Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Making the choice to be informed and educated

Back in my “hell” days at the post office, I was definitely unusual.

The Postal Service wasn’t a big fan of educated people, especially when they held “strong back and weak mind” jobs like mailhandler, as I did, and most people eventually realized that “showing intelligence in the presence of the ‘holy ones’,” as postal management liked to style itself, was not a good idea.

I suppose I was less sensitive to the views of my intellectually inferior superiors back then. When you’re a high school dropout and someone of a lower status than you starts speaking in a way that is way over their expected social class, your reaction is to get angry and declare that “the smarties” are ruining the organization.

In a postal facility where a high-level manager was an elementary school dropout and several managers never finished high school, it was an insult, I was told, to be openly and actively pursuing a degree.

The proper response, I was told, was to lower my eyes and remember that everyone in postal management was better than me, and always would be. Many other employees who had education chafed at the attitudes, and the feeling that we couldn’t fight back against managers who lacked education but had the rank over us.

As I got closer to my four-year degree, I realized that there was no advancement worth having in the Postal Service. Sometimes, you just have to move on in life, and this was one of those times.

In June 1994, I decided that it was time to cash in my education and my chips, and move on. I never regretted it.

“We’re too smart”
Last night, as I watched the Pluto “phone home” on NASA-TV and occasionally glimpsed Venus and Saturn through my telescope, I thought of a person I knew at the West Palm Beach General Mail Facility. It had been during a space shuttle mission that had developed a problem, and I had mentioned it to him.

He expressed the view that we should not be doing any science or exploring at all. We should just worship god and submit to authority at work.

I later found out that he was really broken down: not only was he a Jehovah’s Witness, he had bought into management’s view that workers were the lowest of the low, and embraced it. “We’re too smart,” he’d tell me. “We need to just worship god.”

I felt so sorry for him. No education, no options, no way out. Postal management had trapped him rhetorically and was determined to keep him down.

I had less compassion and respect for those in management – and there were many – who knew that what they were doing was wrong, in violation of postal policy and often unethical.

They were the types who knew that allowing the cheating on the Price-Waterhouse mail testing – hiring temporary workers to go through the outgoing mail, looking for the test mail – was totally wrong, but let it happen anyway because they were worried about what would happen if they blew the whistle.

They knew about the giant storeroom in West Palm Beach full of damaged and destroyed parcels, that was closed and locked.

They knew that running the mail through the machinery over and over again to “get the numbers up” and fool postal headquarters was wrong, but they did it anyway.

To me, they were no different from the guy recently convicted of being “the accountant of Auschwitz,” who saw what was being done to people and did nothing to try to stop it.

If you asked anyone in the Postal Service why they allowed things to happen, they’d say, “I’m just following orders.”

That’s why postal customers want to rip their hair out when dealing with the average postal manager. No one wants to take responsibility for anything, and even implying that you might be able to help someone is a violation of someone’s orders.

Changing yourself
I always determined that I’d be different, and that I’d never turn into a droid, no matter where I was.

It hasn’t been easy. It means taking risks and chances, and sometimes chasing down challenges. But the rewards are so awesome!

Because of my desire for self-improvement and awareness, I’ve literally invented a new future for myself. My postal bosses are doing the same nonsense they were doing 20 years ago. As for me, I’m exploring all sorts of new opportunities and still dreaming of where my skills, education and experience can take me.

When I break out one of the telescopes and look at a planet or star cluster or galaxy, I feel like it’s a privilege, one that I’ve worked for and earned, to be this intelligent and able to do so many things.

Like me, you don’t have to wallow at the bottom. You can strive for more. I know, I sound like some smarmy motivational speaker, but if I leave behind anything it has to be this – and I know it sounds so cliché – dare to dream; hell, dare to do more: dare.

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July 15, 2015 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

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