1.33 The Path of Destruction; Or, K’s Great Escape

Michael P. Ford
Oct 22, 2020 · 5 min read

Uncle John set forth a number of “action steps” in his first letter to K, one of which was to “specifically identify the learning process and what it entails, plus the time space necessary.” He did this in a second letter after he and his wife, Ginny, had made a trip to Berkeley to meet with K and Ally to further explore the possibility of K leaving school to join the dealership.

Image for post
Image for post
Redon, Spirit of the Waters

April 10, 1997

Dear K,

We have had two weeks to review our situation and what direction we need to take for you and Ally and I-10 International Trucks.

First, I believe you are fully qualified to join my company and seek the career opportunities you desire. I understand that you may elect, down the road, to seek an individual or different opportunity after you fully appreciate what working for my company and the culture would entail. I would at that point certainly be open to supporting any venture you might choose as long as I believe it is a reasonable risk for both of us.

Second, I believe you should know up front that I expect more from my relatives than I do my regular employees — you must accept this. Please understand that we and you must project the following image through your behavior, actions and words:

* Dedication
* Hard work
* No special privileges
*Example every day
* Leadership in Sales, Profits and Expense Reduction

I know you may think this is simple, but sometimes doing is harder than seeing or saying. These are real expectations on my part.

Third, you will be employed as follows:

Position: Management Trainee
Training: 90 days in each department

* Parts
* Service
* Sales
* Rental and Lease

Six months in various key positions in Accounting:

* Accounts Receivable
* Accounts Payable
* Asset Control
* Wholegoods invoicing
* Tax and financial preparation

Off site training at

* ADP (Computer system)
* International (major OEM supplier)
* ATD (Dealer Academy)
* Local tax and financial planning

Monthly review for two hours — JDM/KMM on progress plus a half day work in progress. The training schedule can be accelerated based on your learning curve.

You would start out making $36,000 per year, and at the end of your training or second year, you would then be assigned the management position that would benefit the corporation and you, long term. Compensation would be completely reviewed and a complete salary and bonus program would be presented for your review and acceptance.

K, if this is acceptable, the following would be our timetable:

* Securing housing for K and Ally (KMM, JDM prior to 8/1/97)
* Orchestrate movement of furniture and goods (Mike D, and JDM)
* Ally — job interviews (JDM and Ginny)
* Start date would be 8/11/97 and training would commence immediately

This is exciting — if you have the dedication and desire a new challenge, let’s begin with our commitment to each of our success.

J. D. Mucros

Assuming this was the plan, how did things actually turn out? What did K’s “training schedule” look like in hindsight? Just how steep did his “learning curve” turn out to be?

In fact, things turned out very differently than Uncle John envisioned. For example, K ended up spending far more than “90 days” in each of the company’s operating departments and he was never assigned to the company’s “Rental and Lease” business (except for the occasional “special project”). “Accounting” turned out to be his first assignment, not his last and he never spent time “in the various key positions in Accounting.” Except for attending a number of conferences sponsored by ADP, International and the American Truck Dealers association (ATD) that had some training components, K never got around to doing any dedicated “off site training”; and, finally, Uncle John and K only met sporadically rather than regularly to review his progress.

Given the extent to which K’s actual experience deviated from the plan, what exactly about his experience constitutes something that is reasonably understood as a “learning process”? In Part II of our report, we describe how K started to represent himself to others as the dealership’s “Systems Analyst” and was widely recognized by others as the dealership’s de facto “computer geek” and jokingly referred to as “PC man”. Significantly, we also report that K failed to succeed his uncle in becoming a dealer-principal. As such, readers may question whether K experienced anything at all during his three-year stint at the dealership that deserves to be called an “apprenticeship” and draw the conclusion that K was only a “Management Trainee” in name, but not in fact.

Nullius in verba — K swears allegiance to no authority and wherever the storm drags him, he turns in as a guest.

Salesmanism concerns the Adventures of Ideas.¹⁴⁴ K’s experience learning or failing to learn the family business attests to an operative “culture” that takes the form of “an involuntary adventure” in which “the movement of learning…links a sensibility, a memory and then a thought, with all the cruelties and violence necessary, as Nietzsche said, precisely in order to ‘train a nation of thinkers,’ or to ‘provide a training for the mind’.”¹⁴⁵ In the final analysis, learning appears as “the transcendental movement of the soul”¹⁴⁶ and culture as a new paideia, “the education of the ideal member of the polis.”¹⁴⁷ If capitalism “proceeds by way of the State-form,” then that movement proceeds by way of the “town-form”.¹⁴⁸ If capitalism “has reawakened the Urstaat, and given it new strength,” representing the latest and perhaps ultimate form of “evolved States,” then that education concerns another principle of evolution that also appears in the archeological record and now goes by the name of The Evolved Apprentice.¹⁴⁹ And if capitalism “has reawakened the Urstaat, and given it new strength,” then like the ancient empires of yore it, too, may disappear “suddenly, as though in an instantaneous catastrophe.”¹⁵⁰ In this final major section, we take up and develop these two aspects of the target situation before outlining the plan for Part II of our report.

[144] Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas. See also, Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, p.181.

[145] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, pp.165–166.

[146] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, p.166

[147] Gilles Deleuze, What is Grounding?, p.112.

[148] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.454.

[149] Ibid, p.448. Kim Sterelny, The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique (MIT Press, 2012). In elaborating the “apprenticeship learning model” at the center of his thesis, Sterelny writes: “apprentice learning depends on individual cognitive adaptations for social learning but depends as well on…adaptively structured learning environments.” While he cites Jean Lave’s ethnographic work on Liberian tailor communities and is concerned with the unique properties of the “learning trajectory of an apprentice,” he finds no reason to build on Lave’s theory of situated learning and therefore overlooks the profound analysis of the learning environment Lave’s theory entails.

[150] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.459.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium