FRAGMENTS: Human Resources Is People!
Plus that Ugly Crinkly Plastic Sound and Harbingers of the Apocalypse
ARE ‘HUMAN RESOURCES’ INHUMANE? In casual conversation with friends the other day, it was mentioned that someone had gotten a new job with the title “director of people.” Until recently, the job would have been called “director of human resources,” which got us discussing what a weird term human resources is and how a department ostensibly established to take care of employees does so from a basis of euphemizing and dehumanizing them in its very formulation.
In a large company, perhaps a director of human resources sits in an office next door to the office of the director of mining resources (if not director of animal resources), putting employees on an equal plane with iron ore. We blindly have accepted and used the term “human resources” all these years while ignoring that it is the worst kind of bureaucratic euphemism, unintentionally dehumanizing the very humanity the term implies, a kind of virtue signaling saying, “See how progressive we are – we care about our employees,” leaving out the part that people are cared for in the same way as widgets and budgets and company vehicles.
I’m not sure that replacing “human resources” with the word “people” is much better, but at least it doesn’t hide the fact that employees are, indeed, people, and therefore they should be treated differently from widgets and fuel and numbers on a spreadsheet. Given how little I know about business and how it operates, I’m probably just spitting in the wind here, but going forward I’m going to be much more careful when using the term “human resources” or its more commonly used abbreviation, “HR,” without scare quotes around this Orwellian construction.
ON THAT UGLY CRINKLY PLASTIC SOUND That crinkly sound that a certain type of plastic wrapping makes – the kind you find wrapping artisanal chocolate chip cookies or rice cakes – is one of the ugliest sounds in the world. It is like no sound one finds in nature, neither birdsong nor the pitter-patter of a steady rain. It falls on the human ear with violence, like a sensory insult. Engineers should have given at least as much thought to the noise it makes as they did to the storage properties of the plastic itself. The noise is an environmental attack as much as the material’s damaging lifespan on Earth. It is an assault on our humanity that makes the world just a bit uglier and life just a bit more unpleasant, all the more insulting as it obnoxiously crinkles at the very onset of pleasure – the selection of a cookie or a cracker. It introduces physical and psychological pain at the very moment of anticipated pleasure. In the manner it disrupts the pain-pleasure quotient, it is wholly unprincipled.
HARBINGERS OF THE APOCALYPSE
A running tab on those things that indicate the end days are upon us.
Van Morrison has a new song called “Why Are You on Facebook?”
Princess Diana was on the cover of last month’s Vanity Fair magazine.
Justin Bieber was on the cover of last month’s GQ magazine. (Reminder to self: cancel my subscription.)
What used to be taught in schools every day is now called “STEM,” just to mystify what goes on in classrooms.
Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live
I usually have a half-dozen books going at once.
Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy by Wolfram Eilenberger (Penguin Press)
In the Land of the Cyclops by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Archipelago)
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Modern Library)
How to Speak Dog by Stanley Coren (Free Press)
Ghetto: The History of a Word by Daniel B. Schwartz (Harvard University Press)
WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO READ
An article entitled “Ten Ways to Be Spontaneous”
Frank London and Various Artists, Ghetto Songs (Felmay)
Van Morrison, Latest Recording Project Volume 1, a really horrible album on so many levels, which I wrote about here in the Forward.
I recently subscribed to The Criterion Channel and it has totally transformed my viewing habits. I still occasionally watch something on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, etc. But with The Criterion Channel you can click on anything and be pretty confident that it is going to be at least very good and often great.
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta
A Woman Under the Influence by John Cassavetes
The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman
Stranger Than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch
La Strada by Federico Fellini
The Shop on Main Street by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos
My Night at Maud’s by Éric Rohmer