Human Resources. On page 289 of the hardcopy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I tripped across the following description of Russian life in 1938 in a footnote:
“*Stripped of their names and family ties, of their professions and possessions, herded together in hunger and hardship, the residents of the Gulag — the zeks — became indistinguishable from one another. That, of course, was part of the point. Not content with the toll exacted by means of incarceration and forced labor in inhospitable climes, the supreme authorities sought to efface the Enemies of the People.
But an unanticipated consequence of this strategy was the creation of a new polis. Having been stripped of their identities … would move in perfect unison, sharing in their privations as well as their will to persist. Henceforth, they would know each other whenever and wherever they met. They would make room for each other under their roofs and at their tables, addressing each other as brother and sister and friend; but never, ever, under any circumstance, as comrade.”
Aha! There it is. Comrade. Stripped of their identities, reduced to comrade.
In a past life as a Project Manager, I wondered why I railed at referring to individuals — people, co-workers, employees — as “resources.” How many “resources” does it take to get a project done? Individuals with work habits and knowledge ranging from novice to master or expert stripped of their identities. Reduced to a number expressed in units of FTEs. Full-time equivalent or full-time employee. How many?
Remember Einstein’s observation? “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Employees reduced to ‘resources’ are a numbers game, commodities, objects. One can be swapped for another. Widgets. They can be counted but they no longer count.
And see also, Orwell: “All pigs are not created equal.”
Be kind to one another.
A Gentleman in Moscow is an engaging and delightful read! The first half moves a little slow but by novels’ end, it feels like flying down a hill on a bicycle with no helmet and no brakes.
As I read, I folded the corners of so many pages that my book almost looks like a Reader’s Digest Christmas tree. Folded pages on top of folded pages … oh well. Mr. Towles is very quotable. Page 68:
“Here, indeed was a formidable sentence — one that was on intimate terms with the comma, and that held the period in healthy disregard.”
Sounds like a description of the type of sentence Viva aspires to write.
– Viva’s hardcopy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles