July 17, 2011

"IC Solutions CEO Joe Stafford, who takes time to reread the 1,100 pages of the pro-capitalism novel Atlas Shrugged every two years..."

"... says he doesn't 'have enough time in the day to bother with' the 94 pages of Cheese."

From a 2002 USA Today article about the popularity of the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" I stumbled across that article as a result of reading the "Who Moved My Cheese?" article in Wikipedia, which I did because I said "Who Moved My Cheese?" — in a conversation with Meade about the troubles he (like others) was having with the new comments format on this blog — and I then realized that I'd long assumed I knew what "Who Moved My Cheese?" meant and, moreover, that Wikipedia would probably summarize the book, which it did. I learned that I was kind of wrong about what "Who Moved My Cheese?" was about. I thought it was about the way fussy people are disconcerted by small changes in their environment.
Some managers are known to mass-distribute copies of the book to employees, some of whom see this as an insult, or an attempt to characterize dissent as not "moving with the cheese". In the corporate environment, management has been known to distribute this book to employees during times of "structural re-organization," or during cost-cutting measures, in an attempt to portray unfavorable or unfair changes in an optimistic or opportunistic way. 
So that's why it was a big bestseller for 5 years. People were buying it for other people.

4 Questions:

1. Have you ever been insulted by a book someone gave you to read? Have you ever — be honest — insulted anyone with a gift book?

2. What 2 things in your life are equivalent to Joe Stafford's "Atlas Shrugged" and "Who Moved My Cheese?"? (That is: You have time for something that take a lot of time, but you don't have time for something else in the same category that takes very little time.)

3. What catchphrase have you discovered yourself to be using incorrectly because you never bothered to partake of the source material?

4. If you had to think of a parable off the top of your head, do you think you could come up with something better than "Who Moved My Cheese?" and if so, does it irritate you that Dr. Spencer Johnson had that big-ass best seller? (Next time write a parable that will be useful propaganda for people with money and the motivation to make a lot of insult-gifts.)

108 comments:

Paco Wové said...

Yes, the whole point of "...Cheese" is to tell employees, "Yes, we laid off half the department and doubled the workload of the remaining half. Stop bitching and get to work!"

Mark S said...

I worked as a developer for a medium sized company (a few hundred employees) that had a book published about its first 30 years. Somehow this book popped up on my desk during my first couple weeks there. So, I used it as a mouse pad on my test system. Someone commented that it was the best use of the book.

edutcher said...

Interesting that many have discovered Ayn Rand. I read her in Soc class in undergrad school and wasn't that impressed.

In answer to the questions, I go through Byron or Kipling every couple of years after buying compendia of both (among others) to pass the time during a long commute.

History, rather than fiction.

None I can think of off the top of my head.

Will this be on the final?

Chase said...

With a personal library of over 3,000 books, I began doing the right thing about 5 years ago: giving them away to people who seemed a right "fit". It is a joy to see a person's face when they receive a book or magazine (Espeecially old magazines that reflect a recipient's stated interest) that they are interested in, particularly because it shows that someone spent the time to observe and think about him or her.

Every current bet seller I read makes me think of someone that I can gift the book to with the inscription "I really enjoyed this, thought you might as well." Of course, if I don't like the book or think it won't be well received, I give it to Goodwill.

The personal and overflowing thank you notes that I get are very satisfying.

So - in answer to the question "Have you ever — be honest — insulted anyone with a gift book?" - the answer is no.

Pogo said...

WMMC? Is book about stoicism, dumbed down and New Aged a bit.

It can be useful, but it is a serious insult to have your boss give you a copy. It is indeed a message that things are or will soon be nearly unbearable.

Better to read Marcus Aurelius.

YoungHegelian said...

I don't know if I've ever insulted anyone, but I think I've bewildered a few nieces and nephews with my choices. It's tough sometimes, to not only to put yourself in their much younger heads, but also to get a life-lesson across without seeming a sententious old fart.

G Joubert said...

I can't imagine reading Atlas Shrugged again. It was so tedious the first time. Ayn Rand had her ideas, which are worth thinking about and discussing, but English was not her native tongue and her writing style tended towards the prosaic.

Ten or so years ago I worked for a large organization in which senior management did distribute Who Moved My Cheese to middle management. I don't know about "insulting," but it was a bit condescending.

gadfly said...

Ann, I want to support the new comment format. With so many Blogger blogs out there, I am tired of looking at the same old, same old format that has been around since Blogger began -- at least that is what I suspect.

I also use Blogger -- but my comment section does not get used and abused as yours does.

Does the comment format change have something to do the switchover to WordPress?

Lincolntf said...

Posting from my Blackberry now. All of a sudden my PC is unable to login to Althouse. Odd.

timmaguire42 said...

"Insulted" is a big word to attach to a gift. I've been given books that were not my style and I didn't read them. I've probably given books that were not their style and they didn't read them but were too polite to tell me about it.

I was only vaguely aware of this cheese thing and now that I've read the Wiki, I could have happily continued being vaguely aware. I can think of only two people who could do a good parable off the top of their head--Jesus and Aesop. And very few could do a good parable under any circumstances.

Shouting Thomas said...

The One Minute Manager was all the rage for a while. I gave it and received it, and never read it, because it was unreadable.

Having a bookshelf lined with books about management was mandatory.

I go back and listen to Cry of Love by Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams Biggest Hits and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis to find my bearings from time to time.

When I'm fully retired, I'd like to re-read Dostoevsky and Henry Miller. One of my favorite Miller books was Me and My Bike. I've re-taken up bicycling. Would like to read that again.

One writer who's work I will re-read in its entirety is Solzhenitsyn.

Atlas Shrugs is a little wooden, polemical and unentertaining. Too sincere.

The Parable of the Talents is my favorite. It's a mystery that continues to defy explanation.

Simon Kenton said...

I was given "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by a former girlfriend. I thought, "God in the Skies! I can't believe I did it with that woman. I hope that verse about becoming one flesh doesn't carry over into the afterlife. Shit!"

Lionheart said...

And I thought the "Cheese" book might be about a Packer fan losing his favorite hat...

Akiva said...

Who is John Galt? Long, tedious, but now we're living it! Business license for a lemonade stand, all people making good money are "not doing their part". Right out of the book.

Had the Cheese pushed on my as a middle manager. "Required reading." Great, we didn't have authority to change anything anyway, just deal with the cheese shoved in our face.

BT said...

Millionth!!! For the fiftieth time.

Michael said...

I moved your fucking cheese, asshole.

Jason Keenan said...

Chase said...
With a personal library of over 3,000 books, I began doing the right thing about 5 years ago: giving them away to people who seemed a right "fit". It is a joy to see a person's face when they receive a book or magazine (Espeecially old magazines that reflect a recipient's stated interest) that they are interested in, particularly because it shows that someone spent the time to observe and think about him or her.


I am one of those people who drag books around like trophies. I love reading and was always taught to cherish books. This is a great idea for getting rid of books without selling them by the giant-box-full to a used bookstore clerk who obviously doesn't want them. Thanks for sharing!

Phil 3:14 said...

I've read "Who moved my cheese" a couple times (I bought it myself). Yes, Spencer Johnson's writing/story telling style is frustrating for some. Having said that he does make good points.

I'm not sure the commenters here and you, Professor, got the same message from WMMC that I did. For me its the essence of the teacher protests in Wisconsin, the "don't mess with my Medicare" protestations and probably at the core of the failure of companies like Blockbuster.

Because things are working so well now doesn't mean they'll stay that way

and

Because you hate the way things are changing and can't adapt to that reality doesn't mean they're not going to change

In my professional experience, doctors are notorious for essentially declaring that "someone stole their cheese" (that "someone" is usually a hospital administrator, insurance company, "poorer quality" competitor, for-profit entity, larger multi-specialty group etc)

Phil 3:14 said...

and while we're at it:

I WANT MY OLD ALTHOUSE BLOG BACK!!!!!

Grames said...

Question 2 remarks that the "Who Moved My Cheese" and "Atlas Shrugged" are in the same category. Althouse, this is a crazy, bizarre, incomprehensible, and dumb comparison. You've never read Cheese, and I don't recall that you finished Atlas. What the hell are you talking about? Do you even know?

I know, you are going for the page views. It must get hard to post every day for years and avoid running out of things to say. Hence the 'provocative question' posting style which can conceal your own ignorance about a topic. However, questions can be revealing.

tl;dr: Post sucks.

Lionheart said...

We have always let the family pick through our books and choose what they desired. Now, with Kindle, I am not sure how books could be distributed unless I bought however many readers Kindle allows (5?) and gave those out.

Ron said...

hmm... I read Thus Spoke Zarathustra every day for almost two years....I'd finish and go back and read it again.

I remember seeing a parody of One Minute Manager called One Bullet Manager: Management Secrets of The Khmer Rouge...

roesch-voltaire said...

1. The mother of a conservative girl friend I was dating insisted that I read Atlas Shrugged; our relationship ended when I finished the book and criticized it.
2. I will read the Sunday NYT almost completely, while just skimming the local rag.
3. "The constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself," was not said by Ben Franklin, but I thought it was until I read the research on the quote.
4. Instead of Cheese, I prefer the mice in the Japanese story of Guri and Gura-- a nice counter narrative to Cheese.

The Crack Emcee said...

I don't know shit about the Cheese, but I do know the cult of Ayn Rand, and the effects it's had/is having on our world. That so few care about cultism, when it's acting on us every day, is kind of frightening in some ways (I can tend to play out likely scenarios based on cultish "thinking," not all of them far-fetched) and hers - because of the subject matter and having as powerful a hold on some as they do - can really screw us up.

Like L. Ron Hubbard, she died pretty pathetic and, I think, people should take that into account - along with the hypocrisy that brought her down - before they get too wrapped up in her ideas as a basis for either how to run your life or a country.

Lionheart said...

Time saver Grames: If a post sucks, move on.

Simon Kenton said...

On insulting with a book:

One of my cousins (we'll call her X) converted to catholicism and bred about 4 times. Her husband then took up with the other woman up the street (Y), who had also bred 3 or 4 times; they fled to Las Vegas for quickie divorces, consumerist bliss, and a quickie marriage, leaving the 8 kids (or so) behind. Y's abandoned husband took the path of least resistance and started something with my cousin. After a while the scarlet couple returned. There was reluctance, there was pressure, and Y's former husband was induced to marry my cousin. Each of the 2 new couples cemented their relationships by breeding 2 or 3 more kids.

"The Population Bomb," in plain brown wrappers. More than one copy, too.

gadfly said...

"The Road to Abilene" is Jerry B. Harvey's contribution to the world of personal parables which netted big bucks for his management training business.

I used the parable just before the election of 2008 to complain about the impending Abilene Paradox that would result in Obama's election.

The parable doesn't take long to read and you can find it here.

Jeff said...

Where I worked, they didn't buy copies of the book for us. They made photocopies of the book for everyone.

alan markus said...

I've been a fan of Stilton Jarlsberg- Hope N' Change Cartoons

Someday I will buy his book, written about 10 years ago - Who Cut the Cheese?

Here's an excerpt:

"Each morning the rats and the teeny people would wake up, stretch, find a wall to whiz on, then begin their daylong hunt for cheese in the maze.

The rats, Snitch and Scamper, having brains which looked and functioned much like the raisinets which frequently popped out of their other ends, had to rely entirely on their instincts to find cheese.

But the teeny people, Hi and Ho, used their more complicated brains and sophisticated reasoning power to search for cheese. And for them, the cheese was more than cheese. It was Cheese with a capital "C" - representing not just food, but also a life of prosperity and happiness, much the way it does in Wisconsin."

SteveR said...

Simpler WMMC: You are screwed or soon will be

Ann Althouse said...

"Does the comment format change have something to do the switchover to WordPress?"

No.

It's just an option within Blogger which I chose because I think it looks cleaner and sleeker.

John Burgess said...

State Dept. gave out WMMC to those taking part in certain management courses given by private contractors hired through HR. It came complete with a film for the course. I wasn't very impressed.

The only 'insult' I take from being given a book is if the same person gives me the same book more than once. I'm pretty sure that the second-giving is a result of insufficient care taken in choosing a gift, but then, it is a gift and some thought went into it, so I cannot be very 'insulted' in good conscience.

I've never sought to insult anyone through a book gift.

I re-read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow every year and I find new things with each reading. I re-read his V. every two or three years. Either of those books takes more effort than almost any other (Finnegan's Wake being a clear exception). I consider it time well spent and the pleasure I get from the re-reading is definitely worthwhile.

WV: gaidsec Something's gotten corrupted here, if only spelling.

bagoh20 said...

"You have time for something that take a lot of time, but you don't have time for something else in the same category that takes very little time.)"

Reading Althouse / reading my "to do" list

LincolnTf said...

Test

LincolnTf said...

Wow, I don't know what happened but I was just forced to give my cellphone number in order for Google to allow me access to my Google ID. Fuck 'em, I gave them the # from a phone that's been dead for years. Still, I hate that they put me in that position.

bagoh20 said...

I read an article recently about the failure of the plethora (it never feels right to use that word as a man) of business guru crap from the late 8os thought the mid 2000s. How so much of it was wasted time and money and how many of the companies used as models for these are now gone or doing poorly. In our company, we mostly avoided it but did get drawn in a little now and then.

In government or other union workplaces it is resisted by the union as competition for the wasted dollars. They have their own ways to waste time and money and don't need no stinking competing interests.

For a while every year, I would get elaborate projects from middle managers at our customers to join them in a "partnering" of some sort. Every single time, within 18 months, that manager would be gone and the project abandoned. Most of it is stupid on it's face, but the need to keep middle managers busy blossoms in good times . In bad times, it all gets thrown out with the rest of the waste.

Now my strategy is the rope-a-dope: I either tell them we are not interested or just drag my feet until the guy gets laid off, which always happens. We do manufacturing - management is necessary evil, not a goal.

chickenlittle said...

LincolnTf said...
Wow, I don't know what happened but I was just forced to give my cellphone number in order for Google to allow me access to my Google ID.

They are making a list and checking it twice.

kholvoe said...

More in the fiction arena, but I can/do read the Hobbit / Lord of the Rings every couple of years, but have not read any of Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy. Honestly, most of them seem like too much work (which is odd, considering that Tolkien's prose is much more complicated).

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

"He's Just Not That Into You" turned out to be the worst gift ever for the daughter of a friend of mine. Yikes. Won't make that mistake again. But at least it wasn't "Total Woman."

Pianoman said...

I worked for a company that was purchased in 1996 by Texas Instruments. They left us alone for a year and a half, and then they swarmed in and started changing everything. Those that questioned the changes were given copies of this book. I was one of those people.

I think it went beyond just trying to "help" an employee to "cope with change". The company was basically saying that if you didn't blindly accept everything that they were doing, there was something wrong with YOU.

I left the company 3 months after receiving the book. It was clear to me that my services were no longer desired. One year after I left the company, the main complex of the original company shuttered its doors. "Mission Accomplished", I guess.

The book became a useful tool for bludgeoning employees into submission, presented in the guise of a fable. Managers loved it, because it enabled them to avoid the messy business of actually having to explain WHY major changes needed to take place.

Synova said...

Sigh... #3.

Just the other day I had to explain to one of my (now adult) children what an "O face" was, that it wasn't just funny because it was a funny "surprised" face.

Jay said...

"The Population Bomb," in plain brown wrappers. More than one copy, too.

I love watching you anti-humanists in action.

Skyler said...

My brother gave me a copy of The Seven Habits of some sort of successful person, I forget the title. I never read it and don't intend to. I figured since he never turned a paper in on time when he was in college, sometimes a couple of years late, that I didn't need any advice from him on habits.

When I worked at Dell, designing some of their factories, our VP told us to read a book about Herbies or some other such thing. I never read that either. I liked that VP and respected him, but his advice to make the factory produce more by "just remove the bottlenecks in the process" was not taken well. That was my entire job description, I kind of already knew that.

Then we can get into the massive fraud of the black belts in six sigma. These types of programs can look like they produce results, but in reality they are just management systems to systematize what good engineers should already be doing, and creating a ton of paperwork and remora-like jobs to allow clerks and busy bodies control the engineering process.

Roux said...

"Cheese" is book handed out by HR types to appease the MBA's & CPA's that are now running your company. Usually these types look at balance sheets and numbers but hardly ever know what those numbers mean.

I was questioned on my budget yesterday about a FAX server I need to buy. The CPA/MBA asked why we still used faxes instead of just doing it electronically. He forgot to read the company policy that says "email is not to be used for" certain documents but FAX is OK. And of course I'm the dumbass for following the rules.

Mike K said...

The new comments template changed my handle.


1. Have you ever been insulted by a book someone gave you to read? Have you ever — be honest — insulted anyone with a gift book?


My ex-wife gave me a book titled "Women Who Love Too Much." I'm not sure what she thought it was about as I am sure she never read it. I did read it, however, and it was an excellent description of her. Pretty interesting book and explained a lot, like the woman who is rearranging your closet after two dates.

Joe Schmoe said...

I don't know shit about the Cheese, but I do know the cult of Ayn Rand, and the effects it's had/is having on our world. That so few care about cultism, when it's acting on us every day, is kind of frightening in some ways (I can tend to play out likely scenarios based on cultish "thinking," not all of them far-fetched) and hers - because of the subject matter and having as powerful a hold on some as they do - can really screw us up.

Crack, big fan, but you're way off on this. First, what kind of cults are you talking about? Rand wasn't about cults. She thought deeply and wrote often about about the negative effects of socialism and communism; even, or especially, the unintended ones. She believed in individual exceptionalism and promoted her philosophy of Objectivism as a way to unleash that exceptionalism.

I'm not a devotee of objectivism, but I'm glad Ayn Rand got a chance to write what she did. Which she wouldn't have if she never left Russia after the revolution.

I'd love to see a poll that showed a breakdown of how many people like or dislike her work, and out of the ones who dislike it, how many have actually read it? Seriously, every lib I know hates Rand, but none have ever read very much of it.

Atlas Shrugged gets all the ink, but I prefer the Fountainhead much more.

Rumpletweezer said...

It's a testament to the variety present in humanity that some people can read Atlas Shrugged repeatedly (I'm one) and some people can read Lord of the Rings repeatedly (I'm not one). To conclude that either of these behaviors makes someone crazy, seems to me, would be a mistake.

The Crack Emcee said...

bagoh20,

I read an article recently about the failure of the plethora (it never feels right to use that word as a man) of business guru crap from the late 8os thought the mid 2000s. How so much of it was wasted time and money and how many of the companies used as models for these are now gone or doing poorly. In our company, we mostly avoided it but did get drawn in a little now and then.

Can you send me a link to that article?

I left a company because I just couldn't take the cult Maharishi crap, but, since then, one of my best friends (who's still there) said they started laying off tons of folks because the BS wasn't working.

As often as I've had to change jobs recently, I'd think I was a bad employee, if not for NewAge. But it was said a long time ago, by someone who writes way more than I do:

New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism.
(Zizek)

They just don't know how to THINK anymore,...

Joe Schmoe said...

At one company I worked at, a VP handed out copies of "How to Become a Rainmaker" to everyone. I didn't think that was horrible. I've come across so many people at work who don't really think about the business side of anything, or they feel like they're helpless pawns in the big corporate game, that giving them a book about taking control of their lives and being positive was a good thing.

Re: reading a long book but claiming no time for short book; we all do that all the time. It comes down to what we really want to do. Clearly the guy who didn't read Cheese really doesn't want to or he would've done it in an evening. We all make time to read, watch our DVRed shows, or surf the web, but not exercise or return a call to someone we don't like or are having a dispute with.

Re: have I ever insulted anyone with a book gift? Can't say. Apparently if I did, the offended recipients all were too gracious to say anything about it.

glam1931 said...

I was rather insulted in the late 1970s to receive a copy of The Joy of Gay Sex from a straight friend. I know he meant well, and probably patted himself on the back for being so progressive, but I found it insulting and intrusive; I knew well my own rather conservative gay sexual proclivities and didn't need an instruction book.
I still have the book, and I think if I had followed its advice during that time period I would surely be dead from AIDS. Ironically, the friend who gave me the book passed away years ago; I'm 55, more or less celibate, and contentedly happy and healthy.

Lincolntf said...

Oh well, now Google is demanding that I repeat the entire process with the cellphone number again. Not gonna happen. Farewell cruel blog, you've tweaked me into exile. Not totally exiled of course, but the Blackberry is good for lurking and totally sucks for posting.

ken in sc said...

Ugly American, look it up.

Robert Cook said...

I've never read or even heard of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE. I have read ATLAS SHRUGGED (and THE LORD OF THE RINGS).

I made it through both ATLAS and RINGS, with the distinction that I found ATLAS easier to finish. This may be because I read RINGS in Junior High School and ATLAS in college. As I got a little older, I could sit still longer for turgid prose.

I would never want to read either one of them again, and I might not necessarily think that a person who would read either one of them over and over and over and over again is crazy, (although that would certainly help)...but I don't think I'd want to know the kind of person in any case who could reread either of these books repeatedly.

Of the two, ATLAS is more dangerous, as many who read it seem to confuse it as being something it is not--serious philosophy or as having the slightest connection to real life and real people--rather than seeing it for what it is--a garish comic book fantasy in which Ms. Rand's strident and unpleasant one-dimensional characters act our her own obviously, uh, complicated sexual drives and harsh contempt for human beings.

Most readers of LOTR, in contrast, recognize it as just a story about hobbis and orcs, monsters and wizards.

Lincolntf said...

The value in Atlas lies mainly in Rand's prescience regarding the vilification of wealth producers. She hit that nail on the head

policraticus said...

Good friends gave me Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World for Christmas a couple of years ago. I managed a smile, but inside I was wondering, "Who do these people think I am, an idiot?"

sydney said...

I sent my sister-in-law a book about how to tell your kids you have cancer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It got a good review in the New England Journal of Medicine, but I don't think she appreciated the gift. She never mentioned the book, and there was an increased aloofness afterwards, but she was ill, so hard to tell. She did not survive. Now that I've practiced medicine for as many years as I was alive back then, I've come to realize that sometimes people don't want to be reminded of their terminal illness.

TBMD said...

Never read WMMC. Most management books are pure dreck; as a result, Scott Adams is probably the most reliable commentator on management practice writing today. Other insights can be gained from demotivators.com.

I do make it a practice to read at least one PG Wodehouse book a year. If that doesn't put the hunky in your dory, nothing will.

On a more serious note, as Shouting Thomas points out above, the Parable of the Talents is mystifying, and should be read on a regular basis.

sorepaw said...
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sorepaw said...
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Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I'll answer #3 for lots of other people, as it is one I hear misused all the time -- "turn the other cheek."

What it says in Matthew Chapter 5 is "if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn him the other also." In that era and culture people always would strike with the right hand. Therefore, to strike the right cheek with the right hand must have been a backhand stroke.

That is how slaves were struck.

By offering the left cheek the struck person is:
a) refusing to be treated like a slave
b) creating a huge dilemma for the striker

The dilemma is this: to strike someone on the left cheek requires a regular punch, which is how equals must strike each other, giving the struck person the right to fight back, which slaves did not have.

Now the striker must either walk away, embarrassed, or accept that the struck person is an equal who will fight back.

"Turn the other cheek" is the exact opposite of meek acceptance.

yashu said...

Don't remember ever being insulted by a gift book. But an uncle I had a great deal of personal & intellectual regard for (we used to talk a lot about philosophy & literature) gifted me once with an anthology of Noam Chomsky political essays. I knew he was a leftist, but Chomsky? That changed the way I thought of him-- never told him so, and I'm still fond of him… but respect him less. Of course, I'm sure if he knew about my own (right of center) political leanings, he'd think much less of me.

The political book gift is an interesting case; "insult" can take different forms. Various scenarios: the gifter & giftee can be (roughly) on the same ideological side, or opposing sides, or the giftee is apolitical/ undecided (I'm simplifying). In each of those cases, the gifter may know the giftee's political leanings, or may not know and simply presume what those are-- rightly, or wrongly.

Of course, the potential for insult is most obvious when gifter/ giftee are on opposing sides. The gifter may know: in which case a challenge, if not necessarily an insult, to the giftee's beliefs is intentional. To avoid insult, the gift's aim must be either rational persuasion (free of condescension & vituperation), or the more modest one of elucidating the gifter's own beliefs, getting the giftee to better understand where one is coming from (even while disagreeing with it). Good examples: take the books Mamet's rabbi gave him to read, e.g. by Thomas Sowell & Shelby Steele & (perhaps the all-time classic for this purpose) Hayek's Road to Serfdom. Obviously, Ann Coulter (or the lefty equivalents) won't do here.

Interestingly, I find it hard to think of equivalent "good" examples going from left to right. No doubt, in part, because of my own bias. But other reasons occur to me. It's hard to think of left-wing pundits or intellectuals who make their case (equivalent to Sowell) without demonizing, denigrating, or patronizing the right (cf. "What's the Matter with Kansas"). The other reason (probably related) is that the leftist/ progressive point of view, its premises & assumptions, is so widely presented & taken to be the conventional wisdom, taken for granted by the bien pensant class as natural, true, obvious, and good (in the MSM, academia, literature, TV & movies, the arts, etc.). It goes without saying, doesn't need arguments & empirical data to make its case-- only ad hominem reminders of the evil/ heartless/ stupid/ greedy/ bigoted people on the other side. In that sense, a left-wing book, even one written for the general public, almost can't help sounding like it's preaching to the choir.

By contrast, anyone writing from a right-wing perspective knows right off the bat that they're going against the conventional wisdom, disputing the truisms of the bien pensant, well-aware their claims are likely to appear (at first sight) counterintuitive, even perverse. That's why Hayek's Road to Serfdom is such a classic.

yashu said...

Which leads to the second case: the gifter doesn't know the giftee is politically on the other side, but rather presumes he's a member of the choir. Like my uncle: I'm sure he thought that I, a young person attending an Ivy League university, would naturally find Chomsky's political views congenial. Probably no question about it in his mind. In that sense, the gift was intended (and could in a way be taken) as a compliment. It was a token of his admiration, his regard for my intelligence-- his belief that we were of like mind, or that he was helping to educate a young mind with potential.

The insult in a case like this, then, is a complicated one-- first of all, because it wasn't intended to be insulting, quite the contrary. Should I be insulted that the gifter presumes to know my politics, when that presumption is based on his good opinion of me? But then he mis-judged me: should I be insulted by what he would, hypothetically, think of me, if he knew the truth about me (inferring what that opinion would be, given the way the gift book depicts those with my views)? So the gift provokes a mix of shame (he'd hate me if he knew the truth about me, which I've concealed from him), indignation (how dare he presume), contempt (how narrow-minded to presume), and offense (the counterfactual insult I'd feel from his would-be opinion of me, given what that book tells me about what he thinks of people who think like me). To reveal to the gifter that the book was in any way hurtful, insulting, or inappropriate would ipso facto elicit the gifter's contempt; the hypothetical insult (what he would think of me) now feels actual. In short, ugh.

People, avoid gifting political books unless you know very well what you're doing.

Shining Wit said...

Far more offensive than "Who Moved my Cheese" is "What Color is my Parachute."

Robert Cook said...

"Corporations run the government (except, I guess, when Obama gets elected)?"

What makes you think Obama is any less a servant to the corporations than any of his predecessors?

Robert Cook said...

Yashu, perhaps your uncle knew your general political leanings and hoped to expose you to alternative views by giving you the Chomsky book. If he respected your intelligence, perhaps he felt you might receive Chomsky's views with an open mind, and, at the very least, if you remained in disagreement with him, you would would at least be somewhat familiar with some of his positions and could understand how he had arrived at them.

caradoc said...

I've had to deal with this book. I have to say I don't like the way it's portrayed as corporations using it to view "unfair or unfavorable" changes in a positive light. Quite frankly the book is designed for the lower corporate echelons, and anyone who has actually worked for a time in a large corp and actually moved up into upper managements can tell you, the majority of those lower echelon people are lower because they view pretty much any change as "unfair or unfavorable". They don't get the big picture, they stay in their little boxes and see their gob description as the "what", the definition of their employment rather than as a small portion of the "how" of their employment. These are the people who would benefit from reading and understanding this book. Unfortunately they don't bother reading it because it's presented in a preschool manner. More unfortunately there's really not a "Close-minded-adult" format to present it in.

caradoc said...

Re:
The questions asked
1) No
2) Video games vs. Housework.
3) None that I'm aware of, but I did just have a conversation with the wife about discipline and she thought that "spare the rod, spoil the child" was an injunction to not use physical discipline, rather than a warning of the consequences of leniency.
4) I could probably come up with a parable of liberal-mided interpretations of corporate actions always being evil and basely motivated, rather than a justified positive proactive step to offset a predictable reaction to change among a certain sector of employee. But then I'd simply be recording reality rather than storytelling.

grgeil said...

I dread being given the gift of a book, because I fear the follow-up question a few weeks later..."Did you read the book I gave you?" Being given an unwanted book is like being given 50 bags of mulch...someone has committed my time, and called it a gift.

Bob_R said...

Question 1: 40 years ago my grandmother gave me a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull when I was in the hospital. I suppose I could have been insulted, but I'm not the kind of person who gets insulted when someone is trying to make me feel better.

Question 4: This is obviously really hard to do. A lot of people read these trivial books and think they can do it better. Thousands are published. None (in round numbers) make it. It must be as hard as writing a successful three chord, two minute pop song.

Bob_R said...

Althouse and other Madisonians - Does the UW have a "common book" every year that they give to all of the freshmen? VT has one every year, and the whole concept creeps me out on the level of the CEO who gives everyone a copy of "Where's my Cheese?" I admit that the few of these that I've read have been pretty good books, but the whole - "5,000 people are going to read this and share the experience" just has too much of a collectivist vibe for me.

Paco Wové said...

Grames:

"tl;dr: Post sucks."

This doesn't work well if you've just spent the previous 2 paragraphs demonstrating that you did, indeed, read the post.

yashu said...

Robert Cook, I more or less agree. I should've been clearer that I wasn't referring to my uncle in those comments about the hypothetical gifter in the last paragraph. I didn't feel insulted by his gift.

And you're right, the gift of that Chomsky book didn't require a mistaken assumption about my views. Chomsky himself, obviously, considers himself to be disputing conventional wisdom-- there's no "of course, as we all (good intelligent people) know" subtext. I don't think he expresses contempt or hatred per se against people with right-wing views (any more than against, say, soft/ moderate liberals)-- rather, he considers most people (left & right alike) ignorant, victims of governmental/ corporate malfeasance & misinformation.

So everything you say about what my uncle might have hoped for, in giving me that book, is correct. But it is still a disheartening experience, to feel such a chasm open up between you & a valued interlocutor. To feel that the premises, assumptions, indeed world pictures we each hold are much more distant, discordant, irreconcilable than one imagined. It's to feel a kind of helplessness, a sense of the futility of conversation on certain topics. Because where & how can one start that conversation, or hold it together, when I can see how far apart we are? (I'd like to quote some Wittgenstein here, but I don't have his work to hand.)

Also, I'm speaking as someone (mostly) politically closeted IRL, pretty much entirely isolated politically. Basically all my friends & peers in the milieus in which I live, work, & play hold people with political views like mine in contempt and/or abhorrence. Even when I do reveal something of my political views to those most trusted, my expression of these is very careful-- overly tempered, moderated, qualified. I walk on eggshells. I've witnessed rejection & excommunication of others. A dear friend once reacted to an unguarded-- and believe me, very benign-- political comment of mine (in the run-up to the 2008 election) by smashing a glass against the wall & walking out.

So, I'm sensitive about these things, more than most.

Chase said...

A dear friend once reacted to an unguarded-- and believe me, very benign-- political comment of mine (in the run-up to the 2008 election) by smashing a glass against the wall & walking out.

WOW! I have to admit Robert that I have found many of your expressed views way out there - certainly to my way of thinking. But that's because this blog provides a conversation with many, and tends to bring out points of distaste and disagreement faster than perhaps a face to face.

I have numerous co-workers and extended family who take polar opposite positions to many of my political views - just as everyone who refuses to live in an echo chamber (academia or Hollywood for example) does. I have the courage of my convictions, but on most things do not believe that I have the end all be all on a specific political position. I am more energized and challenged in face to face conversations with those of differing viewpoints and the personal makes it far easier to deal with and be open to differences.

All of that said, by this age, I have come to believe that every person's world view determines their choices in political views. I was a younger libertarian with liberal views on several social and financial policies. I have become more conservative as I have become older and experienced life, but particularly because of my observations of the results of the different philosophies in the real world.

Wish I had the opportunity to engage you conversationally one on one. I have no doubt your views spoken in a more casual setting would be fascinating and stimulating for thought.

Phil said...

I see that many of you either didn't read WMMC, or if you did, failed - spectacularly - to comprehend it.

The message of the book is that the cheese is going to move. Period. There is no time in history when the cheese doesn't move. If you are asking who moved it, you aren't going to fail - you already failed.

Chase said...

And since we're talking Ayn Rand, here's something for thought: No Christian can be a true follower of Christ AND a follower of Ayn Rand.

And yes, I have read and fully understand her.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chase said...

I see that many of you either didn't read WMMC, or if you did, failed - spectacularly - to comprehend it.

Not everyone who commented negatively on their experience with the book failed to comprehend it Phil. Several people used it as an illustration of Question 1 - they were insulted at the reason the book was given to them.

Thanks for your interpretation. While it is correct that everything changes, not all change is good and figuring out who and what was behind it - in order to avoid the stupid or wasteful or the insecure happening again - is a better lesson than just accepting that everything changes.

Those that can, do.
Those that can't use blog comments to belittle those they disagree with.

Bob_R said...

Since it is a theme of the weekend in much of the world, I'll throw out that I think there are a lot of similarities between Rand and J.K.Rowling. Both are seriously flawed writers with a few extreme strengths. Rand's strengths have made her popular for generations. We'll see about Rowling.

It seems to me that Rand's broad appeal is based on her dystopian view of the world. Few have painted the relationship between corrupt government and crony capitalism like she has. Many have credited Obama with her resurgence in popularity, but I think it's the combination of Bush and Obama that sells her books. If you can read Atlas Shrugged without thinking of Obama, Bush, Cheney, Reed, Pelosi, Frank, Dodd, Kennedy, Gingrich, GM, Chrysler, Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac, SEIU, etc., etc....well you don't think the way I do.

Her utopian vision (and the source of her cult) has a far narrower appeal (and to my mind is just silly.)

Robert Cook said...

Chase, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in reaching out, but the comment you ascribe to me was actually from Yashu.

My political views are not shared by my family, all of whom are conservative Republicans, (as I was when young...before real life displayed itself as being more complex than a belief system that had been inculcated in me). I tend to avoid engaging in political discussions with them, not because it is painful to me to arguments or conflict over such topics, but because it serves no purpose and is a waste of time and energy that can be better spent in more harmonious time sharing.

I have friends who share my views--of course--but also friends who do not. There is no reason to avoid or reject people in one's life who are otherwise nice people just because they hold different views than one's own...unless the views held are so repugnant one cannot countenance them, (I'm referring to hateful beliefs such as overt racism and the like).

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil said...

Chase, anyone who complained about why and who gave them a copy of Cheese failed to comprehend it. The VP who gave me my copy was a two-faced bastard. Still damn glad he gave it to me.

Chase said...

Chase, anyone who complained about why and who gave them a copy of Cheese failed to comprehend it.

I think you have bigger comprehension problems than you know Phil.

Be well, and please stay away from areas of responsibility over others.

Jim Bullock said...

You have to be very careful as a manager getting books for folks who work for you. You can't inflict help. Any book or similar advice will only work if whoever gets it wants it. To take your advice, others have to trust your advice, and your motives. That's hard to do if you're the boss. Position gets compliance, but respect is only earned.

I've had some success offering books to folks who happened to report to me. I try to be a good coach. Sometimes I show some insight or skills. When people ask me how I did this or that, I always give credit to whoever I stole it from. Last, when someone seems interested, I ask, personally, "If I get you a book about this, will you read it?"

Paco Wové said...

"...anyone who complained about why and who gave them a copy of Cheese failed to comprehend it."

It's true, Chase.

Who Moved My Cheese is the greatest book in the fucking history of the goddamned world.

John said...

I never got the point of Cheese.

I am a big fan of Blanchard & Johnson's earlier book "One Minute Manager", though.

I have been studying, doing and teaching Human Resources Management since 1976. When I first heard of this book, I refused to read it. The whole premise sounded silly and insulting.

Then in 83 or so I was more or less forced to sit through a 1 hour video of Blanchard explaining the book.

I then read the book about 10 times.

It is the best book ever written on managing people. Everything you need to know is in it. 1) Make sure people understand what is expected of them 2) Provide positive feedback when they achieve it 3) Provide feedback in a positive way when they do not.

Everything else in the HR canon is pretty much detail.

The 1 Minute Parent applies the same concept to parenting. I raised two very well adjusted and successful (MD & CheEng) kids using this concept.

And more, of course. But all centered around those 3 communications principles.

John Henry

John said...

When I first read the your post, I thought he meant the 93 (or so) page speech by John Galt.

I like shrugged and have probably read it about 25 times since I first encountered in in 1969. I also used to teach it in an MBA capstone course.

I doubt I have read Galt's speech more than once or twice, though. I keep meaning to, never get more than a couple pages in before skipping the rest.

John Henry

John said...

Re the Google cellphone #

Is it just me or has Google gotten markedly creepier in the past year or so?

I have gotten to where I try to avoid them as much as possible.

Even to the extent of removing Google from my Firefox search engines.

I've been using Dogpile instead but am open to other suggestions.

John Henry

Revenant said...

I don't have time in my life to read "Who Moved My Cheese" either.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@BartHall:In that era and culture people always would strike with the right hand. Therefore, to strike the right cheek with the right hand must have been a backhand stroke....

While that is an interesting reading, it is belied by the context:

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

If your interpration of the "turn the other cheek" passage were correct, the other two examples make no sense. But the usual interpretation of "turn the other cheek" fits these other examples perfectly.

Giving up your cloke as well as your coat, and going two miles with a soldier who compels you to go one, do not have the element of "turning the tables" that your interpetation of "turn the other cheek" has.

All three examples are illustrations of the beginning of the passage, "I say unto you, that ye resist not evil".

Synova said...

It could well be a combination of both.

Turning a cheek that signifies that one is a free man is defiance, of a sort, but it is still submission to the blow. But it is also, then, a statement that the choice to receive the blow rests with the person being hit... just as giving the cloak also makes it an act of the will, or going another mile is something freely given.

There is an odd sort of defiance in it all.

In a way it's a psych trick to make you feel like you've got control in your life that you don't have. The parable lists situations where one is helpless to resist; the blow, the court ordered theft, being impressed and made to carry a load. Doing more as a statement that you are a person who can chose might seem sort of silly but I can see how it would work. You can do what you're forced to do, you can't chose to do less, but you can chose to do more.

Skookum John said...

Our managing partner, who has overseen a 50%+ decrease in everyone's compensation due to a spending and debt spree much like Washington's, recommended this book at one of our recent meetings. It did not improve the bad odor in which he finds himself.

Karl said...

Every year or so, some HR type will ask me - "What self improvement books have you read in the past year?"

None. Unless cookbooks count.

Somewhere, I have a pristine copy of "Who Moved My Cheese" - along with "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team".

Pianoman said...

Phil said: "Chase, anyone who complained about why and who gave them a copy of Cheese failed to comprehend it."

I comprehended it fine. It doesn't change the fact that management decided it was easier to throw at book at my face rather than actually taking the time and effort to EXPLAIN WHY massive changes were necessary.

My interpretation was that they COULDN'T explain it -- and their only recourse was to spend $10 to shut me up with a book. My manager at the time thought that this was really deep and meaningful. I thought it was pathetic.

I'm glad you got something out of Cheese. Good for you. But it doesn't necessarily speak to everyone in the same way.

Joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna said...

The Book of Mormon

I got the soundtrack as a birthday present. (I'm an atheist.) I've yet to find the balls to explain to the (family member) giver why the gift was wrong on so many different levels -- for us, for her-to-me, for her-to-anyone....

Honestly, I think I would have preferred that she would have forgotten or ignored my birthday.

Btw, this is coming from someone who enjoys birthdays but receives little fanfare. (Actually, this persons' gift was the first bday gift I received, and it was about 2 months afterwards.) I mention this only to give you perspective: it takes a ton to offend me and even more to offend me via bday gift.

I've been considering giving her Altas for her bday. I don't know if she's decreased my inhibitions or it's some sick, twisted revenge.

Joanna said...

The Book of Mormon

I tried to link that in the last post. I don't think it's working.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tggtPHDmrR8

amiyawilliams said...

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Robert Cook said...

"Every year or so, some HR type will ask me - 'What self improvement books have you read in the past year?'"

You could answer: "Sade's 120 DAYS OF SODOM."

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

@Gab ... I disagree because the common theme in all the examples is essentially "refuse to be abused, and do so by creating a dilemma for the abuser."

All forms of abuse attempt to create (or reinforce)a one-up/one-down relationship, and meek acceptance confirms it.

With the other two examples in the passage: If somebody tries to take your property? Turn it into your gift. If someone attempts to force your labor? Make it an act of service.

The standard human reaction upon receipt of mis-treatment from others is the "kick the dog" phenomenon, and I believe Christ is saying "Don't do that. Deal with it directly, but not by being evil yourself."

This is all quite consistent with his other teachings, for example the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, but Jesus was obviously not opposed to all forms of violence, since he himself took some time and "fashioned a whip" with which to drive out those defiling the temple (John 2).

MadisonMan said...

Have you ever — be honest — insulted anyone with a gift book?

Why use gift-giving in that way?

MadisonMan said...

Does the UW have a "common book" every year that they give to all of the freshmen?

Not sure. Daughter was at orientation yesterday and it wasn't mentioned.

There has been in the past couple years a "community book read" -- it had some official title -- wherein the whole campus community was supposed to read a book. I think one of them was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lachs. And then there is a group discussion. My church does this too -- the book this time is The Other (somebody's name).

Erik said...

"I'm glad you got something out of Cheese. Good for you. But it doesn't necessarily speak to everyone in the same way."

This can be said of nearly every book mentioned in this discussion, from Atlas to Lord of the Rings. There's no accounting for taste, after all.

Anthony said...

1. No

2. Working out

3. Nothing off the top of my head

4. I'd heard about the Cheese book and kept thinking it must be super-duper insightful, but then I found out what it was really about and just thought it was d-u-m dumb.

Mike said...

Shortly after I joined a former colleague at a Swedish company (the USA office) that, at the time, had an American president at the Swedish headquarters we encountered some perplexing culture clashes. One example is that Swedes have an enormous vocabulary of grunts and other non-verbal utterances -- hmmm, unh, mmm, etc. -- they would employ during meetings and discussions. We had no idea what these or other cues meant.

Fortunately, my colleague (and boss) is married to a Swede who immigrated here when she was a child. She gave us a book written by two businesswomen, one a Swede who worked in the USA and the other an American who worked in Stockholm, titled "The Modern Day Viking" that was quite helpful. We immediately understood two driving themes of Swedish culture which informed everything they do. That book and some patience allowed us the time to become (somewhat) trusted members of the Team we formed with our Swedish colleagues.

But of course, there were things we did that confused and frustrated them. So my boss ordered a copy of "The Modern Day Viking" for everyone so they could be as informed by the book on American business etiquette and culture. Although to be fair, I didn't think the American part of the book was all that informative and didn't expect a great result.

As it happened none of the Swedes would ever admit to reading the books. Several left them in place on their desks -- where Rob had placed them -- in an obvious display of rejection. In due time we learned from Bill (the American president of our division) that indeed Hans, Hans and Lars were insulted by the gift.

You might think the gesture, of trying to understand a foreign culture and help a coworker understand yours, would be appreciated. It wasn't. Only after bringing them all here for meetings and a trip to Staples Center to see an NBA game did they gain any information or appreciation for American culture beyond what they possessed before we met.

Kirk Parker said...

As far as business books, nothing compares to that wonderful classic, In Search of the One-Minute Megatrend.

sydney said...

Re: The turn-the-other-cheek parable. Bart suggeseted it means "refuse to be abused, and do so by creating a dilemma for the abuser."
I think this is correct. There's a beautiful illustration of it in Les Miserable when Jean Valjean steals a valuable candlestick from a priest who has given him food and shelter for the night, when no one else would. The police bring him back to the priest - with the candlestick as proof, but the priest not only tells them that he gave Jean Valjean the candlestick, he also gets the second one of the pair and gives it to him as well. It is a turning point in Jean Valjean's life in the book. He not only never steals again, but he devotes his life to doing good.

Or imagine if a murder victim told his murderer with his last dying breath, "I forgive you."

Henry said...

Or imagine if a murder victim told his murderer with his last dying breath, "I forgive you."

This is almost that story:

Grieving father seeks redemption, not revenge

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