You are fired!!

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

I have been fired from or quit every job I ever had but one. I imagine that is true for you, as well.

I believe before you get in a position where you have to fire somebody, you should have been fired, yourself. There are two reasons: 1) then you know how it feels; and 2) you know how little it actually means in the big picture.

The attitude in Canada today toward firing is about what it is toward capital punishment. The idea horrifies us.

Capital punishment is a topic of its own. People seem to focus in one of two areas. Either they focus on justice for the accused, which goes toward a winding concept called rehabilitation, or they focus on justice for the victim, which leads straight toward revenge.

I have another idea. I think we need to focus on justice for society. I think all the wandering, fatherless teenagers with weapons, all the junked-up dope-heads, all the embezzling financial officers and Canada Post should be powerless to affect the application of punishment, and should know what the punishment is and what the reason is. Society needs reassurance that the leaders are in charge.

Sun Tzu, author of the world’s oldest treatise on war, The Art of War, allegedly was challenged by his emperor to make a fighting unit of the women at Court. As the story goes, Sun Tzu divided the women into two units with one of the emperor’s favourite concubines at the head of each, instructed them in a drill and then commanded them to turn left, right, around, etc. The women broke down laughing.

To make the story short, Sun Tzu ordered the two favoured concubines beheaded, and then put another woman in charge of each unit. The effect, the story says, was a remarkable demonstration of the ability of women to learn military discipline.

It is reported the emperor lost his appetite for lunch. They were soooo… emotional back then.

This, then, begs the question: what would Sun Tzu do if Canada Post, Air Canada baggage handlers or the CAW went on strike? Is there a road to efficiency?

OK. We wouldn’t want anybody to lose their lunch, so instead of beheading the directors, how about if they were fired? Of course, being fired is not what it used to be. I would have to check, but I think if we fire a director of a Crown Corporation we have to buy them an island off Tahiti and give them money for life. There must be a disincentive in there, somewhere, but I just can’t see it.

The idea of money for life is interesting. Newfoundland has shown us the way. In the ‘90s, fish stocks disappeared off Newfoundland and the government instituted pogey. According to the government, since your training was fishing and there were no fish, you could work six weeks as a fishing guide in Labrador and draw unemployment for the rest of the year.

Clearly, the only thing needed for extended unemployment is a good enough reason, so we only need to wait for the right reason and we will finally be able to implement unemployment for life: work six weeks, get laid off and you’re on unemployment until you retire. Who wouldn’t love that?

It does, however, beg the question of who is going to pay for it. However, I am assured by secret sources that we will pay for it the same way we pay for it, now. We just find the people with the burden of work, and make them pay for the disadvantaged folks with no work. Instead of calling the bottom 20 percent of earners “poverty,” we could call the top 20 percent slaves. That might be best, anyway, since entrepreneurs today own little more than their incorporation papers and the duty to comply with every wack-0 scheme that comes down the pike.

Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitars and confiscated ebony and rosewood. All the bloggers are bemoaning the raid. Some say Gibson is culpable because it must obey the laws. Others say the government is at fault because Gibson’s wood was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which FSC denies. Gibson says it consulted with both FSC and Rainforest Alliance (RAL). I have a different question. Who the hell are FSC and RAL?

I will grant I know quite a bit about both. FSC wants me to put its logo on the magazine because our paper complies with their standards. They also want their logo bigger than ours. I told them to go fish. Wood Industry has always been an environmental advocate. However, the fact that they want to invent themselves, tell me I’m in compliance and let me use their logo seems to lack something. Does it occur to anybody that the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance only care about the stewardship of forests that are not theirs?

It amazes me the proliferation of non-governmental agencies that get funding for minding other people’s business. I live on a small river in southern Ontario. There are trout in my back yard. Cool. However, because I live where I do, I am subject to the whims of the Niagara Escarpment Association, The Credit Valley Conservation Authority and the Credit River Angler’s Association. I am assured there are a dozen other that are keeping their identity a surprise until the time is ripe.

Some of the really onerous associations are people like the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (which committee typically has no physicians on it), People for (your) Ethical Treatment of Animals, Humane Society (watching you) of the United States and dozens of others you already know.

Just up the hill from me is Ontario’s Green Belt. That’s run by the association that won’t let farmers sell their land.

I could go on. However, what on earth has Gibson been listening to FSC and RAL for? My guess is that FSC has represented itself as being able to protect companies from governmental penalties by only joining the club.

Of course, there are dues to be in the club, and the club actually has limited abilities to protect one from the “real” law. Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel found this out nearly 100 years ago, when they offered “protection” to people in their “territory,” only to learn the federal government of the U.S. has a longer reach, is difficult to protect against and claims more territory. We know that better than anybody, and we had the government of England to protect us. Au revoir, New Orleans. If only the Brits had the FSC.

I have often thought I would like to be a certifier. Can you imagine? I could own nothing, do nothing and send out empty promises followed up with annual invoices for life. Not only that, but I could do it while drawing pogey.

The problem is, I cannot find out what qualifications one needs to be a certifier of other people’s stuff. I grant there are solid qualifications to certify somebody else’s skill level, education or even income. But stuff?

I cannot find any place where one can become a Ph.D. in forest certification, although I see on its website that FSC has approved a national risk assessment for Germany. It’s about time, eh?

I always figure if you want to get to the top, you should start at the top, so to be a certifier, let’s look at a certifier. FSC’s Director General is Andre Giacini de Freitas. I can’t find Señor Freitas’ resume anywhere, except the citation that he got his start in developing the social and environmental policy for Rabobank in Brazil, and worked as regional forest coordinator for forest-workers’ unions in Latin America. RAL’s chairman of the board is Daniel Katz, who has an MBA, studied Chinese linguistics in Wuhan, PRC, and sits on the board of … wait for this one … Gibson Guitars.

I admit this essay has wandered a bit, but we started out talking about justice for society, pogey and protection rackets, and ended up with Andre Giacini de Freitas, of the forest-workers’ unions in Latin America, seemingly running from a fight with U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

I’m betting on the Yanks.

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