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Birthplace as ‘Tipping Point’

Recently a friend was telling me about his problems with his boss. He says his boss hates him and doesn’t even try to hide his feelings.

“You mean he hates you for no reason at all?”

“For no reason at all!”

Well, frankly, I didn’t take my friend for his words. There must be something he didn’t want to tell me.

“It can’t be for no reason at all. There’s something you’re not telling me. ”

His sideways look said it all.

“I think he has problems with my ethnic background.”

So, that was it! If things were normal and we were in full control of our mental faculties, I should have jumped with something like, “What! What do you mean ethnic background? Didn’t anyone tell you we’re in the twenty-something century!” But nothing seems to be normal these days and his was just one more story of the mess we’re in.  Despite all the-coast-is-clear talk, ethnicity has become a major factor in our lives. Scary, isn’t it?  Indeed, we hear of bosses who put ethnic considerations on top of actual job performance to evaluate their staff, of course, in a clandestine sort of way. So a disgruntled employee who scribbles the following letter wouldn’t be blowing things out of proportion.

“Dear Sir;

“I know the moment you receive this letter you might say ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ Well, I’m the guy in the finance department; the guy of whom you told others, “I don’t like him!” Well, that you don’t like me isn’t much of an issue. (After all, I’m not asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage!)  But your saying so publicly is, indeed, an issue; very much so because the way you voice your feelings, carry racial undertones! In case your informers didn’t tell you, people talk. You can’t shun attention when you unceremoniously slide to the depths of trying to play the ethnic card to scare me from looking into the organizations fiscal books. That’s my job, isn’t it? At least my job description says so!

“Sir, you don’t seem to like that. The knowledge that I’m looking at every page and every line isn’t giving you comfort. So your idea keeping me at bay is pulling the ethnic card, tying me to this group or that and telling the world, “See!  I told you he’s a traitor spying for such and such a group!” Ha! Just for the record, did your birthplace play a role in your appointment? Well, according to the gossip in the corridors it did play an important role. You were the perfect pole vault athlete, one minute you are on the ground, and the next you have soared fine meters-plus! You never presided over a single department and yet look where you’re now! So the logic is simple; you shot to the top on the ‘merit’ of your ethnic identity and the only wisdom you’ve gained is trying to explain everything on ethnic terms.’

“Do you remember a week back when you summoned me to your office? You started nice and dandy. You were the poster boy of modesty. You were even smiling! (Incidentally, my colleagues didn’t believe me when I said ‘He was smiling!’ I don’t blame them. Maybe you weren’t actually smiling; maybe you were showing me the most advanced state of a frown!)

‘So how is work?’

‘It’s nice, sir.’ I was my humblest I could be. You are my boss; my fate in that organization is in your hands. So, humble is the least I could be.

‘I’m glad to hear that. By the way, would you like some coffee?’ Coffee! Isn’t that going a little over the fence? That’s what I thought. Not that I am a coffee fan. But since refusing would give you the wrong ideas I consented. Of course, when the secretary insisted I take that spotted cup and not the one I was reaching for I had a funny feeling. Yes, I’m superstitious. Maybe you two slipped some potion in that cup to crumble my will and turn me into another ‘yes-man’ of yours.  Why was she so eager to hand me THAT particular cup! You didn’t notice, but I didn’t have a single sip!

“I know you are a very efficient accountant, but there are things you should know,’ you said. I was all ears, not because I craved for information but because I should play the obedient staff member role.  Also, I have a very demanding wife and three kids who think I’m in the same league with Bill gates. ‘So, you have been looking into the books for the last three weeks. But you have to drop that for the moment because I want to give you another assignment.’ I refused, and you went ballistic.

So like the mother of all bombs, you pull the ethnic card; the tragedy is not that you are willing to slide so low, but there seem to be those who fall for your shenanigans. 

Sir, why are you so keen to find out my political beliefs? What’s it to you if I’m an admirer of Zorba the Greek! I mean I am a simple accountant concerned with numbers and not the beard of Karl Marx. (Such tempting raw material for human hair merchants, that beard! Marx himself would have made a fortune, and his rallying call would have been, “Your beard is your financial salvation!”

You’re even trying to unseat me; to see my back. Well, it isn’t going to happen that easily. I’ll be making so much noise that noise pollution would be a global concern.  Lately, you have brought in a few people for positions which don’t even exist. How did you mange to do that? How did you mange to employ people who strangely seem to be very much interested only in our private lives! Are they there to shadow us? Are they collecting dirt on us so that you could smear us beyond recognition! Sorry to tell you this, but they are not doing much of a job there. You should have told them not to be too visible. They almost glue their ear to our lips! Peering into private drawers and looking over people’s shoulders to see cell phone numbers isn’t very sophisticated. Maybe you should have given them some orientation. Every time they show their faces conversations stop. Sorry for spoiling your day.

You are even asking about the background of my parents, may God bless their souls. Well, my dad was the commander in chief of Napoleon’s army. Is that all right with you! My mom was the half sister of Queen Nefertiti. How about that! Sir, please don’t download your insecurities on me. I don’t know where you’re born or what your political beliefs are, and to tell you the truth, I don’t care! 

It is a bitter pill to swallow. But, as things are these days, one’s place of birth seems to be playing decisive roles in one’s career and social relations in many places. SO SAD!


Contributed by Ephrem Endale
Contributed by Ephrem Endale