Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living Under Cover

One of the things that struck me about Brendan Eich being forced out as CEO of Mozilla is precisely that this is not a guy who is known as some kind of a political activist. Indeed, some of his long time fellow executives (who once they heard of the donation joined in the sentiment that he did not belong at Mozilla) expressed shock that Eich even held such views.
Baker said that she had not known about Eich’s views on gay marriage throughout most of their working relationship, until the donation came to light last year.

“That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” she said, noting that there was a long and public community process about what to do about it in which Eich, then CTO, participated. “But I overestimated that experience.”

Baker — who became emotional at one point during the interview — noted that she was “doing a fair amount of self-reflection and I am wondering how did I miss it that this would matter more when he was the CEO.” [source]
I don't know if I'd claim to be that far under cover. I have a pretty strict personal policy of not talking about politics or religion at work unless directly asked, but the pictures of six kids at work are probably a give-away that there's something not-quite-savory about me from a modern secular perspective. Still, I figure that at work my job is to do pricing analytics, and so I tend to stick to business and lead a fairly under-cover life. This is enabled by the fact that in the companies I've worked for, there seems to be a general consensus that this is how it's done. The cultural hot topics generally don't get discussed, and so getting along isn't a matter of cravenly denying one's beliefs as everyone simply agreeing to leave contentious topics outside the door. If I'm asked to do something that violates my beliefs, I'm prepared to take a stand at that point, but I'm willing to not discuss things (including my beliefs) that make people uncomfortable so long as I'm not asked to actively violate those quietly held beliefs.

A while back, at another company, I had a boss who was gay and lived with a long term partner. He knew that I had a lot of kids and that I was Catholic, so he may have guessed that I had moral objections to his lifestyle -- or he may have assumed that I was some more enlightened form of Catholic who didn't agree with the Church. He didn't ask, and I didn't tell.

Living under cover can be a bit wearing at times, and I find myself applying it (without any real reason) to other areas of my life as well that have nothing to do with culture war controversy. I have a policy of never connecting with anyone from work on Facebook or mentioning that I have a blog, which seems like a straightforward, common sense sort of precaution. But other things I usually don't mention I don't even have a good reason for: hobbies, books I'm reading, working on a novel. Anything that seems a trifle too distinctive my first reaction is to not bother mentioning unless it comes up. (When I do run into a co-worker who I realize shares my religious and cultural worldview, that immediately creates a much closer bond in that he or she becomes one of the few people I can talk unguardedly with.)

All this can be a little wearing, but I'd always assumed it was simply the natural cost of being a cultural and religious minority (which although most Americans profess some form of Christianity it what being an orthodox Catholic nonetheless makes one in modern society.)

As such, the Eich affair has been particularly chilling, since the message that it sends is: "How you behave at work is not enough. If you dare to have beliefs as a person which you act on (no matter how far away from work you are when you do so) we will hunt you down and drive you out."

That doesn't particularly make me feel like living more "out and proud" at work in relation to my beliefs. My reticence is habitual at this point. And some of it is simply personality. But it is a good reminder of what we're up against. No matter how willing I am to keep myself to myself while in the office, the feeling will not necessarily always be mutual. It's a realization the breeds detachment -- at any time all that you have may be taken from you -- but also a certain feeling of spoiling for a fight.


Renee said...

But what if your background/career is in public policy?

"I grew up discussing politics at the dining room table with the evening news on. I could express my ideas (AND LISTEN TO OTHERS) in the classroom as a political science major and with friends and family. I went to law school and passed the Bar. Currently I'm an active voter and engage with others at a local level. In all of these situations, I used my real name I never hid my identity from my thoughts. I'm not going to hide now. "

For myself, I deal with the fatherless crisis and speak openly on the subject. The mere statement of stating a person has a mother and father could imply I dislike someone based on their sexual orientation.

I can't say your paternal kin is important, unless you are product of sperm donation.

Lauren said...

I have a very similar experience in my profession, though I know I have much more to loose by being open about my religious and political views. I've only met one other member of my profession who is right of center. I've heard of two others. That's three out of hundreds of leftists I've met. Perhaps there are more in the shadows, but I'm not asking. It can be extremely uncomfortable for me in work situations where everyone is talking casually about politics and culture. I've heard some very hateful comments come out of the mouths of those in a position of power over me. That is one of the reasons I've decided to stay with my small business and out of large institutions. I have to work with these people on a very limited basis, and that's the way I like it. However, I would not be surprised that someone might someday guess or ask my opinions (I don't lie), and then not hire me for contracts. It's a very real possibility.

tara said...

What I find confusing/frustrating about this whole scenario is that it's a commonly accepted fact that Eich's work performance was not in any way affected by this belief. Furthermore, the "concern" is that Mozilla is a collaborative endeavor and requires cooperation from many people who are liberal. So collaboration would be impacted... because surely they couldn't be expected to collaborate with someone who disagrees with them???? What?

Last time I checked, *most* jobs require you to interact and collaborate with other people, and you aren't going to agree with all of them on everything. But you treat each other with respect when needed, and the other 99.9% of the time you just get the job done!

TS said...

Unrelated, but thought you might be interested in this if you haven't already seen it: