I made a mistake and got in trouble.
I use the words “mistake” and “trouble” very loosely. These are very illusive terms.
In a sensible and free society it wouldn’t be a mistake at all. And a lot of people do it without even thinking twice about it. Let’s just say that I used an available resource (accidentally) to remedy a problem I was having. A common sense solution if you will. Unfortunately, the resource I used is frowned upon by the powers that be. So the institution deemed this act very bad because it’s written on a piece of paper as a “Policy”. I broke this policy and paid severe consequences—in worldly terms.
The two things that Institutions despise is 1-their subjects asking questions and 2- people who’ve penetrated the behavior boundaries they’ve set, no matter how innocently. As honest as my mistake was, it was weighed on the same scale as an intentional and consistent violator. There was no wiggle room for the human element of decision-making in regards to this policy that I broke. The organization didn’t much care about my stellar work history or everyday behavior. This was irrelevant. The words on paper were absolute and superseded rational thought and human intelligence. This mistake never interfered with my job, didn’t put anyone in harm’s way or never induced a liability situation. But none of this mattered.
This is the unfortunate situation in Western Culture these days. Institutional hierarchies and their system of groupthink and centralized controls have diminished the individual and stripped away the human component that helps society flourish. Instead of having an identity within organizations, individuals have been reduced to tools for its own purpose of being. And we are all married to these institutions, whether it’s the state, corporations, religions or economic systems–and we depend on them for our way of life.
Butler Shaffer explains that “Organizations that began as flexible tools that allowed us to cooperate with one another through a division of labor to accomplish our mutual ends, soon became ends in themselves, to which we attached our very sense of being. Tools became our identities; our shared self-interests became co-opted by the collective supremacy of the organization. In this way were institutions born.”
Because our thinking is institutionally-centered (A product of government education), we are numb to the true nature of the self. We’ve lost the meaning of self-ownership. This is why we easily submit to power and conform to institutional guidelines without a second thought. No matter how irrational or immoral the situation is, we seem to mindlessly comply, either out of fear or belief in the cause.
Then, there are the critics within the institutions. Some people inside organizations love when their fellow workers make a mistake. It gives them the opportunity to diminish others while elevating themselves. A very shallow but prevalent tactic. This is life.
There are those, who’d predictably blabber a mindless comment like “He’s lucky he still has a job.” To these gizmos of the establishment and phony do-gooders, I’d like to say–grow up. “Luck” is such an enigmatic word. It’s such a mindless word if you think about it. A term used by folks who lack the understanding of randomness. I’ve got to where I’m at solely by hard work, ambition and attitude. A violation that doesn’t affect the workplace means nil in the big picture of things. Don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget your own vices.
There are also those who’d say that my mistake was “pretty dumb.” But this comment would secrete from the mouth of one who abuses his sick and vacation time, is in debt up to his eyeballs and doesn’t save for retirement because he naively believes that his little public pension will be there in the future. And my mistake was dumb? As Bastiat once wrote, “We cannot but be astonished at the ease with which men resign themselves to ignorance about what is most important for them to know; and we may be certain that they are determined to remain invincibly ignorant if they once come to consider it as axiomatic that there are no absolute principles.”
So here I am, an example of disobedience. Rebel. A violator of policy. A heretic in the corporate jungle. A rogue unchained in the institutional hierarchy.
I took my lumps. I gave up two weeks of digital numbers electronically delivered to my bank account. I was forced to hang-out with my family for 14 days. A few other institutional hoops I had to jump through also, but just theater. I can tell you the truth though; they never for a minute took my mind. They can’t take the air I breathe. Most importantly, they didn’t take any ounce of my soul. Since these things are untouchable, all else is trivial. It’s one of those bumps in the road of life that shakes you up and makes you rethink the path you’re on. It helped me to understand how fragile our lives really are when we depend on soulless institutions for our well-being. I came to the realization that I can’t always control what happens on the outside, but I do have control on what goes on inside. I’ve learned some lessons. But in the grand scheme of things, this just might be a blessing in disguise.