Demography, Workplace Culture
A book in the series: Individualism
Natural selection is over. What the author calls unnatural selection is human beings picking who’ll prosper (materially, at any rate) and who else will procreate, when we do so with our natures corrupted, desires unnatural, and instincts denied. Western individualism is unnatural.
The author, a corporate lawyer, draws upon his and other people’s experiences to illustrate that, without senses of community and nation, Western employer demands for employees completely committed to work means we either neglect our families or dispense with them altogether. If we really believed in diversity, we’d facilitate motherhood and fatherhood among our executives and rising employees.
- Unnatural Selection
- Relationship and Parenthood
- Physical Features
- The End of Excellence
- The Corporation as a Cult
- The Corporation as Words
- The Corporation as a Police State
- Corporate Totalitarianism
- Corporate Dictatorship
- The Corporation as an Asylum
- Total Commitment to Work
- Economy without Empathy
- Parenthood by Stealth
- Managing Expectations
- Truth and Lies
- Childless Diversity
- Fertility Ghettoes
- The Success of Solitary People
- Management with a Human Face
Chapter 1: Unnatural Selection
Most of my writing, I type at my aged timber desk, the same desk at which I sat as a child. Through one early revision, I found myself setting threshold, budget, and stretch numbers of chapters to revise in a day. The business I call Cement National set such numbers for profit, injury rates, and I imagine much more, taking the lead from its Australian American shareholder. Driving performance endlessly upward, they were a means of measuring monetary bonuses. No longer using economies to improve Western lives, Western lives had become means of improving economies.
There was always a story to tell from that company, although the story took a while to unfold. At first it was about Western corporations becoming like cults, for our executives and employees practically chanting our values. All we lack are sheets to wear and flowers to hold.
(The West is fixated with values. We think they make morality and religion superfluous.)
The story unfolded several times over. Some stories are like that.
Increasingly since the Second World War, we’ve become the unnatural West. What I call unnatural selection is people picking who’ll prosper (materially, at any rate, if only for a while) and who else will procreate, when we do so with our natures corrupted, desires unnatural, and instincts denied.
Natural selection is different. It’s natural. Without Western individualism but with their innate tribal instincts intact, other races prefer their people prosper and procreate, linking the two.
Englishman Charles Darwin and his 1859 book On the Origin of Species were sufficiently influential and still sufficiently well known, at least to museum curators and visitors, to form an exhibition of his life and work at the Australian National Museum in the summer of 2009. (Admittedly, my three eldest children were less interested than I was to inspect it.) Darwin’s book introduced the world to his theories of natural selection, which he’d developed through decades and about which he’d been writing and talking for years beforehand (giving me great comfort with my writing).
“As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive,” Darwin wrote in the book’s introduction, “and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.” Thus the species over generations evolves.
That book didn’t explicitly include human beings among the life forms that Darwin theorised enjoyed natural selection. His 1871 book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex did: human evolution. We think most about Darwin’s theory that human beings and apes share common ancestors, but natural selection doesn’t depend on it. Human beings might have always been human beings distinct from apes, but still over generations evolve.
After reading Darwin’s first book, British philosopher Herbert Spencer wrote Principles of Biology published in 1864, linking his economic with Darwin’s biological theories. “This survival of the fittest,” wrote Spencer, “which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”
Darwin liked Spencer’s phrase. In The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication published in 1868, he wrote, “This preservation, during the battle for life, of varieties which possess any advantage in structure, constitution, or instinct, I have called Natural Selection; and Mr. Herbert Spencer has well expressed the same idea by the Survival of the Fittest. The term “natural selection” is in some respects a bad one, as it seems to imply conscious choice; but this will be disregarded after a little familiarity.”
Being the fittest and thus being naturally selected isn’t necessarily a matter of being physically or mentally superior. It’s a matter of fitting in best with the immediate environment. Living in the open air, a person does well to be tall. Living in caves, a person does well to be short.
By the early twenty-first century, natural selection was over. “If you want to know what Utopia is like, just look around – this is it,” said Welsh geneticist Steve Jones of University College London in 2002. “Things have simply stopped getting better, or worse, for our species.”
The air is neither hot nor cold inside centrally conditioned buildings. No sounds, dampness, nor changes in temperature break through. Working at office desks with double-glazed windows behind me, I could turn and discover a previously blue sky had become a raging, dark storm. Amidst the rampant abundance of amenities and technologies, the scrawny no longer fall sick and die. They collect their medicines over the counter. The stupid take, or miss, extra classes.
We in the West have done something more. Our postmodern West isn’t natural. It’s ideological: a peculiar political and economic environment. Few conditions of life have been more complex or varied, whether we notice or not. Natural selection is premised upon differences, but we insist upon everyone being equal. It’s premised upon inclusion of some and exclusion of others, but we insist upon inclusion of all: trying to ensure everyone fits in. We reject natural selection for being discriminatory.
Indifferent to human evolution, we’re more likely to favour other races than our own, provided we personally survive. If there’s to be evolution within our race, it will be moneyed evolution. Those with a better chance of surviving are those that vary however slightly in a manner profitable to buyers and employers while remaining acceptable to our ideological keepers, rather than anything physical or intellectual. Survival of the fittest means survival of the richest.
By the time I arrived at Cement National in September 2003, forty-one years of age, I knew to work and watch, study and see. Cement made the companies for which I’d previously worked seem like evolutionary steps along our new Western way. The companies I call TMT Limited and its subsidiary TMT Shipping and Development Limited, Hodyman Limited, and Badger Gold Mines Limited had initially been good places to work. They each changed during my time there (and not, I trust, because I worked there). Each successive change came sooner.
Like the climactic moments of a television quiz show, the shimmering curtains drew open to reveal the glistening main prize: Cement. I saw, sat with, and listened to the people the West was becoming, in all our skill and conviction, our pride and our glitz. Slowly I realised, we’d already met.
In 1989, after I’d suffered several throat infections, a surgeon diagnosed my lower jaw as not sitting and pivoting properly in my upper jaw. As I discovered later, corrective surgery would mean that, for the first time in my life, I would be able to bite neatly on a sandwich: my private Utopia. In our Western democracies championing choice and individual rights, the surgeon would only operate on my jaw after I bought private health insurance. I did, twelve months before he could operate. I’ve renewed it ever since.
(Richard P, the group accountant for associate companies at TMT Shipping and Development, told me afterwards I could’ve avoided the expense of surgery because any number of my colleagues was willing to break my jaw for me. Peter, the group accountant for subsidiary companies, told me he knew the surgery wasn’t cosmetic, because I was just as ugly afterwards as I’d been beforehand.)
Of itself, the surgeon’s action could have been perfectly natural, but earning the income to buy health insurance (along with food, clothing, and shelter) makes our prosperity not so much a matter of nature as a matter of money. People without governments, families, or other benefactors to keep them need jobs. In my second last year of school, I realised I could only ever live in a nice house by earning the income to buy it; nobody was going to buy it for me or give it to me. I thus studied hard, becoming a lawyer.
Natural selection rewards individuals and species. Unnatural selection rewards only individuals.
Darwin’s theory of natural selection set out the theories he developed from observing the natural world through his five-year voyage a passenger aboard His Majesty’s Ship Beagle, beginning in 1831. Instead of a ship carrying me, I made my observations in law firms and companies, particularly from 1987. Where I wasn’t a participant, I was a traveller passing through. Darwin paid, or his family paid, his fare. I received salaries and other payments of money. Instead of birds, plants, insects, and animals to observe, I observed people. The distinction with animals wasn’t quite what it needed to be.
University educated as he was, Darwin was essentially an amateur in the field about which he wrote, beyond some academic success collecting beetles. I’m much the same, without the beetles.
Much of the selection we individuals make is by our indifference to others. Employers employ for themselves. Employees work for themselves. (When employees become unemployed, we’re nothing at all.) Earning income depends upon decisions by self-interested sellers and employers. Vendors want customers. Customers want service. Once in a while, their interests coincide.
Paying the most money, corporations are the most influential employers, pervasive marketers, and prolific buyers and sellers in markets of purchase and sale, but corporations don’t really exist. They’re legal fictions we created to carry on commerce. All that exist are people behind the wide veils: directors, executives, managers, and employees, even lawyers, normally hidden from view. Corporations are secret societies, about which people outside know little. Admission is by invitation only.
No business allows people to enter its premises as freely as we once allowed neighbours into our homes. Without a receptionist at her desk and sometimes with one, toughened-glass doors to offices are locked fast. Cleaning contractors early evenings and employees all the time carry keys or security cards we slip through sensory grooves by the doors, admitting us. Images around company walls focus on company business, instructing and even inspiring employees and visitors (although not, I suspect, cleaning contractors).
I offer exposés of Western company cultures, for want of a better term (and thus Western cultures, for want of a better term), for people who’ve not experienced them and, I trust, new perspectives for people who have. Some readers will see my writing as dire warnings about what we’re doing to each other and ourselves. Others will see it as modules of a confidential corporate training manual. Others will just wait for the jokes, hoping there’s one in every paragraph. Sorry.
Corporate selection we call recruitment. The recruitment consultant who interviewed me late in 2002 saw I was eager to leave my novels behind. After all, I spent the interview leaning forward across the table towards her. The truth would’ve cost me my chance that she’d recommend me for a job. I wanted money.
People living in comfortable homes aren’t so brave to weather those not so nice, let alone go back with five children to the home unit where we’d lived with one child or enter a caravan park. Well-to-do white people don’t want to be the first person we know receiving payments of welfare. (Being the second, third, or fiftieth person is fine.) To be certain we could remain well fed and clothed in our nice home forever, while I wrote novels nobody published, I needed to repay my debts.
Two century-old companies, one pre-eminent in south-eastern Australia and the other in north-eastern Australia, merged to form Cement National in May 2003. Together, its plants produced almost fifty percent of all that Australia produced of its principal product: cement, funnily enough. Half owned by a Swiss company, Cement sold more than two thirds of its cement to its other two shareholders: the Australian subsidiary of an English company and an Australian American company. With plants, mines, and ships in place and so many sales secure, it couldn’t help but make money: a great deal of money.
While interviewing me with the inaugural chief financial officer (a man I call Larry), the inaugural human resources manager Paul feared I’d be bored at Cement after my work at Hodyman. I convinced him he was wrong, that I was surprised he imagined such a thing. Ironically as everything turned out, being bored was a luxury I would rarely enjoy.
Only acting in the role, Paul had been willing to join Cement’s head office in Sydney in a capacity other than human resources. Chris, the new chief executive, refused him. Paul found an operational role with the Swiss shareholder in America but had he remained at Cement, I might never have written this book.
Natural selection hasn’t ended altogether. In 2013, Aarhus University political scientist Michael Petersen and other academics reported the results of their studies of men and women in America, Argentina, and Denmark, finding that strong men are more likely to support economic self-reliance. Weak men are more likely to support the welfare state and economic redistribution. (They found no correlations among women.)
In the West, the weak prevail, but we’re not redistributing wealth to the physically weak and intellectually strong. That would be discriminatory. We’re simply redistributing it.
Wayne, the new Cement human resources general manager, once remarked in a conversation between us that short men and ugly women find jobs harder to come by. Wayne was among the tallest people with whom I worked, physically strong I’d have thought. I don’t think he was calling me short.
“My research shows being good-looking helps you earn more money, find a higher-earning spouse, and even get better deals on mortgages,” said American economist Daniel Hamermesh in 2011. “Some people are born ugly, and there’s not much they can do about it.”
Whenever natural selection pops up, the West now tries to eradicate it. Equating ugliness to race and disability, discrimination against ugly people became lookism. American woman Shirley Ivey, sixty-one years old, sued her former employer after resigning from her job, because she’d recently put on weight and her supervisor told her he would like her more if she were prettier.
People don’t become equal because we now think they are. As much deliberately as by our indifference, we’re driving the human species down.
By 2012, people were becoming dumber, according to Stanford University geneticist Gerald Crabtree. “I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues,” he wrote. “Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues.”
Crabtree attributed it to adverse genetic mutations that natural selection no longer weeded out, but they mightn’t be the only forces at work. (Our education systems aren’t helping.) Other studies have linked diminishing intelligence with consuming fluoride in the water supply, pesticides used in food production, processed foods, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Human devolution doesn’t bother the West. We’re not so judgemental.
Central to our Western ideologies of equality is our individualism. In 2013, drawing upon the work of mathematician John Nash, Michigan State University biologists Christoph Adami and Arend Hintze published research suggesting evolution favours those who co-operate over those who don’t. Any benefit from acting alone is short-lived, because others soon adapt their strategies accordingly.
“Darwin himself was puzzled about the co-operation you observe in nature,” commented Leicester University psychologist Andrew Colman. “He was particularly struck by social insects. You might think that natural selection should favour individuals that are exploitative and selfish, but in fact we now know after decades of research that this is an oversimplified view of things…”
Evolution favours nationalism and other tribalism over individualism. The West persists with individualism.