Oct. 2nd, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
One of the few reasons that I would like to be CEO of a company is that I would then write a recruitment ad that contained the phrase "team players need not apply".

The emphasis on "team building" and "team spirit" in modern society sickens me, in the sense that it makes me feel ill. It doesn't disgust me, because I know that "teams" are (a) seen as vital for success and (b) that people need them.

BBC News today revealed that a quarter of university students in the UK had gone through "initiation ceremonies" ("hazing" in the US). Although the size of the proportion somewhat surprised me, it didn't shock me; mainly because nothing that the human race can come up with can shock me any more. It did, perhaps, slightly increase my level of misanthropy.

Such ceremonies are, of course "banned" by the authorities. And yet they continue. Which kind of makes you suspect that either the banning is somewhat half-hearted, or that the need to organize and participate in these things fulfils some kind of deep-seated primitive need in the faulty hardwiring of the human race. After all, initiation ceremonies are a worldwide tribal phenomenon.

So, what justifications did the students who supported initiation ceremonies come up with? The tone was consistent.

A four-year-old survey found that "the ceremonies were popular because they instilled 'humility' in new team members, and thus helped team building".

Another respondent managed to get the term in twice within a single sentence

Chris Baker, a graduate from University of Wales Institute in Cardiff (UWIC), said: "Initiations shouldn't be banned because they help build team spirit, relationships and teamwork between freshers (first-year students), and second and third-year students."

I'm not quite sure what kind of "relationship" he had in mind between first-years (the humiliated) and the elder students (the humiliators). But it doesn't strike me as a healthy one.

This brought to mind Julie Walters autobiography, which she is reading on Radio 4 at the moment. In it, she confesses to joining in the bullying of a former friend at the behest of the "leader" of the group. Nearly all such leaders have severe psychological flaws, but they are also strong at creating groups of people who want to please them. They are, as it were, versions of paedophile 'groomers', building a group, and then getting those group members to act in asocial ways towards a 'victim' in order to gain a certain sadistic satisfaction.

Julie Walters said that she still experienced huge shame that she joined in with this bullying and, more to her credit, she actually wrote to said victim many years later to apologize. Too many adults say "yes, we did that, but children are like that, aren't they" as if this excused uch abysmal behaviour.

People go through these initiation humiliations because most of them have an absolute terror of being alone. This is hard-wired into most humans, and the drive to conform, no matter how objectively insane that act of conforming might be, is strong indeed. No-one in their right minds believed that all Germans who voted for Hitler were bad people, that all Germans who went along with the persecution and eventual near-destruction of various minorities were intrisically evil. What they were victims of was this ongoing desire to be members of a group.

"Teamwork" and "team spirit" might occasionally lead to good results, but more often they lead to team members supporting acts which they would never initiate on their own, because the fear of being in a minority of one is greater than the fear of doing something that objectively you know is wrong.

Poker players, thankfully, don't tend to follow such rules. They have an inherent independent non-team spirit (which is why many of them are suspicious of many mainland Europe "team" poker ethics and why many UK players see such things as the first step to collusion). Poker players tend to be the renegades who were never in groups at school. They often weren't the victimized, either, partly because they actually didn't really give a shit. The perfect victim is the one who also really would like to be in the group that is doing the victimizing. The 'victim' who takes the "dear me, what a sad bunch of conventional group joiners you are" tends to get left alone to get on with it.

Which is, of course, fine by us. Team members, not welcome. Team leaders, you are sick.

PJ

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