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Linus, and whether tactfulness has any value

From: Gespracht
Subject: Linus, and whether tactfulness has any value
Date: 24 Dec 2005 05:54:53 -0800
User-agent: G2/0.2

Recently a manager at my company made the statement that Linus,
because he speaks too honestly and lacks tact, is somehow a
person who lacks personal development, despite being
entertaining and despite doing good things otherwise. I don't agree,
because I believe that "tact" is merely a tool and that in many
situations, its use can be abhorrent if not dangerous.

Tact is about defending the feelings of people. It's self-censorship.
But if a fact should not be censored, only a fool would cave in
to coercion. "Oh, please don't say that, they they would only worry
if they knew about the nuclear meltdown."

The thing is, person A demanding tactfulness of person B is coercion:
it says "hey you, shut up". Sometimes, maybe 25% of the time,
that is a reasonable request. "Don't tell her she has a nose like a
OK. But what if "she" is a CEO who just fired 20,000 workers
in order to get a bonus for herself. Not OK! Tell her about the nose,
and about a lot of other things.

Tactfulness can also be pathological :
Take for instance the lead-up to the Iraq war, in which Congress
could have told Bush to fuck off, but didn't want to seem to be
making a fuss when the public was hungry for revenge against
anyone connected with terrorists. Of course we now know it was
all a sham by Bush/Cheney. The public was fooled and congress was lied
to which is an impeachable offense. But again, congress refuses
to impeach because that would be making too much of a fuss.
Likewise, the massive evidence of vote-rigging in the 2004 and
2000 elections has been ignored, because taking it seriously
would mean throwing Bush/Cheney out of office, which again,
is making too much of a fuss. Thus Congressmen are very tactful people,
it seems: here meaning obsequious and cowardly and complicit.

So I have to applaud Linus for at least speaking out, which
takes courage. As Mark Twain said, "When you find yourself on
the side of the majority, it's time to reform."

Perhaps it would be best if managers at all companies learn
that workers are not the sheep they would prefer us to be.

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