Friday, 16 February 2018

Bonfire of the summer clerks

In case you haven't heard (and why would you have?), a handful of Russell McVeagh lawyers - male, of course - were caught up in sexual assault claims over "a recent summer". Yes, that's exactly what the story says

First thing's first, what does the author wish to be true?:
"The complaints from the summer programme are similar to the revelations of harassment and inappropriate workplace behaviour which have propelled the global #Metoo movement."
Remember that word. No, not the one with a hashtag, I mean "workplace," because it relates only to this part:
"It is understood two incidents which provoked appeals for help to those in authority arose from Christmas functions that year."
But the next cited incident is a mirror - will you look into it?:
"A third incident was at a Wellington venue, El Horno Bar. A complaint to police about the actions of one man in attendance arose from the El Horno incident."
Do you see the long con? Do you see what the author wishes to be true?

Read me very closely: the sexual assault claims are important, but they are not the story. The real story is the quiet assumption that a person's job and personal life overlap. Everybody involved in this investigation is playing the same game, that you do not have a job AS a lawyer, you ARE a lawyer. You are not a female studying, you ARE a female student. You are not a young woman working as a summer clerk, you ARE a clerk. And you are not a person doing journalism, you ARE a journalist.

In this sneaky framework of modern workplaces, people are given an identity - a title - instead of a raise. Becoming a lawyer makes a person feel more important, more powerful, and therefore is perfectly comfortable answering the phone at 8pm during dinner. After all, it's who they are. They never once think: "huh, why does my contract say I'll be paid for labour between X and Y, but my clock says Z?"

This sort of sneakiness has consequences. You see, now Russell McVeagh is responsible for what its lawyers and clerks do outside of the workplace, because, according to this system, there is no outside. I have no idea how to fix this, but I also know that Russell McVeagh doesn't want to fix this because the longer its employees think a title or an identity is equivalent to or better than a raise, then guess who gets to keep the money? This is called controlling the capital.

Television has always leaked out into the real world, rather than the other way around. Who hasn't watched those legal shows where the camera follows a lawyer from her swanky corner office to the bar, hotel, apartment, the Bahamas, mum's house, etc? We thought it was just an act. Turns out the gimmick has always been that the protagonist's job and personal life overlap. That's called propaganda. You lose.

Actually, it sounds like everyone in this story lost except Russell McVeagh.

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