Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

The Suits

monk-suit-gunI have a bias that I struggle with from time to time. It is the fact that I don’t like Suits, even the ones I work with day to day. By “suits”, I’m dismissively referring to corporate types and the attitudes of the professional class that often goes with them. The funny thing is that I know a few people who would definitely be in this class of individuals and I like them just fine, at least up to a point.

If challenged, I suspect that my bias is similar to what a lot of people feel towards police. By that, I mean that I have known a lot of people that don’t like the police as a group but who, generally, have liked the individual cops that they have known, at least up to a certain point. They wouldn’t invite them to a party but don’t think that they are bad individuals. In fact, they often think the opposite. (I often feel this way as well but this really isn’t a post about cops.)

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve been around plenty of suits. I met them at Microsoft galore but also at the startups where I worked before Microsoft and where I’ve worked since then. They are the smooth talking professionals, often seeming power climbers of the corporate world. They may or may not be clean cut externally but they reek of privilege, at least for some of them, and this sense of belonging, ownership and entitlement in the corporate world. While I may be a visitor in their world (even after having made a career there), it is definitely their world, not mine. In other words, they are the establishment, the powers that be, at least to me. Maybe it is the feeling that they are comfortable with this society and its values that I dislike so much. They are comfortable enough to so fully engage in career and fitting in that they clearly have fully bought into it all (at least in any public persona).

In a sense, it is a sort of class divide. They’ve always reminded me of aristocrats. The ones I knew at Microsoft were Stanford or Ivy League graduates, often recruited out of school, never working shit jobs in their lives outside of a summer job as a teen. They were clearly gunning to be Vice Presidents, CEOs, etc. some day. For some reason, I’ve just never liked them as a class (just as I doubt I’d like the aristocrats). On one hand, even if I’ve never felt much of a bond of camaraderie with my working class side of my family, the carpenters and mechanics and the like, my sympathies are with them. I believe in labor and in unions, even if I see that they’ve completely disempowered themselves over the last 50 years (with a lot of governmental help). I’m a college educated, upper middle class guy but I grew up on food stamps and without much money in my early years. I was fortunate enough to have family pay for my Bachelor’s degree, which allowed me to get ahead, along with having educated professionals as examples (my grandfather the engineer is one). Even the suits that I knew that had similar circumstances reeked of privilege. Sadly, I’m afraid that the smell may also emanate from me at times.

The people that I’ve always felt affinity to were the freaks, the outcasts, the queers, and the unwanted members of society. Social malcontents and square pegs, all of them. This is hardly unique but doesn’t make it any less true. I have a friend that I met at Microsoft as a manager. He is ex-military, used to have a pink mohawk, and had successfully beat a drug addiction. I probably felt closer to him than any of the peers that I had at Microsoft with only a couple of exceptions. It’s the D&D kids made good and the hackers that I want to be around and build things with, not the fucking suits looking to make partner or president, buy another BMW, or pay for their kids’ prep school. It isn’t even politics as many of the suits are liberals but it is the culture and attitude that goes with their position, their consumer goods, and their money. Maybe it is the goals that drive them are different but I’m not sure that they are really any different than anyone else’s in our culture, just focused at a more monied level. As I said, they seem comfortable and happy to play the game that is set before us.

I recognize all of this as a limitation on my part, not necessarily that of others. They are going to be the people that they will be. Many of them are perfectly fine people that just make me uncomfortable. I’m not sure what to do except be aware of it. It is a point that gets driven home at any professional gathering where we are forced to socialize though. These aren’t my people. When I’m hanging out with the crazy pagans, anarchists, and hackers, there is always an ineffable sense of tribe, even when I still feel outside of things or that I don’t belong fully with people.

P.S. This is officially my 2,000 public post on my blog over the last six years. Wow.