Is There Hope For Conservatism In Generation Z?

Generation Z conservatism

Generation Z does not automatically share the same predilection for leftist identity politics as the Millennial generation which precedes them. But can conservatives do enough to appeal to this newest group of emerging voters?

Many conservatives, myself included, have been worrying a lot about how we can better resist the relentless encroachment of leftist identity politics and the regressive, illiberal social justice warriors at the movement’s vanguard. But what if we have now reached Peak SJW? What if the spell is wearing off and a new generation is emerging with less time for the pervasive victimhood culture spawned by the 1960s radicals and their fragile children? And if so, how can the Right appeal to this generation (or at least cease driving them toward the parties of the Left)?

These are the questions explored by Sam White over at Country Squire magazine, in a thought-provoking piece which explores how conservatives might find favour with (at least some) young people again.

Sam writes:

Corbynism has been painted as rebellious and anti-establishment, but underneath the endorsement from Stormzy and the party leader’s appearance at Glastonbury (not that Glastonbury is pushing any boundaries) it’s nothing of the sort. If the current Labour leadership’s schemes were ushered in, they’d lead to constraint and conformity. And the new establishment would be authoritarian to a degree that its youthful supporters had not felt before.

There wouldn’t be much of a celebratory mood in the air then, as it slowly became clear that all that rebelliousness was nothing more than a carefully-managed means to an end.

Conservatives should be highlighting all this, and at the same time pushing the message that a free market model provides the best possible mechanism by which for changes to occur organically. Crucially, that model is how we safeguard the capacity to change, but it isn’t a change in itself.

If the Conservative Party were to realign around its libertarian element, then it might achieve resonance among younger voters, particularly those who come after the Millennial Red Army. Generation Z are shaping up to be open to a conservative message, and will surely react against the postmodern nonsense bought into by Millennials. Conservatives must be ready to meet them.

And the message should be simple: that the right-wing will safeguard classical liberal values and ditch victimhood-fetishizing identity politics. And it ought also to be made clear that socialism represents the polar opposite of all this: it’s a half-fossilized ideology that would usher in micro-management, politically correct hectoring, and state imposition.

The idea of the Conservative Party realigning around its libertarian element seems ludicrous at first glance, considering how few genuinely small-government, pro-liberty MPs exist within the party (and the even smaller subset of those whose views are vaguely coherent and pragmatic rather than ideological fantasy).

But then one remembers how Jeremy Corbyn first captured his party and then vast swathes of the country with a hard left message that his opponents and nearly all the commentariat dismissed as being terminally unpopular, and suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so unrealistic. One also thinks of how devotees of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were able to establish a beachhead within a Conservative Party which still fully bought into the statist post-war consensus. And suddenly the idea of a radical shift in the Conservative Party seems feasible, if still unlikely.

Of course, such a shift would require somebody with vision and political courage – a conservative version of Jeremy Corbyn. And necessarily somebody without very much to lose, given the high probability of failure. Like him or not, Jeremy Corbyn possesses this conviction in spades, and even many people who are none too keen on 1970s socialism respond warmly to his candidness and the fact that he is unwilling to apologise for his beliefs. It is hard to see anybody within the current Conservative Cabinet playing a similar role on the Right. Indeed, all of the candidates most hotly tipped to succeed Theresa May are either grasping opportunists (Boris Johnson) or bland nonentities with no clearly articulable political philosophy of their own (Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd).

But even if the Tories were to search deep within their party and find a leader with moral and ideological backbone, could they make political traction with any group of voters by standing up to the identity politics Left? Sam White argues yes:

Conservatives needn’t pay regard to the social justice diktats which have taken over left-liberal discourse and muffled people’s rational capabilities. Simply by speaking directly and honestly, the politically correct narrative can be disrupted. And if that ruffles some left-wing feathers then all the better, let’s refuse to apologise and then offend them some more.

[..] The Conservative Party ought to be rejecting SJW new-leftism unequivocally. Why not just state it clearly? If you value the sovereignty of the individual, if you want the freedom to say what you like, create what you want, and make of yourself what you will, then steer well clear of collectivist movements.

A serious party would throw out badly defined hate crime regulations, reject the CPS’s garbage about policing what people say online, and get a grip on the police force so they stop tweeting photos of their trans-friendly, rainbow coloured cars.

There’s a gap in the market right now as common sense, libertarian ideals go under-represented, and there’s a Conservative Party that needs revitalising.

I don’t disagree with Sam in principle, but I do believe that the approach he advocates would require a degree of political courage and holding one’s nerve that I have not yet seen in any potential future leader, with the partial exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg (who disqualifies himself from serious consideration in several other ways and is therefore irrelevant).

We have seen time and again the ability of the social justice, identity politics Left to summon national outrage, to raise a mob, to hound people from their jobs and careers and even to incite violence when they sense a threat to their illiberal worldview. Even when it transpires that the target of their fury is innocent of the charges levelled against them, the damage is often done and no retraction or apology is forthcoming – see the inquisition against decent people like scientists Dr. Matt Taylor and Sir Tim Hunt.

We have seen, too, the unwillingness of senior politicians to take even the mildest stand against a leftist orthodoxy which demands 100 percent compliance on pain of excommunication from polite society. Even on his way out as Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron equivocated and resigned rather than stick to his guns and defend what were presumably his true, religiously-motivated feelings about gay marriage. And regardless of one’s feelings about gay marriage (this blog is supportive), how many conservatives will have watched these various witch hunts play out in the news and concluded that to speak out on other issues like climate change, the gender pay gap, affirmative action or radical gender theory means career suicide and likely social ostracisation as a bonus?

In short, it would take almost superhuman bravery to stand in the face of this potential hurricane. Even Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have to fear such public opprobrium for stating his political beliefs. When running for the Labour leadership, despite being on record as supportive of dictatorial leftist regimes and terrorist groups from the IRA to Hamas, Corbyn was still very welcome in polite society, and regarded at worst by most his critics as a harmless curiosity from the past. By contrast, if a conservative politician were to publicly question or doubt the “institutional racism” of swathes of British society, denounce affirmative action or even state that there are just two sexes and genders, the dinner party invitations and television interview requests would dry up instantaneously. To even state political opinions held by a plurality of people effectively makes one persona non grata in Westminster and other elite circles.

Therefore, given the hostile environment and lack of courage seen in our politics, we will likely have to look for salvation from outside, in the form of Generation Z. As Sam White correctly points out, this emerging generation – unscarred by the great recession, less coddled (so far) by helicopter parenting, more individualistic and sceptical of identity politics narratives preaching collective racial guilt – may yet react against the politics of their older siblings and illiberal, leftist parents.

And this is why it is more vital than ever that the Conservative Party stop bickering over which of three or four identikit centrists replace Theresa May, and instead articulate a positive conservative vision with concrete policies that actually inspire young people rather than continue to screw them over. In short, they need to do precisely the opposite of what they accomplished during their car crash of a party conference in Manchester.

The newly-minted young adults of today are still politically up for grabs. There is nothing written in stone which decrees that they must become the perpetual property of a moralising left-wing movement which combines 1970s statism with 21st century, self-obsessed identity politics. Many of these new voters can still be called to a higher, better and more conservative purpose if only somebody was there to show them that there is more to conservatism than droning on about the deficit, apologising for their principles, chasing after Labour and messing up Brexit.

Tick tock, fellow conservatives.

 

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Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Routine Mocking Leftist Dogma Falls Flat With Leftists

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After pious leftist orthodoxy is mocked by several comedians at the Edinburgh fringe, po-faced Guardianistas suddenly decide that comedy is too divisive

The Guardian is up in arms because several stand-up comedians performing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival fringe have dared to include material poking gentle fun at the Left’s growing elitism and obsession with identity politics in their routines.

Comedy critic Brian Logan wails:

Identity politics has gone too far. PC has gone mad. These aren’t unfashionable opinions: they’re practically mainstream. What’s new in fringe comedy is that we’re now hearing it from leftwing comics. That’s both a fascinating phenomenon, and a troublesome one. Fascinating because there may be some truth in these propositions, and the left needs to interrogate them. Troublesome because standup doesn’t always favour nuance and fine margins, and one or two of these leftwing comedians – whether they’re mocking champagne socialists, rehabilitating slavery or defending the Iraq war – can start to sound (accidentally or on purpose) pretty rightwing.

Dear God. Jokes made at the expense of leftist orthodoxy are insufficiently nuanced, and therefore fail to reinforce the point that left-wing groupthink is actually correct and inviolable? The horror!

Arousing the particular ire of Brian Logan is standup comedian Fin Taylor, who receives this cool response to his routine:

It begins with Taylor recalling his resolution to give up being leftwing for January; to stop, in other words, “being a whiney little bitch”. Leftwing people, he goes on, are dismissive, pedantic and smug. Labour has been captured by the middle classes, who can afford to be blase about actually winning. Virtue signalling is their (our?) obsession, alongside political correctness, which “is about demonising and shaming people”. You’ve probably already identified the problem with all this – as an argument, if not as comedy. In short, Taylor’s screed is a carnival of generalisations and misrepresentations. Again and again, he alights on legitimate arguments, then comes at them from the most extreme or crude available position. It’s fair enough to mock Stoke Newington’s (hipster, “ethical living”) local economy, but to argue that those communities “don’t know what reality is”, or that their lifestyles “aren’t making the world better, just making it worse in a different way”? Not so much. Likewise, the left’s lack of clarity on Islamic fundamentalism – that’s fair game, but Taylor’s assertion that “white liberals don’t want to criticise Saudi Arabia” is nonsense.

Another left-wing “apostate” (Brian Logan’s word, not mine) comedian, Andrew Doyle, is also called out for failing to cast leftist thinking in a sufficiently positive light:

I have seen Andrew Doyle at the Stand, whose show describes – with as easy a recourse to generalisation as Taylor’s – his post-Brexit falling out with all his liberal friends. Again, the bogeyman is the middle-class lefty, caricatured as ever as a privately educated, quinoa-guzzling exile from reality. Against them, Doyle claims – via a working-class grandad, seemingly – a hotline to the common man, whom the left now hates.

Logan frets about whether “these shows are … starting the conversation” that needs to be had – because comedy can’t just be comedy, it has to be a vehicle for social change and browbeating people into accepting one’s own political views.

And he closes his review by plaintively asking “whether, in these antagonistic, divisive times, we really need this kind of divisive, antagonistic comedy”. Yes, heaven forfend that comedians do anything to demonise people or be divisive. We certainly wouldn’t want that, would we? Except that it was apparently just fine when nearly every British comedian from Frankie Boyle to Russell Howard eagerly divided the country into decent moral (left-wing) people and evil (far right-wing) eurosceptics.

No, the only kind of division that leftist Guardianistas can’t stand is the kind which places them anywhere but first place on the podium of wisdom and moral virtue. They happily threw nuance out of the window and chuckled along when their favourite leftist comedians mocked, misrepresented and demonised conservatism and Brexit, but having dished it out in such generous portions they seem unable to take even the smallest amount of similar treatment in return.

How awful that they are now experiencing what it feels like to have their own dearly-held political beliefs less than lovingly, accurately and sympathetically treated by comedians. Conservatives and Brexiteers certainly couldn’t possibly begin to imagine how that feels. Could we?

Could we?

 

h/t The Sparrow and Angharad, who I trust will forgive me for making her thoughtful tip the focus of my latest rant.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 56 – ‘Compassionate’ Leftist Professors Bully Their Students

Professors are now free to bully and harass their students with impunity on American college campuses, but don’t worry – it is all done in the name of social justice

Things are getting seriously out of hand on the American college campus.

Watch this video, which depicts several professors – professors! – at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, circling around a conservative student who was recruiting for her campus chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a national conservative student organisation, taunting and insulting her.

Addressing TPUSA chapter president Katie Mullen, one graduate teaching assistant screams “Neo-fascist Becky right here! Becky the neo-fascist right here. Wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids” while stalking around holding a sign declaring “Just say no to neo-fascism!”.

Other professors and teaching assistants then join in a chant of “No KKK, no NRA” (because a white supremacist movement and an organisation set up to defend the Second Amendment are clearly comparably sinful).

The first professor – a middle aged white woman – then paces around shouting “Fight white nationalism! Fight white supremacy!”, yards from the TPUSA stall.

Campus reform reports:

Mullen told Campus Reform that a university administrator eventually came out and told her she could not table because she was in a free speech zone. Campus police were called, however, and after assessing the situation they informed Mullen that she had the right to stay and table.

“I was honestly shocked and scared. I was there for a couple hours and had no real issues but a couple debates,” Mullen told Campus Reform. “They came with posters screaming profanities at me and people passing by.”

“I didn’t even engage, but I kept tabling as I wasn’t going to let them silence me,” she continued, but conceded that after a while, “I got overwhelmed and scared and started to cry,” at which point the professors “screamed [that] I was crying for attention.”

“It shocks me that these are professors that are supposed to teach and support students and they were bullying me,” she remarked.

And what was Katie Mullen’s crime? Simply recruiting for her lawful university society and handing out literature with slogans such as “Socialism Sucks!”. And for this transgression against the new illiberal order on campus, these professors, these supposed custodians and mentors of young minds, felt it appropriate to bully Mullen to the point where she started to cry.

Watch this video and then tell me that the social justice and identity politics movement is one based on love and tolerance.

No, this is evil. There is no other word, and following a recent wake-up call I have resolved not to mince my words any more. These professors are behaving in an evil fashion, and their hearts are clearly filled with something dark and malicious, not something benevolent and empathetic.

Note the professor shouting about white supremacy. She is doing what all white members of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics are required to do to remain part of the movement – namely debase herself, publicly acknowledge her own supposed white privilege and be seen to be agitating against all forms of oppression at all times.

Elliot Kaufman made this point in the National Review, with reference to the ACLU’s recent craven capitulation before the idol of identity politics:

But that may be what it takes to be a good “ally,” the term the Left has developed for white supporters of social-justice movements. Their job is to subordinate themselves to non-white “marginalized peoples,” and help those peoples to be heard. As Mia McKenzie, a queer Black feminist who founded the popular website Black Girl Dangerous, has written, the key to being a good ally is to “shut up and listen.”

Almost every article about how to be an ally begins with some version of this advice. Ben & Jerry’s created a list of eight steps. The first two are “It’s not about you” and “We must listen up.” This reflects the ideology of the identity-politics Left: Who you are, and where that places you on the hierarchy of victims, determines the merit accorded to your views.

These movements will take what help they can get, but whiteness can never escape from the doghouse. It will always be suspect. White allies, many in the movement worry, will always be insufficiently invested in the cause because of their whiteness. For them social justice can be a game, whereas for truly marginalized “people of color,” it is real-life. It is for this reason that white leftists are constantly being “called out” for stepping out of line or “crowding out marginalized voices” with their own — that is, for claiming to know better than people who are more oppressed.

The only way to prove oneself as an ally is to demonstrate absolute devotion and selflessness; for an ally, Dhimmitude will always be the name of the game. And the best way to demonstrate that is to defer to “marginalized” social-justice warriors even when it makes no sense to do so.

And now the desperate quest to retain one’s place within the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is leading professors to publicly bully and shame their own students in an hysterical attempt to prove their woke bona fides.

Note that even if these University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors were correct to harass one of their students to the point of tears simply for holding different political views – and they most certainly were not – their behaviour is still counterproductive, because they are devaluing the definition of “white supremacy” to such an extent that it becomes meaningless.

When tremulous social justice warriors see white supremacy in garden variety conservatism, or even being marked down for bad spelling or grammar, then what word do we have left to describe lynchings, cross-burnings, assaults and discrimination? And when grown adult professors behave as though fascism is returning to the United States, they magnify a serious but containable issue out of all proportion.

But none of these considerations matter to the bully-professors. These leftist academics must now continually prove their allyship by prostrating themselves and persecuting dissenting students in servile and fearful hope that they will win some small scrap of favour from their new masters, the leftist SJW activists – particularly those who claim some exalted position on the hierarchy of victimhood.

And depressingly, the spineless academics are increasingly willing to do so, knowing that the social justice activists will soon come for them unless they taunt and terrify an innocent student and commit other similar acts of public fealty to the movement.

In 56+ posts on the subject of campus censorship in the name of social justice, I have typically reported instances of angry leftist students bullying their professors and university administrators into fearful compliance with their childish demands. But now it seems that some of these professors are turning around and redirecting that bullying right back at students who dare to express heretical, out-of-favour political opinions.

May God help them to see the error of their ways.

 

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When Corporations Become Parents: The Infantilisation Of Professional Knowledge Workers

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Corporations purchase your labour in exchange for a salary and other defined benefits. Yet skilled professional workers are increasingly demanding that their employers also play the role of a nurturing, identity-affirming auxiliary parent.

Today, on my weekly scroll through corporate networking social media site LinkedIn, I came upon that most annoying of phenomena – the corporate humblebrag.

In case you are unfamiliar, the corporate humblebrag is a status update or article generally written by some cretinous individual who takes excessive pride in their firm (outside of which they have no life) and thinks that their organisation’s craven feats of pandering to the social justice priesthood somehow reflect a deep-seated virtue in themselves.

LinkedIn is chock full of such posts. Just as online pornography is said to account for up to 30% of total internet traffic, so the vast majority of posts on LinkedIn now consist of corporate humblebrags, people trying to ingratiate themselves with their current and future employers and colleagues by conspicuously and repeatedly trumpeting even the most banal of news items about their companies.

The corporate humblebrag which prompts this blog post is particularly bad, and centres on global consulting firm Accenture’s efforts to bring about harmony between world religions – a feat which has eluded the world’s greatest thinkers, theologians and statesmen, but which is apparently all in a day’s work for a modern global professional services outfit.

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer of Accenture writes:

Those of you who are regular readers have heard me talk about Accenture’s aspiration to be the most truly human organization in the digital age. As we continue to peel back the layers on what “truly human” means, at the heart is helping our people be successful both professionally and personally. And, to be at our best, we need to be comfortable being our true selves and expressing our feelings at work.

Peeling back the layers on what “truly human” means? This is the type of existential question which has consumed humankind for millennia, without resolution. It hardly seems likely that Accenture’s drive to be “the most truly human organization in the digital age” is going to crack the secret of life when the most prominent philosophers, theologians, artists and scientists throughout history have all come up short.

The self-aggrandising article continues:

We started our “Building Bridges” journey last year in the midst of racial unrest in the U.S. Our people told us that it’s stressful when they feel they can’t talk openly in the workplace about things that happen in the world or at home that affect them deeply. It makes them feel like they don’t belong and that perhaps their co-workers are unaware or don’t care about things that are important to them.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that Accenture’s “Building Bridges” scheme is probably only receptive to some viewpoints and perspectives about the racial unrest in America – and that the people being encouraged to speak and rewarded for doing so are those who propagate the current identity politics dogma which dictates that race is not something to be ignored but rather scrupulously and punishingly observed, with everybody seen not as an individual, not as an American but as a member of an oppressed community (or the oppressing white male group)?

Somehow I imagine that were an Accenture employee to stand up in one of these “Building Bridges” meetings and venture the kind of opinion typically made on this blog – that we should be colourblind in our interactions with people and that identity politics only serves to fracture society and create a self-fulfilling culture of passive victimhood – that they would find themselves up in front of HR pretty fast, and out the door escorted by security not too long afterwards. But perhaps I am being uncharitable.

More:

We recently convened a Building Bridges session in New York on the topic of religion. Yes, one of those supposed taboo topics that you’re advised to avoid – along with politics – right?!  Well, the bottom line is religion is important to many of our people. And, it’s critical to foster cross-faith and multicultural understanding and respect. At the very least, it helps us understand the religious observances of our colleagues. But what I really see is deeper connections among our people.

Oh goody, religion in the workplace. At this point, Ellyn Shook hands over to her sycophantic underling Dan Eckstein, head of Accenture New York’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group – which apparently started out as a Bible study group for Christian employees before being hijacked and taken over in order to fulfil the glorious higher purpose of social justice activism.

Here’s Dan, in his own words:

As an observant Jew, I’ve always been passionate about inclusion and diversity, especially the topic of one’s faith at work. After graduating college, it was a challenge to figure out how I wanted to balance my religion and my work. I found myself trying to compartmentalize my work life from my religious life. But it didn’t feel right. I asked my parents, grandparents and mentors for advice. I’ll never forget the story of my Grandpa when he arrived in NY after the Holocaust and surviving the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was a fur matcher and he told me that almost every Friday in the winter he would leave work early to get home for the Sabbath by sundown. When Monday came around he would go back to work and they would fire him for leaving early. As a survivor, my Grandpa taught me to always be proud of who I am and to stand up for my beliefs.

I ultimately decided to wear my Kippa to work because I wanted to be transparent about who I am, and be consistent both inside and outside the office. I feel it represents my true self and is something that I’m proud of. As a leader, I also hope that I am a role model to others, encouraging authenticity.

Fine. That’s all well and good – people should certainly be free to express themselves at work as far as practicable and in line with their role. But then it starts to get weird:

Our Interfaith ERG hosted a Building Bridges session on August 11 where over 100 people packed into the NY office training room to talk about faith at work. We decided to anchor this session around the theme of “story telling.” Everyone has a story, but we’re often so busy or distracted at work that we don’t take time to ask or share.

[..] We ended our session by asking local faith leaders – Rev. Doyeon Park, Brahmachari Karuna, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, Mohammed Al-Mathil and Rabbi Bob Kaplan – to reflect on the day and offer messages around hope, transparency, courage and community. Mohammed Al-Mathil encouraged us to ask questions from a place of respect and to do a bit of homework when coming to conversations about religion. Brahmachari Karuna shared a story of his father, a Human Resources leader, who seeks to find points of beauty in other religions, which helps to spark conversations with colleagues to explore commonalities and points of beauty across their different faiths.

It’s amazing that anyone in Accenture’s New York office finds time to align boxes in PowerPoint, sit on 3-hour client conference calls or just do some good old fashioned smoke testing on a new SAP deployment when they are all so busy learning about other faiths and affirming one another’s chosen identities.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The same culture now pervades nearly every large company with offices in major world cities or key industry hubs – any place where college educated knowledge workers gather in high concentration. For example, it is now almost compulsory for corporations to conspicuously endorse Pride Month and acknowledge it with a veritable festival of sponsorships and office activities.

There is nothing particularly wrong with this – if executives want to engage in corporate virtue-signalling then this is their choice. But these forays into social activism inevitably come down hard on one specific side of the debate, with little tolerance for those with differing views – even if they are conscientious and upstanding employees.

For example, this is what the Head of HR Strategy for one multinational firm had to say on LinkedIn about the recent Google Memo saga, in which developer James Damore was summarily fired for publishing a frequently and deliberately-misrepresented memo calling for Google to look again at the policies through which it aims to increase diversity:

Inclusion and diversity can be a prickly topic, although these issues don’t need to be sticky if handled in an appropriate manner. A great example set by Google’s CEO following the engineer’s ‘anti- I&D manifesto’. Having sent a clear email to all employees, he fired the employee in question and returned from his holiday immediately to take time to discuss the topics further with Googlers. Bravo for great leadership, mirroring words with actions. #strongleadership #diversity #inclusion

How then is an employee of this corporation who happens to agree with James Damore’s perfectly reasonable argument supposed to feel when it becomes clear that their own Head of HR strongly supports the firing of people such as themselves simply for failing to agree with the prevailing social justice groupthink; that every kind of diversity is encouraged in their firm, except for ideological diversity?

More to the point, why is it now necessary for our employers to continually nurture and affirm us as though we are needy toddlers? Why do we look to the corporations we work for to be our moral lodestar, a source of emotional support and a powerful auxiliary parent to adjudicate every petty interpersonal dispute that may arise between us and our coworkers?

When you work for a company you are selling them your labour – manual, mental or sometimes emotional – and in exchange you get paid a wage or a salary. That’s the sum total of the relationship that should exist between employer and employee in a capitalist system, and that’s a good thing. We don’t want to go back to the Victorian days where wealthy industrialists took it upon themselves to watch over the moral fibre of their workforce, regulating speech, recreation and behaviour in purpose-built company towns.

Of course people form important professional connections and bonds of friendship with colleagues, and employees are required to buy into whatever company culture exists in the various ways that it manifests (at least if they want their careers to prosper), but this still falls under the remit of labour. And the corporation has traditionally only been interested in nurturing such relationships to the extent that they help the employee perform their job and improve their skills (and consequently the value of their labour) – through training and intra-company networking events, for example.

I won’t deny that it is nice when corporations take sensible measures to improve the wellbeing of their workforce and increase employee engagement – and there are a whole range of ways to accomplish these goals, from bonus systems and employee reward schemes to the nature of performance appraisals and even small token gestures like free fruit or snacks for staff. I have personally benefited from many such initiatives in my own corporate career. But again, these schemes were designed to incentivise me to stay with the company or to work harder, not to fill in gaping holes in my psyche.

Yet apparently thousands if not millions of well-educated and gainfully employed people look to their employers – huge corporations which ultimately often have little allegiance to either their home country, country of operations or indeed their employees – to help realise their potential as human beings. That’s just plain creepy.

And note also that this is a mental affliction which only seems to affect middle class workers in the creative, tech or professional service industries. You don’t get minimum wage burger-flippers at McDonald’s demanding that the corporation “peel back the layers” of their humanity or otherwise validate their existence and identity at every turn. The relationship is purely transactional – they show up for work, put in a shift, go home and get paid. The same goes for retail work, semi-skilled clerical work and those in the service industries.

(In fact the only organisation where such intimate involvement in the private lives, personalities and identities of their staff seems remotely appropriate is the military, which in order to make people into effective warriors and leaders must essentially deconstruct and rebuild people from the ground up during basic training, with very different boundaries of privacy and intimacy to other private or public sector employment).

In other words, this phenomenon or corporate coddling is something that upper middle class professional knowledge workers are bringing on themselves, not something which is imposed upon them (as one might have imagined from following the Google Memo saga). It is no longer enough for corporations to provide a water cooler, cheap coffee and a relatively consistent ambient air temperature – now rank and file employees are effectively demanding that their employers pander to their every emotional need as well, be it support with their sexuality, gender identity, religion or any number of other issues which are best tended to in one’s own personal time.

I must say that I find this trend fascinating and repellent, in equal part. I genuinely struggle to identify with the kind of mindset that would prompt an intelligent, driven employee to organise an interfaith religious symposium for their office, or to facilitate a training workshop in LGBTQ+ allyship on company time – other than the obvious excuse of wanting to avoid the tedium of doing real, actual value-adding work (which I totally get).

If I were still working in a large professional services firm with one of these gung-ho HR departments, I would sooner that they fire everybody with the word “diversity” in their job title and raise my salary by a couple of quid than be continually validated in my identity as an trans-class, mixed-race, semi-privileged cisgender heterosexual male by some gimlet-eyed, Kool-Aid drinking corporate apparatchik. But apparently I am in the minority.

Admittedly, LinkedIn isn’t the best gauge of these things, being populated mostly by fellow corporate Kool-Aid drinkers who share endless posts about how “proud” they are that their firm won some industry award for sustainability in toilet paper consumption. But there are clearly enough people who value – nay, demand – being condescended to in this way by their employers that large firms are willing to pull out all the stops and treat their employees like the children they apparently yearn to be.

Perhaps I am a grouch and an outlier on this, and I would certainly welcome the input and perspective of anybody who works in corporate HR or one of these diversity or employee-nurturing workstreams. But to me, this trend is just another casualty of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, not to mention a symbol of the relentless infantilisation of Western society, with grown adults in prestigious jobs now seeking to regress back into coddled childhood, one insipid LinkedIn status update at a time.

 

Kidzania - corporate children - infantilisation

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The Heineken ‘Worlds Apart’ Ad: Corporate Social Justice Done Right

Finally, a corporate attempt at social awareness advertising that does not devolve into sanctimonious progressive preaching

It generally doesn’t end well when big corporations decide to prove their right-on, progressive credentials with a slick new TV advertisement.

Only four months ago, Pepsi found itself on the receiving end of a heap of bad PR when their insipid commercial, featuring celebrity with no discernible talent Kylie Jenner, was deemed to be trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement (the gravest sin that it is presently possible to commit).

The Pepsi ad was certainly stupid, but not because it made light of a movement which is by no means as pure of character as it likes to pretend. No, the problem with the Pepsi ad was that it tried to cast the soft drink manufacturer in a positive light by clinging on to the coattails of various protest movements, and casting its brown sugary liquid as the balm that could ease tensions between Generic Oppressed Communities and the police. It was glib and superficial and insulting to everyone who was portrayed in it.

And unfortunately that’s how it is with most ads that try to paint the responsible corporation in a positive light by embracing the latest progressive fad or injunction from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. They politicise that which should not be politicised, needlessly sow division over politically contentious issues, waste shareholder money to burnish the reputations of certain executives and generally fail to serve the corporation’s customers. In Britain, Channel 4’s cynical and self-serving “Gay Mountain” ad, timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is another awful example of tawdry corporate behaviour.

That’s not to say that all such ads are bad – by all means, corporations should wade into social territory when the product and the issue actually have some connection with each other and there is a worthy goal in mind. The #LikeAGirl ad campaign by Always, for example, is actually quite moving and packs a real impact. This Barbie ad isn’t half bad either.

Other social justice ads fall into the grey zone, not terrible but not particularly praiseworthy either – or else just plain confusing. Procter & Gamble’s recent ad “The Talk“, highlighting the fact that African American parents have had to teach their children resilience techniques and shore up their self-esteem in ways that white parents generally have not, makes a valid and moving historical point. But it is never quite clear why Procter & Gamble is the one to be making the ad, other than that they cynically calculated that they can burnish their corporate credentials by conspicuously attaching their brand to the worthy cause of anti-racism.

But best of all recent ads where a large corporation dips its toe into the roiling waters of social issues is this one by Heineken, entitled “Worlds Apart“. What makes it so good? The fact that it does not seek to preach any specific value or social outcome besides the importance of tolerance and mutual respect which is too often missing in public discourse. Rather than shoving a particular social cause down the throats of consumers, the ad dares to suggest that more than one opinion (the progressive one) may have value, and that issues should be discussed rather than dissent shut down.

The ad is shot like a reality show, putting various pairs of strangers with diametrically opposed opinions on various issues – feminism, transgenderism, climate change and so on – in a room together, having them perform various icebreaking tasks including assembling furniture, describing both themselves and their partner using five adjectives and then just talking together about their life experiences. It sounds corny, but it actually works quite well – watch the video at the top of this article.

The final task given to the various pairs of strangers is to assemble a construction out of wooden blocks – which turns out to be a bar (see what they did there?) Having cooperated and bonded with each other while completing various tasks, they each then have to watch a video in which the other person talks to the camera about their opinions of various relevant hot-button issues. It then becomes clear that the feminist was paired with the anti-feminist, the climate change sceptic with the environmentalist, the transgender woman with the man who scorned the idea of transgenderism. Having discovered this truth about their partner, they are then offered a choice – either they can leave and never see each other again, or they can discuss their differences over a beer at the bar they just constructed together.

This really is quite effective. You see the shock on each person’s face as they realise this uncomfortable truth about the stranger with whom they have been working and bonding during the various tasks. You see hints of confusion and almost betrayal on some of their faces as they weigh the competing facts – that they got on well with the person, know them through their brief interactions to be decent, yet that they stand on opposite sides of major social wedge issues. Spoiler alert: they all end up deciding to stay and discuss their differences over a nice cool Heineken.

This is a good ad. Firstly in terms of product promotion, it positions Heineken beer as something over which sane, rational people can discuss their differences like adults. In real life, people do discuss their problems and bond over beer. Unlike the Procter & Gamble ad, there is a valid reason for Heineken to be making this commercial. And what’s more, despite only being a commercial the various interactions feel ten times more real than President Obama’s very real and much-publicised “beer summit” in the wake of the Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy.

But more than that, the ad is good because it doesn’t force a set outcome. It doesn’t end with the transgenderism sceptic acknowledging the error of his ways, confessing his sin and being absolved, or the anti-feminist checking his male privilege. Rather, knowing that their partner is more than the sum of his or her political opinions, the various couples are able to forge bonds of mutual respect and friendship. Like adults used to do in the days before social media turbo-charged identity politics.

So why does Heineken succeed where so many other corporations have failed? Again, it’s those three reasons:

  1. A clear link between the issues at stake (in this case various hot-button social issues) and the product (people often discuss their differences over a beer)
  2. Not forcing a preset outcome, and acknowledging that people can be good despite coming down on different sides of an issue
  3. Not alienating any of their customers by charging in with a preachy, absolutist message

If corporations are going to continue to dip their toes into social issues then we need more ads like this. Right now it feels like society is fraying, sometimes even in danger of coming apart at the seams, fuelled by a toxic blend of identity politics zealots, genuine bigots, people who simply dislike being preached to and those who profit from creating friction between them.

Too many people in positions of authority – politicians, media personalities, self-appointed community leaders – fail to encourage understanding and respectful disagreement, preferring to foment mutual intolerance. Only today I was publicly and ostentatiously defriended by a respected acquaintance, someone who suddenly decided that my relatively mainstream and inoffensive conservatarian opinions were beyond the pale and injurious to their mental safety. It isn’t the first time that this has happened. This is what identity politics and leftist intolerance hath wrought.

Retreating into our respective bubbles will not help knit society back together and weave the strands of a common identity and shared purpose around which we can – and must – all unite. The Heineken “Worlds Apart” ad acknowledges this fact and pitches its product as part of the solution.

It shouldn’t take a beer company to say what so many political and community leaders have so conspicuously failed to say themselves, but that’s just what Heineken have done with this ad. And this puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

 

Heineken - Worlds Apart ad

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