break room wall; someone might even accuse him of racism. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life; it is “socially responsible,” as they say.

Obviously the manager is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan on the wall from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the manager XY, work here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the manager’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the manager from potential complaints. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the manager’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the manager had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The manager would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation on the office wall, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the manager to say, “What’s wrong with celebrating diversity?” Thus the sign helps the manager to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the office manager, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in diversity being celebrated, to the highest executive, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about inclusion. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.

The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing. 

[This post was inspired by Vaclav Havel’s “greengrocer’s sign” metaphor from his 1979 essay “The Power of the Powerless.” See my comment in the thread below for a clarification on the authorship and the original language of the above excerpt.]


9 thoughts on “The Office Manager’s Sign, 2016

  1. It should be obvious that I didn’t write this post. All I did was to replace the words that in Havel’s original version referred to the greengrocer’s business with words that reference the office manager’s business, and replaced proletariat-specific keywords/slogans with diversity-specific ones.

    In all, I changed around twenty words in the entire portion of the original essay that this post includes.

    Note: I changed NO WORDS in the final paragraph. Draw your conclusions.

  2. Yes well it seems to me that the evil genius of our system is that nobody really knows who the man behind the curtain is. In communism you knew that the government was running the show, and then you could derive which factions ran the government if you were on the inside, or had strong inductive powers.

    In libdem nobody really knows who’s running the show. Some say its the corporations, some say its the media, some say the Jews, some say the feminists, some people say our malaise is a result of wealth and comfort.

    I dont know the answer and its hard to know how to proceed on the ground level until I do. My thoughts are that the zeitgeist is powered by basically three forces; black peasant infantry, jewish lawyers (generals) and white cops (leutanants/sergeants). Ever since the black privelege movement of the 60s, it was discovered that a black could voice a grievance and a jew lawyer would advocate for him, and the white cop would punish the offender. Multiply this scenario many times over many years, including some prominent people (Eich, Sterling) and now you have a culture of oppression of speech against any priveleged groups, not just blacks.

    Taken to its logical conclusion, we get BLM farce and seemingly never ending race riots and racial grievances because why wouldnt they? Also, the fear seeps into the body politic hivemind where it is now understood with no one having to say it, that these groups are priveleged and beyond criticism because history and by the way look at what happened to these people who stepped out of line in their private lives. We all get the message loud and clear and act accordingly. So in the USSA, its privileged racial groups->jewish lawyers>gullible white cops.

    Now keep in mind that the USSA runs Western Europe (and oh they have their beady eyes on Ukraine too), so the murikan culture or political correctness ends up seeping over into W. Europe too I think. The good German/French/UK vassals just want to show what good vassals they are.

  3. This is one of the most intriguing pieces of writing I’ve seen in a while, even if it took only a dozen or two word changes to produce it from Havel’s original text. (And in a way, especially because of that — the point about the final paragraph is particularly striking.)

    However, it leads us straight to the central conundrum: unlike Czechs and other Eastern European peoples under Soviet domination, Americans are a free people. The system Havel describes was upheld only by the brute force of an alien occupying power. As soon as this alien power was no longer able to mount a credible threat, it just melted away and disappeared like a bad dream. But Americans were never conquered and subjugated; nothing has ever been done to their country except by their own democratic institutions under popular sovereignty.

    This also leads to the second crucial observation: among Czechs in the 1970s, there were definitely no true believers among people propagandizing and enforcing the system. (The closest thing to that were probably those who believed sincerely that the status quo was the best possible option, the only alternative being more bloodshed by inviting another Soviet intervention. Of course, I’m sure for many this was also a convenient rationalization for their venal and careerist interests.) Havel’s description from the opening paragraph is so powerful precisely because it strikes us as totally implausible that a normal person would actually believe the official slogans.

    However, under the progressive ideological hegemony nowadays, lots of people are genuine true believers. The typical office worker might be indifferent to or even secretly annoyed by the messages from the diversity posters, but all those people who are flooding their Facebook feeds with the latest progressive agitprop do it out of genuine conviction. (For some of them there may be career interest involved, but for most, there really is no such motivation.)

    To this one could respond that it’s not any real conviction, but rather just social status-posturing. However, this also makes for a stark contrast: a Czech in 1975 who tried to pose as cool and sophisticated by trumpeting Marxist propaganda with passion and enthusiasm would have looked like an absurd fool to everyone — even to card-carrying Party members, who would seen him as naive and not being “in on the joke.” However, in America in 2015, trumpeting progressive agitprop serves as a genuine social currency for signaling social status and sophistication, and I see no indications that even among the highest elites there is anything but true belief.

    Our current predicament is nowhere as difficult as that faced by Havel forty years ago when it comes to the physical dangers of dissent. But he could at least point to a specific and recognizable alien power whose disappearance would, and eventually did, finally end the whole nightmare. We are however facing a spontaneous and distributed system for enforcing ideological conformity and suppressing dissent, which is highly successful in eliciting genuine belief, loyalty, and enthusiasm instead of just fear and resignation, and for which it’s presently hard to imagine how it could come to an end.

  4. Hey Vladimir, in response to your comment on true believers…

    I would only remind you that in the early days of communism, there were plenty true believers of marxism. In fact, some of them were in the west because communism presented an ideal that captured people’s imaginations until the horrors became widely known. I suspect the inflection point was under Khrushchev, where they distanced themselves from stalin’s excesses and Solzhenitsyn (may he rest in peace) was even allowed to publish his firsthand account of the gulag system.

    In the current system, I am afraid we are still in the 1920s period, where the diversity rainbow utopia still seems like a cool and new idea to many people (it’s not-alexander the fucking great had similiar plans for his empire) and enough people havent personally dealt with the horrors to see multikult for the bullshit that it is…and naysayers like us are just mean hateful bigots who need to get with the program. My friend, the purges and the wars are yet to come, and then we will have the moral high ground among our people. The system may sputter on like communism did, but libdem (or whatever takes its place) will be seen as a foreign, insiduous influence that is forced on the people.

    The question I have is, will there be enough of us left to make a difference, or was the White race doomed since the battle of Stalingrad?

  5. JumpinJackFlash,

    Your analysis makes sense to me when applied to the US. But what about Germany? The libdem ideology is just as powerful there, if not more so, than in the US. Yet half the country was part of the communist machine while the other half could see with their own eyes how miserable that system was.

  6. Pingback: The Office Manager’s Sign, 2016 | News and Nudes 2016 Style

  7. A true tale of “diversity.” Way back in the days when the space biz meant only one customer the company I worked for came under AA/EEO interdiction by one of the FedCo’s regulatory rulers. By some magic the word got out that the FedCo minions only count boxes on the org chart and tote up the number of races in the boxes. Very soon before the FedCo minions arrived every org chart had been redrawn with a number of new boxes down to levels previously never thought to be managerial. As it happened the FedCo minions pronounced us AA/EEO compliant.

  8. I just moved back to the corporate side with a Fortune 100 company. And while they pay lip service to “diversity” a sickening amount, it’s never in my face because it’s all pushed at the macro, corp HQ level. Individual front-line managers are absolutely prohibited and warned not to post or push anything remotely political to their small teams.

    All such content must come from central marketing and be fully approved to be posted anywhere inside the company or on internal assets like email, blogs or message boards. One of the few perks of working in cube hell for a monster company.

  9. Pingback: The Treachery and Self-Deception Behind the Rhetoric of Compassion – PA

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