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Turnabout is fair play, except when it isn’t

At work, we recently had a customer who wanted to partake in the training courses for our software.  Training is generally done by one of our consultants, who (these days, anyway) does a GoToMeeting or Skype screen-sharing session for that purpose.

It will probably not surprise anyone that I work with a bunch of left-wing progressive types.  That seems to be common in IT anymore.  But our product is purchased by companies and organizations that span the political spectrum.  And as a result, for many, many years, I have had to deal with certain customers whose ideology I considered (and still consider) repugnant. But by and large, the people I dealt with were gracious, intelligent, and kept ideology and politics out of the relationship.

And that’s fine with me.  In my opinion, we’re not doing business with their ideology. They are paying us a significant chunk of change for our product (and additional coin for the training), which in and of itself is non-ideological. What they do with it after they purchase it is their business, not ours (so long as they’re not spamming with it — we’re death on spammers). I’ve been dealing with people in business for a long, long time, and frankly all I care about is that their money is good.  Everyone with a message is free to distribute that message in any media they choose.*

Therefore it should come as no surprise that refusing to deal with a customer for ideological reasons is not a viable excuse in my book.  But we had two of our engineers who refused on principle to provide the training for this customer.  One said flatly that he did not know if he could control himself if he were required to train them.  The other made wishy-washy mouth noises about how he did not feel he could train well on this subject and asked to be excused — but I know what his political philosophy is, and I know he knows the product better than that.

We did end up providing the training, but we had to pull in one of the product developers to do it.  Which was interesting, but not optimal — he has other things to do and training is not his bailiwick.

So let’s think about that for a moment.

This really is not the same thing as the wedding photographer or the baker who is forced against his or her religious beliefs to use their creativity in support of events that go against the grain of those religious beliefs.**  Naturally, the left will claim that training a right-wing organization to use the company’s sofware is a violation of the personal beliefs of the engineers who refused to do that training, but hang on a sec.

The wedding photographer and baker are (more than likely, and in all cases to date I think they were) sole proprietors or, at most, partners in a family business — that is, working for themselves.  They are perfectly able to determine for themselves what jobs they want to take on, and what jobs they do not want to take on.  The fact that their religious ideology precludes them creating art for gay couples is what has gotten them in trouble.  Being honest about that didn’t help.  On the other hand, the people who entered their shops and offices and asked for their services more than likely did so for the specific purpose of landing them in court and forcing them to do things that they believed violated their religious freedoms.***

In our case, without a word being said by the organization in question other than “We’d like to pay for training,” our two brave engineers said “We’re not playing that” — and they did so strictly because of the ideological bent of the customer in question.

However.

The two engineers aren’t the company.  They don’t own the company, they don’t call the shots.  But they got away with it anyway, because the boss isn’t the kind of guy to fire someone for that sort of thing.  And frankly, at least one of them would probably sue him if he did.

Nevertheless, they got away with something that a number of folks on the other side of the political spectrum got called on the legal carpet for.  The company didn’t suffer because we found someone else to provide the training.  But our engineers hid behind the corporate monolith and none of that got out to the customer, who was just happy to be trained.

Because I know the makeup and history of the customer, I have exactly zero doubt that, had either of our engineers been independent consultants who had refused to service the customer’s request for training and said it was because of the customer’s ideology, they would have wound up in court answering a judge’s questions as to why not.  Turnabout is fair play, and the customer would not have hesitated to file that sort of legal grievance.

Hiding behind the corporate wall, though, these two got away with it.

And that irritates the hell out of me.  Because I’m absolutely certain both of them think — no, they firmly believe — the wedding photographer and the cake baker were wrong.  That they don’t see their own situation the same way only proves once again that progressives don’t give a fuck about you — it’s all about them and their feelings.

______________

* Recipients of the message, however, are also just as free to dump it straight into the trash.

** Which is my round-about way of saying, “in support of gay weddings”.

*** Frankly, they would have been better off saying, “Sorry, our schedule is full up and we simply can’t take any new orders/jobs right now.”  And I’ll make the point that it seems like refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple due to strongly-held religious beliefs about homosexuality doesn’t sound all that different from refusing to serve blacks or Irish or Jews because of the color of their skin or their national origin or their non-Christian religion.  If you start saying you won’t do X for person Y because of Z, when Z has something to do with the other person’s beliefs and prejudices, it’s a goddamned slippery slope back to the back of the bus or separate drinking fountains or simply refusing to serve someone because you don’t like their ancestors back in the old country.  And it’s VERY hard to reconcile the fact that on one hand, we have the concept of freedom of association and freedom of religion, while on the other hand, we have the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Acts which say we’re supposed to treat everyone the same.

And yeah, this is a footnote rather than a full-on philosophical post of its own, because I am fucking confused about the whole thing myself.  It’s why I won’t take a real stand on the subject, other than to note that the only time anyone seems to care is when it’s a left-winger trying to force a right-winger to do something the right-winger doesn’t want to do, and never the other way around.  That’s the unfair part, and it’s the part I tend to focus on rather than worrying about people’s religious or ideological stances.

Either apply the law indiscriminately, or fuck the goddamn law.  And that’s my bottom line.

1 comment

  1. Joe

    They should have been fired.

    You do what the boss says or quit. Those are the options.

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