Rise of the Used Dream Salesmen

A passionate rant

Language is important. Language is how we identify kinship with others, how we can tell we are on the same wavelength as another human being. Among friends, in-jokes and profanity cement a relationship. In business, to talk together of low-hanging fruit and blue-sky thinking is to say “I hear you and I reflect you so you know that I am like you.” We can all look at a word like time and see it expand like a fractal within our minds, stretch into myriad meanings: the scientific, the sociological, the philosophical, the religious….

Language is important. And the mis-use of language can devalue concepts that are vital for the growth and progress of individuals and humanity into mere buzzwords to sell sell sell buy buy buy.

One example is the oft-abused passion.

My eyeballs alight upon an awful lot of tweets advertising jobs. Many of these ads profess to be looking for applicants who are “passionate about customer service” or some other abstract concept like “advertising” or “sales” or “affordable web solutions”.

You know something? I’ve had a lot of great experiences working in customer service. I’m really good at solving people’s problems with a smile. When it’s done well, it can brighten someone’s day and that’s just lovely. But, I ask you in all honesty (and don’t bullshit me now), is anyone literally passionate about customer service?

I mean, here’s passion defined by the Oxford dictionary:

  • strong and barely controllable emotion
  • a state or outburst of strong emotion
  • intense sexual love
  • an intense desire or enthusiasm for something
“So Thomas, you have worked successfully in a variety of shops and callcenters over the last eight years, would you say you have a passion for customer service?”
“An intense, barely-controllable emotional and sexual love and enthusiasm? For customer service? Of course I do!”

Yeah mate, sure you do.

Isn’t requiring passion for customer service a guarantee you’ll be hiring a bunch of smooth-talking liars? Do you want to work with a liar? Or for a liar? Or even be served by a liar?

Or is the situation even worse?

Is it that people have become so desensitised to the word passion that it doesn’t even register for them any more? That they can shrug, yeah sure I guess I have a passion for customer service, as they schlep along to another interview, I mean, I’m sure I do? That the very heart-stopping concept of passion is being bleached of all meaning by this bullshit? That if you ask people what they are passionate about, they have been so conditioned to reply in a way related to nine-to-five work that their chugging grey matter can’t make the neural connections between the word passion and things-that-make-life-worth-living like love and travel and beauty and family and animals and nature and music and sex and writing and drawing and food and painting and and and? That checkbox-ticking passion is now a commodity to be sought in job applicants alongside a degree and work experience? Tick, tick, tick.

Isn’t this sad? Isn’t this linguistic abuse robbing us of something human that we don’t have other suitable words for? If passion is taken away, what is left? What word can then adequately convey how you feel about your lover, a book that cuts your heart in two, music that moves you to tears, art that catches in your throat?

What is passion if real live human beings can profess to have a passion for customer service?

And the thing is, everyone wants to be passionate about what they do these days. Everyone needs a tagline, a buzzword, a USP, something that grants them legitimacy to compete in this cutthroat capitalist world. Go big or go home fuckers.

A million desperate scrambling unfortunates are passionately crushing each other into the dust to get this job that you just feel meh about. Is that the fault of a society obsessed with constant activity and productivity in which there are not enough jobs? A society in which parents tell their children they can do anything but reality can’t back that up twenty years later? A society in which there is no way for everyone to do better than their neighbours but everyone is driven to try? A society in which there is demonstrably enough for everyone but it is distributed so unevenly that some will die (actually die) needing clean water while others could never use all the resources they have even if they lived for a thousand years?

Is that it? (I think that might be it)

Or is it your fault, you ungrateful little shit?

“You know what’s wrong with you, James? You lack passion. I’m afraid we need to let you go in favour of someone who shares our company values.”

Poor James. I bet his co-workers liked him. More than they’re going to like Thomas anyway.

What’s wrong with honesty? How (and why) have we veered so far off course of being really real people? Is it so unsustainable, so unimaginable, for people to tell the truth about what they have to offer and for that to be enough?

“We’re looking for people who are willing to smile 8 hours per day, like to solve problems and are reasonably professional in their demeanour.”

Yes! A person can do that! A human being can like that kind of thing just fine & be happy to do it for the money needed to survive.

But passion? PASSION?!

Don’t make me puke.