by Jake Block
When someone asks, “What is your rank within the organization,” I am sometimes taken aback, as if they associate my worth as an individual with my position within an organization as the primary measure of my value as a person. Titles become more important than deeds. Deeds become indicative of one’s positioning for “power” in their social or philosophic associations. It becomes stratification by image, rather than ability or the acceptance AND APPLICATION of that group’s core principles.
Titles? Sure. I’ve had some, NCO, NCOIC, Chief, Vice President, Agent, Priest, Magister, Exarch, Cenobite… there could be others or there could be none at all. The point being, what do these titles say about me as a person? They say that perhaps I was good at the things I chose to take up as a member of various organizations and professions, and that might get me a company car, that corner office or my name on the door, but I could be an asshole or a saint, and from just what you see as a printed word, you’d be none the wiser, and does it really matter what the words proclaim me to be if I can’t back them up with applicable skills and action?
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have titles. They’re useful verbal depictions of where they function within an organization. I am, to my mind, justifiably proud of the titles that I have held, as they are indicators of the respect those who were in the position of bestowing them upon me had for my loyalty, my skills in support of the organization at hand, and their personal need to express it to me in ways that will be seen and understood by others within the organizations. For instance, when I became and NCO (non-commissioned officer) in the military, it was a result of testing of my skills, a linear and demonstrable application of those skills, and an indication that greater things were expected of me in the future. Eventually, I became the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge), a title bestowed upon me as a mark of respect from my commander, showing that he trusted me to lead and complete my missions efficiently and effectively and was willing to grant me the authority, equipment and personnel to get it done. At one time, I was NCOIC or a large working group of over 100 men and women who answered to me as their “boss.”
Now, when I became an NCO, there was a raise in pay and benefits, as there would be with each successive promotion within the NCO levels. When I became the NCOIC, the title came with more work, more responsibility, more headaches and more personal commitment. Sure, I got an office and a secretary and a clerk and could pretty much work my section in any way I felt necessary, within the rules and regulations of the military. But when “the whistle blew,” and I had to take the show on the road, it was still balls to the wall hard work and proving on a daily basis that I was the real deal, and I was willing to put my life on the line, if necessary, to prove it. Which did I appreciate more? Well, additional pay was always good… but to be honest with you, the knowledge that I was placed in a position because it was felt I had the skills, the work ethic and the integrity not to fuck things up meant a lot more. But still… beyond my military training, knowledge of the rules and regulations, and the skills I possessed to get the job done, what did it show of me as a PERSON? I could be gregarious and friendly on the job, when called for, or a rotten son of a bitch, when need be. But those too were skills, learned to employ when needed, as appropriate.
To my mind, how a person lives their lives beyond the scope of any titles they might hold is of at least as important as the professional or organizational merits they might be able to display. I’ve often said that the measure of a gentleman (or gentlewoman) is in how he treats those who can do nothing for him… people often seen as the throwaways of society… service workers… joe citizen. I have seen some people in positions of authority as CEO or an organization or President, who think that confers upon them some mantle of universal superiority. Others see it most often as being an asshole. There was an engineer I knew named Jeffery… he had a Double Master in Mathematics and Business, and he was a PhD in Engineering. He was competent, professional and got the job done, making a lot of money for his company, but was he respected?
I was at a company luncheon, and he was sitting at the head of the table, speaking to us of what was going on in the company. We had all finished our main course and dessert was being brought around. In the middle of speaking on the economic growth of the company, he paused and said, “RICHARDSON! Do you REALLY think you have time for dessert? Get back to the office and get that presentation on the Flexicoker ready for me by 5PM without fail. Go.” And with that, he returned to his spiel, exactly where he had left off, with a dejected, red faced Richardson quietly returning to the office.
He also once sent a senior engineer home for being dressed inappropriately for the office. This was a man who was working on a major, high funded and high impact project for a Fortune 100 company, but he had worn a suit with a shirt that had a pink tint, that was considered fashionable at the time. He was sent home as inappropriately dressed because ENGINEERS WEAR WHITE SHIRTS. Harsh? Sure. Dictatorial? Certainly. But he was in charge and he was doing his thing, and the company depended upon him. They gave him a title and a job to do, and those outweighed any sense of compassion or personalization that might be expected from a leader on that level, but in the end, he got the job done, completed his mission and collected his bonus, moving on to something new. Sure, he had titles… good ones… but his actions showed him for the person he really was.
On the level most of us function at, our treatment of people who “can’t help us.” might extend to that woman we held the door open for at the grocery store… or that we stopped to help load her many bags of groceries into her car while her cholicy baby wailed… or the waitress who was having a bad day, so we tipped well anyway, even though she was so slow in bringing us a refill on our iced tea… or the trash man that smiled when we said, “thank you sir,” when he held up the truck as we dragged our trash can down the driveway. Common courtesies that many who declare themselves “Satanists” might see as a sign of weakness, I see as ways of demonstrating nobility that transcends titles, builds bridges, opens doors and eases the way in future transactions with these people and others like them.
I can pretty much tell you that if you told your frustrated and harried waitress, “I’m a Magister-Templi in the Order of the Eastern Orthodox Children of the One True God of All Perdition,” you might get the same look a cow gives a new fence post in her field, and the awe-struck reply…”Ok… one glass of ice tea coming up. Anything else, sir?” Context and appropriate references matter when it comes to titles. Those sitting with you at the table, knowing what that long, impressive title implied might be impressed, but for those not in the know, that title and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee, and when that same lowly soul comes into your place of business and orders that pizza, you’ll call her “ma’am.”