Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Shooting the Messenger

I've ruminated in the past on the need to remember that at some point, we're all the guys who have to ask a silly question, if only because questions tend to arise from localized silliness. And I preached toleration in the face of those questions.

There are people, however, who can't even come up with the stupid question on their own, and the question is, should we be so lenient with people who come bearing borrowed idiocy?

You'll always know these clowns, because at some point in the conversation - sometimes, presciently, before they say anything else, other times defensively, when they've already said too much - they will utter the words "Don't shoot the messenger!"

To which I've always said, "Well, why the hell not?" The notion that you shouldn't kill the messenger goes back to the medieval origins of diplomacy, when it dawned on kings and tyrants of one kind and another that if they took to whacking emissaries from distant tyrants, nothing would ever get done. Like most medieval ideas, I think it's a little past its sell by date, and besides, nothing I've ever seen of diplomacy has left me with the notion that it's a vital public service without which the world might end. Thus, my working approach to poor long suffering messengers was to put them out of their misery as briskly as possible. Such messengers were a bug up my ass, a pox on my day, a nuisance and a setback in buzzing, gnat-like, almost-human form. Killing them was fun, and carried a number of collateral benefits. If I killed enough of them, one of two things would happen; either they'd stop coming altogether, freeing me up to deal with something more interesting, or whatever boss-level moron was sending them would be forced to lever himself out of his mud encrusted lair and lurch down to convey his stupidity in person, which would lead either to me schwacking him, to the general benefit of the populace, or teaching him to be less stupid, to the slightly smaller benefit of the populace but presumably the greater benefit of my soul. 

So, with a sense of regret (occasional, it must be admitted) I would bludgeon the benighted and get on with my day. It was unfortunate that undeserving schlubs had to feel my wrath in order to make the world a better place, but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs (though - it turns out - you can break any number of eggs and still not make an omelette).

Lately, I find myself working with people who have tested that simple sense of justice to its sticking point, and I feel a subtle shift coming on. I have concluded that messengers actually deserve to be schwacked, and that whatever they get, they got coming.

I used to buy into this self-serving schtick that they were just innocent victims, powerless to prevent that old debbil boss from telling them to come and ask me questions for which the only honest answer was measured in foot-pounds of impact energy to the solar plexus. But I'm getting older, and I have realized that this is no more an excuse than any other variation of "I was only following orders." If you know you're being told to do something stupid, you still have choices. You can refuse, you can pitch alternatives, you can tell the idiot that the only way to sell something so monstrously dumb is to use the weight of their authority directly. And yet, the messengers troop down to my lair and beard me just like it wasn't a thing.The problem, I've come to see, is that I'm living in a world where people are more afraid of their bosses than they are of me.

It is plainly time to revisit some of these lenient policies which have led to me being seen as a soft touch. Starting with this lax notion of shooting messengers. I'm thinking skulls on stakes round my doorway.

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