Saturday, December 03, 2005

Little Praise for, "In Praise of Nepotism"

Reading this book in March, 2005, I left it a long time until I decided to make my mind up on it. Bellow applies his perceptions on nepotism in the hunter-gather societies of the earliest ages of man, as if to say that since it has prevailed since the dawn of time, that is an easy explanation of how it is useful and necessary for such monkey business in the modern age. Especially Bellow turns his analysis upon U.S. political dynasties, and the Hollywood menagerie to reinforce his essential thesis which appears to be, "A little nepotism is good, a lot can be bad."

Question: "So, how much is bad?"

Unfortunately, I wish Bellow could have shown how meritocracies can succeed as well. I would prefer a book which highlighted the transformations of nepotistic companies and dynasties into meritocracies and how the profit margins can often rise when more minds are put to decision-making than those of mere bloodlines, or common political bents. In Canada there is a good example of how nepotism can be extremely bad for business, that would be detailed in the book, "The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family" by Rod McQueen.

But how many of these now defunct companies have nepotism to blame for it? You may be the judge.

Bellow details how immigrant populations especially in the U.S. helped to guarantee minimum wages and worker rights from the turn of the century onward, and I have to give credit where it is due, as in, regional inequities, racial, or religious bigotries, and discriminations must be opposed in all of their facets in any well-meaning society, one based on human rights and justice. But do remember, these represent a mere fraction of the worlds societies today and as such should be carefully formented, judiciously maintained, and not used to obliterate the will, the interests, or the rights of the majority, however the ends to which, in Canada anyway, perhaps in the interests of equal opportunity, much good will has utterly been lost through lack of caution or argument on the perceived usefulness of such programs. Well intended, but perhaps irreparably flawed in focus, as well documented in one of Canada's rags anyway: "Ottawa rescinds hiring ban on able-bodied white men, Deputy Minister apologizes for Public Works edict."

I think it is fair to say that many special interest groups, with clear intentions to undermine any overt analysis of their lobbyist-groups, intentions, and special interests in any democratic capital in the world today, have been responsible for a kind of political nepotism which has literally overtaken the perceived political networking usually associated with regional representational interests, where as local voters tune-out, lobbyists take their places, and voting powers, in the hearts and minds of political animals. This distorts and polarizes many issues and allows the shades of grey to envelope more and more widely lucrative scandals, such as the ad campaign scandals linked to former P.M. Chretien and his Cabinet.

So I wish Bellow could have turned his analysis on the solutions to such problems as here exemplified. As a white male, living on the benefits of white skin and native English proficiency, which rates a premium, paradoxically, more highly in non-western societies than within them, I know that the boon and benefit of such investigations into the roots of nepotism are worth making.

For example, do I really prefer to live in societies where I am basically paid for my skin and tongue? Not really. It is just another example of objectivization in my opinion, another evident link in some of the dead-ends to which global western society has gone awry of its essentially communitarian, meritocratic values and intrinsic underpinnings. In Bellow's thesis nepotism only appears to matter on its highest pinnacles of power, where it may be observed clearly, but it is pervasive especially in smaller employment markets, where one must comfortably assess, if you live somewhere where virtually everyone is related anyway, as in many villages of the western world, you are observing the prehistoric hunter-gather results in any modern event.

So what is equal opportunity? Reasonably, I would hope it means that there are efforts to globalize unfair, local hiring patterns. May the best candidate win? In all cases I think that is the point, representational hiring practices are well intentioned. But taken too far,it appears as a pogrom-style implementation of the most draconian ideals, the elimination of merit-based metrics, and fair, non-partisan policies, institutionalized value systems are tacitly supported which could be as bad as the nepotistic circumstances which they are originally formulated to prevent.

For generations the evolutions of democratic societies have been compelled to re-evaluate, resist, and reform nepotism, in these days of reduced government oversight, itself a threat to the democratic process, and increasingly self-regulated, or thus non-regulated corporate governance structures, the ills of which are most plainly seen in the developing world and the destruction of traditional cultures and their environments, it all makes it appear that nepotism is alive and well in all aspects of business net-working. Thus it is an ongoing swinging pendulum process? I have some hope in the fair mindedness of people in general, the rare episode anyway, although without reasoned protest, or active, reasoned, educated debate about such inequities, or the perceived solutions, each individual is destined to reconsider the idea of praise in the causes of nepotism with at least the hanging of some talisman or "nazar boncuk" over the entire topic of it.

Overall, Bellow provides a useful text on the topic.

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