The Retreat from Common Sense
Australian playwright David Williamson has some interesting things to say about his fellow countrymen and the corporate world. Though, to be fair, his comments could apply to any other western country.
Speaking at a launch party for Shelley Gare‘s book, The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense, Williamson said that chief executives on 300 times the average wage were destroying their businesses and the lives of their staff.
“The thing to do is slash and burn and get the share price up temporarily by cost-cutting measures made at considerable human cost, then getting the resulting bonuses you’ve built into your already huge package, before the firm you’ve gutted falls to pieces.
“By that time you’ll have a golden handshake and be off to another corporate trough.”
He said the children of his friends were working 70 hours a week and when he asked them if they were enjoying themselves “they assured me they hated working those hours but if they didn’t they’d soon find themselves downsized”.
“There is a deeper malaise than airheadism, it’s managerialism, the art of manipulating, cajoling, terrifying and brainwashing executives to give their all for the company,” he said.
“This is done by the ubiquitous human resources departments which grow into huge mini empires within a firm, devoted to screwing the last ounce of productivity out of their executives.”
Williamson continued, saying that to be considered as executive material you had to pass personality tests proving yourself as a team player.
“Psychopaths are very good at appearing to be pleasant and witty team players. This probably explains why so many top level executives test high on sociopathic behaviour.”
Last year he wrote a piece in The Bulletin magazine after winning cruise tickets to New Caledonia, the Paris of the Pacific. He said “the ship was stacked to the gunwales with John Howard’s beloved aspirational Australians”. But he described their aspirations as running to little more than holidays, “new cars, to kitchen refits, to renovations, to private education for their children and to practically anything made of plastic, wood or steel”.
The passengers “didn’t seem to be discussing Proust or George Eliot.”