Since I first arrived on these eastern shores, I have been out of my element, but that isn't news, since I've already written about it a few times.
What's news is that I had an epiphany and finally figured out why this American culture (in general terms, forgive me) has seemed so phony and therefore unmanageable over the years for me.
If what we are experiencing is based on the original slave culture, and corporate culture, I believe is rather synonymous due to its high pressure to conform and high price to be paid if one does not, then the phoniness all makes sense.
A slave is not welcomed to be a person. A wage slave does not have personal business nor allows personal business impinge on the corporation's business, which is funnelling the hard work of the slave into profits for those at the top, while returning a minimum of those profits into a salary for the wage slave.
In times of slavery, personhood was once punished by whippings or death, now punished by other disciplinary actions meant to induce conformity to the personless norm, or by firing or termination (morbid references to being let go, laid off, or downsized, if you ask me) when that fails.
Your value is still limited to externals: the work you complete, behaving "professionally," the image you present (which includes wearing a uniform of some sort, personal grooming, stylish clothing appropriate to the social context, driving a car reflective of your financial status, the house and neighborhood you live in, etc.). Add to this the tendency of many to buy with debt above their means, to appear to be higher on the social ladder.
For me, beginning with my childlike observations and continuing to present day, it means that nobody shares anything meaningful or relevant in a conversation. How you really are is immaterial, so just say "fine." Don't talk about certain things ever. Don't be honest. This whole sense of privacy and individuality, which is inflated to an Nth degree, is part of being isolated and alone. Dumping off the old when they are no longer useful in the slave society matrix is also.
This is not my background as it is of the descendants of original slaves who were kidnapped from the British Isles. People who are descendants of these slaves (and there are many, judging from the abundance of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh last names) have had numerous generations to perfect their social survival skills, pass on the importance of not showing your true self and making small talk.
My background was based on showing courtesy and respect, particularly to those outside of the family and to elders within the family. It did not require being phony, but it did require doing as you were told by people you owed respect to. As for privacy and individuality, well, within the steel gates of the original family home lived three families: my grandparents and unmarried uncle, great grandparents, great aunt and uncle and their two growing children. Try being private and individualistic with three families living in close quarters and the operation of a family business on the premises as well. Good luck. Good luck understanding and functioning according to such privacy when it totally doesn't fit your background.
To be fair, had I gotten to grow up completely in that culture, I would have learned to hide quite a bit, because that would have meant survival within a communist regime, another harsh story entirely. But I didn't. I got to be, in a childlike way, "unusually open," as a friend once described me, and struggled instead with a culture that neither of my parents were well versed in themselves, that didn't match the culture inside my head.
I still don't have good answers for how to avoid the isolation that abounds and struggle with it daily, making friends with immigrants along the way, and sharing more openly with them to assuage the sting that results from living a facade by keeping meaningful things private. Let me adjust that: For some, media and entertainment take the place of meaning and fill the emptiness, which must be why it is so well paid here. G-d only knows the discontent which would result if social ills were recognized and deeply felt.
In this wage slave culture I have spent roughly 30 years as a slave and four as a slave-driver at the bottom of this corporate economy in the grocery business. I have two observations concerning adaptive slave behaviors in the major groups I have worked with and lorded it over.
The one thing that blacks and whites share is a tenacious resistance to passing on applicable knowledge to junior employees, doing everything they can to maintain their relative value within the hierarchy by denying knowledge of the simplest tasks to the new employee. For instance, there is an optimum way to open each type of box, but virtually every grocery clerk has had to reinvent these methods, with a lot of damaged product and lost productivity in the process.
There are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, blacks are typified as employees by a drive to "throw" fellow black employees "under the bus" and by presenting a false face to the highest placed person in the chain-of-authority with whom they have contact. There is a strong resistance to the authority of any middle manager and a deep desire to deal only with the "The Man." This reflects a belief in the ultimate evil of their employer and the desire to see some other slave "done dirty" in place of themselves, essentially scapegoating.
Whites have an equally strong tendency to invalidate their coworkers, to actually strike at a person's insecurities by constantly diminishing their work performance and forever questioning their integrity. There are two common statements that are almost universal among white retail food employees:
"Still here?" suggesting theft of company time or job slacking
"Another easy night?" suggesting that this employee does not carry his portion of the work load.
Taking these mean things into consideration, Lili, I reflect on the fact that Anglo-American slavery and the corporate culture it spawned was based on child abuse, which was based on the fact that the Anglo child was traditionally merely a portion of a household economic unit and was, in that sense, a human tool, which the parent could legally dispose of by driving off, selling or even killing with no generally applied legal penalty. This might be traced back to the Roman right of the father to kill his offspring, but is more likely an organic English view of children as intrinsic family slaves to be manumitted at age 18-21. Many, many parents agreed to the sale of their 16-18 year-old-children into bondage for a seven year term.
As Joseph Campbell suggested, in such a dehumanizing society, one wears a protective mask for the soul, with the "heroic' quest of the intact authentic person in a modern society often limited to an internal fight not to "become the mask," but to remain a whole person within.