Amoeba’s Lorica: The Ignorance of the Left Hand (A Thanksgiving Day Musing)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was idly browsing the Internet on this US Thanksgiving Day 2018 (for which opportunity he is, as usual, indebted to the endless patience and forbearance of Quilly aka Dame Amoeba), when he came across a series of articles discussing the business of giving thanks. Yes, this is a thing. No, it’s not about merchandising the holiday. As if any holiday squeezed into the four weeks between Halloween and Black Friday has any chance of being profitably merchandized.

Some of these articles presumed to discuss the ‘how-to’ of giving thanks. One in particular held up, as a positive example, a prominent, long-serving executive who was credited with handing out (presumably not personally, but via analog or virtual letter carriers) some 30,000 thank-you notes during his career.

To which news, YFNA responded, “That’s nice. Some thanks is better than no thanks, I guess. Now tell me how the recipients responded to this not-tree-hugging mass of notes. Were they stoked to get a recognition from the boss/client/partner? Or did they go ‘yeah, yeah’, and trash/recycle the paper/bytes?”

If the latter, YFNA argues, the note-senders might be doing their cause more harm than good.

In case you missed it, it’s a common thing these days (as it has been for decades) for those who have profited handsomely from business to give thanks by donating a new construction of some sort, typically a building, to the university of their choice. Typically, the name of the donor goes on the building’s nameplate and into official university records. Just as typically, the gift covers construction costs but offers no relief from operating costs, saddling the university (and, still more to the point, the unit within the university that gets told that it will occupy the building) with those operating costs – which, typically, are far greater than those of the units to be replaced by the donated structure. Struggles to cover those costs add stress to occupants who are already struggling with the move to new space that is, too often, less functional than the cheaper space they vacated to accept the ‘gift’.

Is, then, the new building a thanksgiving gift? Or a billboard?!? Who is truly being served? The recipient? Or the donor?

What, then, about those thank-you notes? Especially the mass-produced kind with the faked signatures?

What about, instead:

Sales manager, phone call to distributor: “Hey. We’re really happy about your 15% increase in sales over the last quarter. The executive team has been talking about your performance, and is loving it. Thank you. Let’s talk about how you’re doing it, and what kind of feedback you’re getting from customers, so we can help you do even better.”

Supervisor, speaking personally to employee: “Yo. You’re doing great. Wonderful consistency, and that idea you had for safely speeding things up got noticed by the execs, and they want me to make sure you know this. Thank you. Let’s talk about what we can do to keep supporting you in your work.”

“OK, Amoeba. You asked, I’ll tell you. This kind of thanksgiving is hard. It requires somebody to communicate directly and personally with the person to be recognized. Which I, as the CEO, don’t always have time for, not if I am to do the rest of my job at the level the Board expects, never mind all the employees. And, as you know as well as I do, not all the managers in this company communicate with people as well as you and I would like, so trusting them to do this job is chancy. Worse, it runs the risk of promising those being thanked with concrete recognition for their efforts, such as a promotion, or a lower sale price, or an exclusive distribution arrangement, none of which may be in our interests or even within our power to deliver. Finally, it’s not from me! What recognition do I get for my initiative in thanking people?”

Yes, boss, giving thanks along these lines is hard. But YFNA argues that some things cannot be successfully automated. Like the handing out of 30,000 mass-produced thank-you notes with faked signatures is. Especially if the recognition you wish is something other than as a phony baloney, whose efforts are greeted with “yeah, yeah” and a tossing into the garbage.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba does not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, or of any other creation of human song and story. This declaration does not mean that the words attributed to these creations are without power or meaning. Especially in the West of the world where the words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth still inform, almost exclusively inform, our interpretation of the world and our codes of conduct within it. Even those words which are honored mostly in the breach.

Words such as these:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy [or, give thanks to others, which can be seen as a form of supplying a need – YFNA], do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The humanist will argue that “the Father who sees in secret” is, in fact, the mass of employees and customers who see that the bosses are truly thankful, by arranging for companies of people who are thankful and mean it – and who, in return, happily give their all for the success of the whole.

That same Jesus of Nazareth also is credited with these words:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, You fool! will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here again, the humanist will argue that “the fire of hell” is the reaction of persons who receive mass-produced thank-you notes with fake signatures on Thanksgiving Day after a full year of pushing and prodding and snarling and general un-appreciation from the one sending the note, and the persons representing that one in their daily interactions.

Thanksgiving Day is every day. Or no day.

Speaking of hard.

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