Thursday, June 26, 2008

Abusing Human Resources

I don't know what reminded me of this, but for years I've been bothered by some of the harrassment rules that have governed companies - at least in California. While I totally agree with the principle of not permitting harrassment and I agree with coming down hard on it when it occurs, and while I know at least one woman who used the process quite correctly, I've also seen the process abused over the years by some women who seem to think that it was invented expressly to prevent them from experiencing any inconvenience in their social lives.

Let me give a couple examples:

- I was a manager at a computer software company. A guy who reported to me asked a woman in the company if she would like to drive together to a meeting of a professional association they both belonged to. She reported him for sexual harrassment. He was not punished but he was crushed and humiliated.

- At another company a woman who reported to me told me that a guy from "the other side of the building who didn't have any business on our side of the building" had come around a number of times and had spoken to her on a few occasions. And, although she had not told him her name, he knew it. She was deeply offended. Sigh. I dutifully told the HR department and dutifully told her she needed to discuss it with the HR department directly and dutifully kept my mouth shut, but I really thought what she did was wrong. Here, some poor fellow, probably some nerdie tech guy, had the temerity to like her and find out what her name was and - horror of horrors - speak to her. And for that crime he was undoubtedly dragged into the HR department and humiliated.

I want to make clear that I don't blame HR departments for this. The HR people I've dealt with have been very professional and know some of the rules are absurdly vague, but they're stuck with them just like everybody else. I remember at one mandatory meeting on harassment the presenter essentially said that if you "look at someone" you may be guilty of harrassment. It would have been vague enough if she had said that you couldn't "look at someone in a lascivious manner" or something like that, but it was just "look at someone." She knew it was stupid and she was uncomfortable when I pointed out that everybody at that meeting was - at that very moment - guilty of harrassment, and that we were all guilty from the moment we walked into the building until we left at night. But what was she supposed to do? The law may be stupidly vague, but it was the law.

So, I reserve my contempt for those who make vague laws and for those few women who use HR departments to turn down (and humiliate) poor guys they do not happen to like.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Aristotle - Hindering Science?

I recently finished reading the book, Politics, by Aristotle. Though I certainly respect the guy, the one thing that really struck me about the book was something I thought did not reflect well on him.

I had always heard that Aristotle taught kind of a "moderation in all things" philosophy, which seemed to me to be a pretty good plan, but then I read the book and discovered that when he talked about "moderation in all things" he basically meant ALL things. He struck me as being kind of an extremist about moderation, so to speak.

Everything was going fine until the last section of the book, where he discusses education. One of his examples of a subject that should be on the curriculum of every good citizen is music. Okay, fine. But, he said, the citizen of a community should learn just enough about playing music to amuse himself and his friends during leisure times. He shouldn't try to become a really good musician because becoming excellent in such skills is only for servants, not for full citizens. So, in other words, being really excellent at any art or craft is for inferiors and is not worthy of those who are full citizens.

Ouch! No wonder the Industrial Revolution did not begin with the Greeks. No wonder their science was mostly theoretical. Those who say that science began during the Renaissance when people began throwing out Christian thinking and rediscovering Greek thinking are full of prunes! Undoubtedly Greek thinking was a big factor, but taken as a whole, if Aristotle is indicative of Greek thinking, I believe Greek thinking was as much a hinderance as a help to the rise of science.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Paul's Authority and Humility

The Bible study group I belong to has been studying the New Testament book of II Corinthians, and one thing that really struck me about the book is the lessons it gives on authority.

In this book the Apostle Paul attempts (among other things) to persuade the Corinthians that he is a true apostle, and that the so-called "super apostles" that the people have fallen for are not.

Before telling you how Paul makes the point that he is legit, let me tell you how he does not make his point. It struck me that if the early church was organized in a heirarchical fashion, then the most obvious thing for Paul to do would have been to say something like this: "I was appointed by the official church leadership to be an apostle. Those fakes were not. End of discussion!"

But he doesn't do that. He explains and praises and argues and pleads and threatens and is ironic and urges the people to consider how he has lived among them. He knows they're upset that he didn't visit them as he had planned, so he tells his reasons; he knows the false apostles have sown seeds of doubt about his integrity, so he reminds them that he has never taken any money from them. But though he seems to use every tool available to him - much as a distraught parent might with a child - he never once cites any earthly authority, only God: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."

Though not conclusive, this suggests to me that the early church was probably not organized in a thoroughly heirarchical fashion.

Also, Paul was collecting money for a church in great need (apparently the church in Jerusalem) and the churches in Greece/Macedonia appointed a man to accompany Paul to make sure the money was spent properly.

I am awestruck! The churches had that authority and the great apostle Paul was perfectly willing to be watched to make sure he didn't steal money. What a lesson in godly humility! And in light of this, how can any church or parachurch organization refuse to have regular audits or otherwise demonstrate to those who give that the money they receive is being properly used?