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Paulina Borsook: "The Truth Behind the Gray Flannel Suit" -
commentary for NPR's Marketplace, July 10, 2000

Back in the old bad days of the man-in-the-gray-flannel-suit, conformity abounded...or did it? In those benighted times, as long as you did your work and weren't grotesquely overtly aberrant, no one inquired much into the contents of your psyche. If your work was professional, your beliefs were your own --- I know, I worked for such a company.

I used to marvel that at good old mother Mcgraw-Hill, stodgy and traditional as it was, I had a kind of freedom. There was the happy anonymity that's similar to the experience of living in a big city: what I -really- thought about anything except for the assignments on that were on my table wasn't anyone's business but my own. I gave my employer my labor, not my soul, in exchange for my salary.

Not like today, where since you are expected to -enjoy- being locked away with your coworkers for weeks at a time, World War Two diesel-submarine-crew style, you had better share a common love of pizza, action-movie or action-figure collectibles, and foosball.

For now, in dotcomlandia, you have to belong and you have to -believe-, in the sense of joining a cult. If you have a life or values outside dogfood.com or e-gravel, that's just not entrepreneurial. Help-wanted ads stipulate that the applicant should make joyful religion out of being the coolist community mgr on the planet for an enterprise such as an e-commerce, business-to-business, pig-iron auction-site. Which, if you think about it, is both a violation of privacy and a violation of the establishment clause. Demanding such zealotry as condition of employment has got be illegal, even unconstitutional: isn't it againt the law to discriminate on the basis of religion? Not to mention, such an expectation is moderately insane --- who reasonably -could- have such an ambition? Or possess such skills?

So while high-tech speaks of empowerment and individuality, it demands far more that you check your identity at the door and join the church of whatever.dot.com far more than big bad corporate america ever did.

From Silicon Valley, this is Paulina Borsook for Marketplace.

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