Power Politics Is a Pathetic Need

Power PoliticsI hate power politics. I’m old enough that I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. I’m poor. I’m physically weak. I’m not handsome — I look old for my age. Intellectually I’m reasonable, but certainly not a standout. But I have a fair collection of skills. I don’t doubt that I have a place in the world and that the world, on the whole, values me. So it amuses me when people play power politics with me. They think they are putting me in my place, but all they ever do is just establish that they have some advantage over me in some minor area.

Growing up, like most small boys, I ran into many bigger boys who wanted to establish their credibility by showing that they were stronger. I can’t say that even at the age of six that I thought much of this. I’ve never valued physical strength — certainly not when used in that way. But what are you going to do? I mean we are talking about children here. I’m sure that many of these bullies went on to see the error of their ways and became good human beings.

Others, I’m afraid, did not.

This whole issue of power politics is not usually about physical violence. I’ve been involved with just such a case of power politics. I am currently being taught a lesson. I made the mistake of asserting myself to a bully and now I must be reminded again and again that I have no power. I must show in every way possible that they are the alpha dog. Of course, this is just in their mind. I am involved in a working relationship. I am finishing up the project as quickly as possible and then I will never have anything to do with this person ever again. The power is entirely mine because I have nothing to lose and the publisher does.

Power Politics: the Game Continues

I know I’ve written about this before. But something just happened. A few weeks ago, I received a document that explained the proper format for manuscripts. This is the third book I’ve done for the publisher and the first I’ve ever heard of it, but okay. Then I looked at the document and it was not a standard document that the publisher had been using for years. No, it was one created especially for me: what I must do to prove who the alpha dog is. It was pure power politics.

That was then. Yesterday, after having submitted four sections where everything was all right, the fifth section is balked at: the files must have the date on them! I’d already sent 20 chapters. They had all been accepted and formatted by the publisher. There was nothing in the document about including the date on the file names. No. This is just the publisher deciding that there is a new rule because there has been nothing to yell at me about recently. If dates are wanted, dates it shall be! Oh, the joy of power politics.

Soon I will be gloriously free of all this! But it is like dealing with a 10-year-old schoolyard bully. I guess it does something for them, but to me, it’s pathetic. From my side, this is all about some deeply messed up person trying to claim some power that they don’t feel in their hearts. Power politics is a game that sad and lonely people play. I have very little left to do on this project, but I fully expect a new requirement. Perhaps, “Start all correspondence with, ‘Oh Great and Glorious Publisher Without Whom I Would Be Lost…”

The one good thing about this is that I was totally stressed out before. This time, I just laughed when I got this new requirement. Power politics might make those who engage in them feel better, but any objective viewer can see how pathetic those using them are.


I know you are all probably tired of my whining about this. But I find it interesting that in my day job, I manage a number of writers, and one of my primary jobs is to make their work easier. I’m supposed to make them feel good and valued. It isn’t about me, and making my life easier. Of course, this is the way I have always managed people. Life’s too short to be a jerk or to be around jerks — even ones who will be dead for weeks before anyone notices.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

30 thoughts on “Power Politics Is a Pathetic Need

  1. I was going to buy the book but now I don’t think I will. I don’t want them profiting from being so mean to you.

    • Ha! Well, thank you. It’s actually interesting to see the two trends in publishing. When it all had to printed, there was much less professional writing. So writers were more dependent on publishers. The problem is that over time, as competition got worse, publishers offered almost nothing to author development. But at the same time, they maintained this idea that somehow they were doing wonderful things for the writers. The same thing has happened in the music business. In fact, the same thing has happened in business altogether. I constantly hear business owners complain that workers aren’t loyal — as if the owners have shown the smallest amount of loyalty for the last 4 decades. That’s really all I’m going through. Luckily, I’m not dependent upon those old publishers anymore.

      On the other hand, I am working on a novel and if I finish it, I will look for a publisher. But it will be a big one. Small publishers have nothing but disadvantages. Otherwise, self-publishing is better as long as you have some kind of a name. It isn’t hard to put together a media tour. But, of course, it is totally beyond the ability of this publisher. Wow, how would you do it? If only there were a zillion podcasts that need material!

      • That is dumb. They want to make money and the last edition did so they should be working to make you a household name to ensure that giant piles of books are purchased. And yet we are supposed to look up to the people who cannot even be bothered to do business right.

        Of course I want the media tour for selfish reasons since I am being too careful financially to drive up to your area for lunch with the crazy man in homeless clothes that don’t fit.

        • Well, if you would just move out of that awful state! :-)

          Based upon what is being published, I would say that the whole thing is dying. It’s all reprints of old books, the publisher’s own work, self-published work by African American conservatives. That’s it. It might be a big deal if the Conservative Book Club was still a major thing. Instead, it is basically just a vanity press — but for the publisher, not the writers.

          • Hey, you have yet to offer a couch for me to sleep on until I get a decent paying job as a paralegal!

            The weird thing is that this book will probably make a chunk of change because of the resurgence of heroin keeping the rest of the mess afloat for a while.

            • Well, finish your school first. Of course, I might be Veracruz by then!

              I don’t know. It is shocking the way heroin deaths are going up. This is blamed on the over-prescribing of opioids. But in fact, it seems more related to the crackdown on prescribing. If it were 20 years ago, I would be researching it. But as it is, it is simple: people are dying. And the government is mostly doing things that will make even more people die. When it comes to drug policy, the government has been an unmitigated disaster.

              • Which would make my degree useless. Oh the choices to be made.

                There is a little movement on government policy but the electorate seems to believe that anyone who uses drugs should be punished for the fact they did without question. *sigh*

                • As I’ve written about extensively before, it’s all about tribalism. It’s like the way that people in low crime areas want harsher punishments. They don’t know the people who are punished. The less people know about drugs, the more they are in favor of harsh punishments. In other words: the less they know, the more they are certain they are right.

                  • There is that. People do have have more empathy for people in their lives affected by bad policies. Which is why gays coming out of the closet has helped their cause a great deal.

                    • That’s why LGBT rights are not like economic inequality. I get angry every time I hear someone say, “Things can change quickly; just look at same sex marriage!” Give me a break!

                    • Well, it actually took a lot longer than that, depending upon when you want to start. But my point, which I’ve made many times before, is that LGBT children will be born into rich families; poor children never will. That’s a huge issue.

                    • LGBT community has been trying to get rights for a much longer time than that, but it is hard to do when they will throw you in jail just for announcing you are gay.

                      The other thing I was talking about is exemplified by the Cheneys. They are ultra-conservative about everything except for LGBT rights. If they didn’t have a lesbian daughter, they would be just as conservative on that issue. But they will never have a poor daughter so that income inequality will ever affect them personally. Thus, things like income inequality are harder to address because conservatives can only feel empathy when they are within arm’s length.

                    • Oh yes, Stonewall happened in what, 1969? And there were efforts before that but most people trace it to Stonewall. The first marriage equality lawsuit was filed in 1971.

                      So for a community, it has had remarkable success in changing things but at the same time, it has taken decades. But yes, your reasoning on the issue of a rich kid can be gay but not poor stands.

                    • And part of the reason that it took so long is that the LGBT community was divided on the issue. A lot of people did not want to go in that direction, although I think in the end, it was the right direction to go. You can’t maintain your status as outsider and get equal rights.

      • Yes. I recently read an internal report by my employer that they lose 30% of workers every year. They have brainstorming sessions about how to fix this. Um, maybe stop treating workers like shit?

        • It’s Dean Baker’s skills deficit: managers who don’t know that if you want better workers, you pay them more and treat them better. It’s interesting, the reason I have my job rather than another guy is because they know I’m a nice (ish?) guy. A lot of my job is cheer-leading (which isn’t hard, because we have really good people). But most business owners are really shortsighted. They see they can make more money right now by paying less, without seeing the long view. Also: whenever I’ve been paid well, I’ve been treated well. When I’ve been paid poorly, I’ve been treated poorly. That’s the case with this book. My total advance is about what I make working less than full time at my day job. And I don’t make that much money at my day job. But by industry standards, I do very well.

  2. In my experience bullies of this sort are also cowards. So I suspect there’s a deep lack of self-respect they have which makes them incapable of standing up for themselves and prone to filling this void by mistreating others.

    Here’s a story I remembered today. I worked at this convenience store, and some upper-echelon type I’d never met came in to go over the books with my boss. We had these juice machines, they had juice in them, a pump made them bubble. The guy told me one was filthy and it was my job to clean it. I was nearing the end of my graveyard shift. The guy told me I couldn’t go home until the machine was cleaned to his standards, or I’d be fired. I cleaned it three times. He kept finding a spot and telling me to clean it again. Then when he said it was acceptable, he told me to clean the other juice machine. Same routine, same repetition. It was four extra hours past my scheduled shift by the time I was done.

    Once both juice machines met with his approval, he told me to throw them away. The store wouldn’t use them anymore.

    As William Burroughs wrote, “a wise old queen told me some people are just shits.”

    • I worked at a gas station and convenience store while I was between decent jobs. I was amazed how badly I was treated. The philosophy seemed to be that the only way you could get good work out of people was to break them. As a result, the place was always hiring. Turnover was great. But the cost of that never seemed to occur to them. The fundamental problem is hierarchy. The truth is that at any business, every person has skills that others do not have. We’ve just decided that some skills are more important than others. But without all the skills, the work doesn’t get done. It’s about the pecking order, not about getting work done.

  3. I was a trainer for a large restaurant chain and they wanted to make me a manager. The first day of training for this job they told me that I had to find something wrong with every employee. Fuck them, I quit on the spot and went back to college. Life is too short to make shit up and, even worse, make people feel bad.

    • It’s kind of like the slavery approach to management. And note how they are dehumanizing you by not allowing you to find your own management style.

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