Staggeringly brilliant post brought to my attention by my friend Sam.
After comparing the Republican anger at Federal Government workers to the anger experienced by dinners at a restaurant that had abolished tipping, he goes onto say –
Let me unpack this for you as an Anthropologist, because I think it says something about the enormous gap that lies between these people (Republicans and Punishers) and the rest of us. There are several things at issue here: the status of workers, the status of employers, and the status anxiety Republicans feel when they don’t believe that they are treated as an employer should be treated by their employees. In this case everyone in the Federal Government, from the President down to the lowliest Federal Street Sweeper, is not giving Varney the satisfaction that he thinks is his due. And he is damned if they will be paid when they don’t do their job to his satisfaction. In this way his attitude is like that of the angry customers, the “Punishers” described in Jay Porter’s series of essays about what happened when he moved an entire restaurant from tipped wait staff to non tipped.
And this –
Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans? In the case of Federal Workers I’d argue that its not merely that they are workers (who are always despised) its because they are workers who for the most part don’t conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist primarily to make the employer feel good about himself and, further, that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.*
Federal workers violate those central principles because they can’t be fired directly by “the employer” because the individual Republican tax payer isn’t the direct employer. They also can’t be humiliated and made to feel vulnerable because of civil service protections and unionization. And in the matter of interactions, one on one, the taxpayer can’t command good treatment by offering money (bribes) and thus often feels vulnerable and weak because there is no way to play the “do you know who I am” card which (like tipping) is an attempt to force a generic servant to give non generic attention and service to one class of people. So Federal Employees create an extra level of status anxiety for Republicans when they come in contact with these “employees” who can’t be fired or rewarded and therefore are not obligated to be extra nice to the individual Republican.