Failures of the Self, Or: I F***ed up, Ted. That’s why your legs are missing.

by hulk

My mentor at work has been jokingly thanking me for training him in how to be political. He said, “See, I’ve learned my mistake. Before, I tried to do what’s right. You’ve shown me that we should just do what’s wrong and get the credit.” This is either a joke, or, as I suspect (though I am prone to paranoia due to social anxiety) it’s a rebuke. Either way, it’s shaming.

My main project at work is receiving more attention than needed, and possibly more than merited, due to the disturbing fact that we have used (deleted out of fear of what happened to that Delta Airlines stewardess) so well that our project will be used as the “model project”, meaning our tools will be shown as examples in training future green and black belts. We only did what was right for the project, ignoring the ephemereal certification guidelines. Now the project is progressing fairly well and we’ve got the sun shining on us.

We have done well on this project. Massive failures remain built into the system we constructed, and I feel inadequate for failing to solve them. At this point I don’t feel that the major problem of production has been solved though we will present data to the contrary. The scary thing is it doesn’t matter what we actually did. No one is watching. We could lie through our teeth and be hailed for it. The ones who will pay will be the tech reps in the field who will, yet again, be presented with a part that meets all design specs yet does not perform the job they need it to do.

I could make the argument that getting noticed is all that matters. I’m a young man and I need to think of my future and getting noticed by the right vice presidents and being obsequious without being obvious is where I should concentrate my efforts. The argument falls apart when I wonder where those vice presidents started out. Probably young people, like me, looking up to those at the top and figuring “hey, they lie to themselves and each other, so why shouldn’t I?”

I don’t mean to be simplistic. I’ve had a problem since starting in the working world, a problem with believing that people are idiots. I can’t believe people are idiots, since I am a person and to believe that everyone else is an idiot but me is… idiotic. People are prone to moments of idiocy. So how do I explain the consistent idiots? Can’t they see what they’re doing? Either they can and they don’t care, or they just don’t notice. That can be fairly easy. I wonder, perhaps too much, what the production workers think of me and the failures on my little production cell. Do they blame me? Do they think that I’m simply an ignorant fool, willingly ignorant or not? Of course I could deviate from this relativistic standpoint and just say that yes, the vice presidents are idiots but they don’t know it because they’re all living a lie, managing by numerical targets that have no basis in reality and without knowing or caring what the actual impact on the company is, as long as they meet their own targets on their perfomance evaluation and manage not to commit actual fraud on the budget in order to do so. If you were an english teacher, I apologize for that last sentence, since I am sure you are now dead.


I believe that wrong is still wrong. So I will commit myself to avoiding the tempting path of lying my way to the top, of putting together useless presentations and attending useless meetings and issuing useless opinions when the right VPs are watching. It is so very tempting.

I am also tempted to shame myself for what I’ve done so far. I’ve had several failures along the way. The past is where we get our knowledge from, so it is natural to use the past as an impetus for the future. If I constantly remember my lies, half-truths, and hours spent doing nothing valuable for the company, I will certainly avoid these mistakes in the future. That is not necessarily true. I can continue to chastise myself for past mistakes as a substitute for not making them anymore. So at this point I will do my best to forget past mistakes, while remembering the lessons I learned from them, so that I can focus the energies of my limited brain upon not making mistakes in the future.

I could also argue here that no knowledge actually exists. The past is nothing but a memory and memory is very faulty. I believe that future brain research will show just how poor memory is. Many times making something up is about the same as memory. Hence Dante’s references to his “memory” in the Commedia, he was making it very clear that the whole story might as well have happened, for all the good memory does. So I will make up a future “memory”, where I work towards making things right in my project and therefore improving conditions for my production workers and my co-workers and my mentor and those poor tech reps out in the field dealing with my parts.

I f@#$ed up. I will try not to f%^& up in the future.