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Episode 7: The Aggrieved

Episode 7: The Aggrieved

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Why whatever you perceive your condition to be does not warrant a vote in Congress or a newscast.


Hi, I’m Alan Weiss, and this is The Uncomfortable Truth. We have a lot of aggrieved people today, don’t we? In 1861, the south seceded from the union because of slavery. It was a rebellious act. There’s no constitutional provision for secession.

Let’s extrapolate the consequences of that. Suppose New Jersey seceded from the United States over pollution regulations, and then Hudson County, where I grew up in New Jersey, seceded over taxes, and Hoboken seceded from Hudson Country and then refused to allow tunnel traffic. Of course, the Lincoln Tunnel is located down there, well in Weehawken next to it, but you get my idea.

My audiologist checking my ears said that I needed to come back for another appointment, and his assistant said to me that I could not wear fragrances and she kept hammering on me that I could not wear fragrances. She was demanding no fragrances. I said to her, “Who’s the patient here? Who’s the customer?” She said, “I don’t allow fragrances in here, I have a severe allergy.” What did she do in the elevator? What did she do in public transportation? What did she on trains? Since when is the aggrieved state of someone mandatory for all of us to change our lives? This gets ridiculous, and it’s been honored in peculiar circumstances.

The great African-American star, Dorothy Dandridge, was appearing at a casino in Las Vegas and when she went to the pool where she wasn’t supposed to be (because it was segregated) and she dipped her toe in the pool. Outraged white patrons demanded that the pool be drained and refilled, and indeed it was. That nonsense was largely ended when Sinatra refused to appear unless African-Americans appearing with him and appearing without him, but in town, were treated equally. Somebody has aggrieved sometimes at the damn these things.

Today, we have trigger warnings, because great literature may traumatize people suddenly, because it hasn’t traumatized them in the past. We don’t see tombstones laid out in cemeteries where reading Dickens killed people.

We have safe zones today for students in school. We’re supposed to be in school and in college to be intellectually challenged. Instead, they want to be intellectually protected.

I used to sit in coach with people long ago when I first started my career who were smoking all around me. It wasn’t great, but it was no cause for secession, it was not even a cause for argument. That was the law. In fact, I had to take a 10-hour trip once to Brazil with a president of the company who also sat in coach with me, and I was in the middle of five seats in the back of a DC-10 with everybody around me smoking.

Even early in my career when I began to fly first class all the time, there was a first class smoking section and non-smoking section divided by, guess what? Nothing. Air. Zero. That’s what it was. We didn’t quit flying.

Cigars, by the way, were first banned on Amtrak’s high-speed first class cars when the Supreme Court Justice at the time was riding from Washington to New York, a guy was smoking a cigar in the smoking area, which you could smell, of course, throughout the car, and refused to stop because there was no law mandating it.

Our society is so wealthy, it’s so complaisant, it’s so safe that every individual grievance is deemed worthy of legal action and protection. Every single sniveling one.

A 16-year-old woman going to a high school in Cranston, Rhode Island, decided she was harmed by a prayer on the wall that was there for 60 years, that’s 6-0 years, put up by one of her predecessor classes generations ago to wish people well in school.

The American Civil Liberties Union, of course, backed her and they had to jackhammer this thing off the wall because she felt harmed by a prayer that hadn’t harmed any other person into which she could prove no harm in all the time she’d been there, but she had a grievance and, look, we had to honor it.

Christmas trees, famously, had been holiday trees. It looks like that might change back, but Brown University calls them holiday trees. We had a politician up here named Lincoln Chafee who became governor, who had an abortive run for president that was so silly it looked like a Disney animation and who was only in politics because his father, Senator Chaffee, was highly respected and a very, very excellent person in office. He decided he would only call them holiday trees. Thank goodness.

Columbus Day up here is often called autumn break day by Brown University. Yet, Brown University, these bastions of the preservation of grievances, is named after one of the most heinous slave-trading families in the history of the republic; the Browns. Yet, they’ve never changed their name. They argue for the Washington Red Skins to change their name, but they’ve never changed their name. That’s because they’ve gotten huge bequests from the Brown family. I guess money can settle some grievances.

What have we become? That’s what disturbs me. Could we win World War II again today with the demands of privation and rationing at home that World War II demanded? Could we put ourselves through that kind of test, through that kind of sacrifice?

I know we’ve protested subsequent wars, and I know protesters are alive and well in the country. Could we really, as a nation, see ourselves sacrificing in unity for some cause and overcome all of these individual grievances that we have? I don’t see how. Not today.

Not long ago, foreign students at a university here demanded relief from the oppressive presence of the U.S. flag on their campus. When asked the obvious question even by a media that never asks the obvious question, “Well then, why are you here?” They said, “We wouldn’t be here, except United States’ criminal actions have displaced us and we had to come here, of course.” This is the only place in the world to come and the only one of a million university systems that they could come to, right? No. They chose here purposely, but now they are aggrieved.

In fact, a university in New Hampshire has made a decision, the president has decided not to fly the American flag. He feels it’s an act of – I don’t know what, but I guess supreme personal grievance.

Our freedom, our tolerance, and our acceptance has morphed into permissiveness and anarchy. The American Civil Liberties Union used to protect and promote civil rights, but now it protects the most permissive possible expressions from individuals. It’s not bad enough that we have a country where, of course, free speech embraces a great deal, from lofty goals to pornography.

It’s also a place where someone who happens to be homeless and who wreaks of urine and defecation, concede in a public library, protected by the ACOU, while the people who would normally go there are prohibited from doing so because of the conditions. Where a prayer on a school wall that hasn’t affected 15,000 other students affects one woman, or so she claims, and has to be ripped from the wall. What have we become?

It seems that everybody on Facebook believes that their own private grievance doesn’t only need to be voiced on the vanity press, but liked, and people have to join them. People have to commiserate.

Let’s do think that my example of Hoboken seceding from Hudson County, which seceded from New Jersey is farfetched. Reflect, on fact, for a moment that San Francisco is publicly stated, it’s an asylum city, and it will not collaborate, the city fathers have said this, it will not collaborate or cooperate with ICE or other federal enforcement agencies to send immigrants home, to deport people, to arrest people.

The entire notion, by the way, of undocumented people is rather silly, that these people are here illegally. Be that as it may, just a couple of years ago, one of these undocumented illegal aliens in San Francisco, which the city government had failed to report to and turnover to federal authorities, killed an innocent woman in San Francisco. Had a gun, and a legal gun, and she was shot.

Now, what does this mean in terms of other cities becoming sanctuary cities, or sanctuary states, or sanctuary regions? I don’t know, but secession, it seems, might not be that farfetched. It’s an undocumented immigrant. That seems to be like an hour robber who’s called a non-acknowledged resident. I don’t know what to make of that. Not every real or perceived grievance merits resolution, or even reaction.

I was on the Acela once, my famed Acela, and it was the middle of August and it was about 95 degrees outside. When we got on in Providence, a woman boarded with me who had no luggage and she had on high-strappy sandals and short shorts and a blouse tied up with her midriff exposed and all she had on was a small pocketbook, not even a book to read.

She sat there in the car for about 10 minutes and decided that she was cold. Imagine, the air-conditioning was on, and she said to the conductor, the attendant in first class that she needed the car warmer, it was too cold. He said, “I’ll take care of that right away.” As he walked to the back, I hopped up and walk next to him and I said, “This air-conditioning is barely keeping up with the heat. If you lower for that woman who’s inappropriately dressed, I will personally report you to the CEO of the railroad. “Don’t worry,” he said, “just come with me.”

We went to the back and we stood there for about four or five minutes, he asked me where I was from and how often I rode the train. Otherwise, he did nothing. Then he walked up the aisle with me a few steps behind him and he said to the woman, “How is that?” She said, “Much better. Thank you.” He winked at me and he went back into the galley. Maybe that’s how we have to handle all grievances. Give them the lip service they deserve, but no real action.

There are things we should be aggrieved about. We have an unfair tax code. There is bias in hiring. Legal treatment is dependent on how well you can finance it. We have outrageous health costs. There’s a lack of privacy. Mortgage title insurance is ridiculous. That’s one of my favorite grievances, by the way. You can refinance your own house and some lawyer picks up $400 for doing a title search, when the title never changed hands, but I digress.

Here’s a quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The true joy in life is to be a force of fortune instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” How is that? When all things are priorities, nothing is a priority. When everything is a grievance, then nothing is a real grievance.

We were in Fort Lauderdale not long ago at the same time the shooting took place, that horrible tragedy, in the Ford Lauderdale, Florida Airport. Fortunately, we were on the beach. One of the people in our group had departed that day and was indeed at the airport, and she told us there was a mad scramble and the police were trying to be helpful, but there were so many jurisdictions, and so much confusion, and so many people. Then, there was the rumor of a second shooter.

The thing that really struck me was, she said, “I desperately tried to cling to my iPhone so I could communicate with my family and friends and tell them I was safe. Others tried to grab their computers.” “What killed me,” she said, “was the woman behind me who actually argued with a police officer who forced her to leave her Starbucks coffee behind.” How do you like that? Yet, somehow, it’s not all that hard to believe.

Sports, many sports, have replays to examine fouls, and penalties, and scores. A coach can file a grievance. In football, the coach throws a red flag. Instant replay would be helpful in showing, on the one hand, this woman having to leave her Starbucks coffee, and on the other hand, people shot in the baggage claim area. Just how important is your concern?

After 9/11, you know, there was a movement among Hollywood luminaries, actors and directors, and writers, and so on, to cancel the Oscars, because people were convinced out there in La La Land that they would be the next target. After attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and an attempt to attack the White House, actors would be the next target to ruin our society. There’s an interesting grievance. They didn’t cancel them, but a lot of people didn’t go.

The United States Postal Service, hardly a bastion of profit, taking just a clabbering because of its finances, actually has hundreds of millions. You heard me right. Hundreds of millions of internal lawsuits filed because of grievances by employees, because they don’t like the way management has handled them.

I’m sure some of these might be true, unpleasant, and unfortunate management actions, but everything becomes a grievance today, the stronger the union, the more it goes to court. Hundreds of millions, they’re spending internally to deal with and settle these lawsuits instead of delivering the damn mail.

In New York, there’s a rubber room for teachers who aren’t allowed in their classrooms. They’re not allowed in their classrooms because they’ve been charged with horrible crimes, or accused of horrible crimes. I’m talking about pedophilia and things like that, but it’s almost impossible to fire a teacher. It’s as hard as it is to fire a manager in Germany.

So, these teachers can’t be fired, they lodge a grievance with their union, the union lodges a grievance with the city. The city, I guess, has nowhere to lodge a grievance, so they put these people in what’s called a rubber room, and they report there, to get their pay every day from 9 to 5, or whatever teachers’ hours are these days, 9 to 10:30, and they collect their money while they do crossword puzzles. That, folks, is a true story. I am not making that up.

Here is the uncomfortable truth for today, we are spoiled, and fat, and complaisant. We want everything our way without compromise or consensus. We need to stop this madness by no longer honoring it and by calling it what it is; childlike behavior by immature adults, and we’ve got to treat it by walking to the back of the train and doing absolutely nothing.

This is Alan Weiss and that is The Uncomfortable Truth.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 3

  • Ronny Carlson

    May 16, 2017

    Funny how this whole article reads like a personal grievance… with enough misspellings to warrant dismissing the whole thing as high-school level…

  • Hugh Blane

    May 17, 2017

    Wonderfully said Alan. Thank you.

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