Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Despair as willing to be oneself

Kierkegaard begins his profound book, Sickness unto Death, to emphasize that "Despair is a sickness of the Spirit, the Self, and can take three forms: In despair not to be conscious of having a self (not despair in the strict sense); in despair not to will be oneself; in despair to will to be oneself. "

Already in the book's first sentence Kierkegaard has caught me with his X-ray sight. When I received the book from philosopher Lundstøl, I had been diagnosed with Meniere. I had quit working as a leader for a Child Welfare office  and was prepared to do something else with my life. I was used to getting the jobs I had applied earlier and began to look for a job in good faith. But disappointment was in the queue. I applied for one job after another, and was rejected each time. A total of 24 rejections in one year. Why was I no longer attractive in the work market? Because I wanted to be myself in work interviews. In despair I went to interviews and told not only about my strengths, but also about my new disease, Meniere. The disease had become a part of who I was and I wanted to be myself, even in job interviews. But this was not very smart. Nobody wanted a person with a chronic hearing and dizziness disease. First, in the 25th job interview, whenI did not tell about my illness, did I get a job. The strategy succeeded, but it was with great despair I knew that I wanted be myself, but my environment wanted something else. I got the job not because I was the one I was, but because I hid important aspects of myself. I wonder why employment should be like this.

When I was in Brazil earlier this year, an 8-week Researcher stay at the Universidade Federal de Espírito Santo, I had a meeting with the management in the mechanical enterprize called IMETAME. They have a annual turnover above 500 million US dollars per year and employs over 4,000 people. What was special about the company is their employment policies. The management explained that 8 out of 10 vacant positions in the company were filled by applicants with the lowest qualifications. Those who are given jobs are former criminals, violent gang members, drug addicts, persons with mental disorders or physical illnesses, with no schooling and many are illiterate. They are poor and live in favellas (slums). The company's philosophy is that applicants with the best qualifications get jobs anyway, while those with the poorest qualifications need an opportunity to start life afresh. They believe that they as a company have a responsibility to combat poverty in Brazil. 40% of corporate profits go to the poor, but their main means of combating poverty is to give people jobs. IMETAME have over 1000 people working in the company because they were poorly qualified. "The last shall be first" is taken literally here. Those who get jobs in this way, receive training and are followed up with what each person needs in order to succeed. IMETAME consider their employment policies as very successful and see that those who are employed in this way are their best and most faithful workers. There is no despair here in having the will to be oneself. Here it pays off to be onesself. Negative life experiences, mental and physical weaknesses, negative self-image, is seen here as typical human characteristics that should not prevent people from participating in work life, but on the contrary, be elements that justify their employment. IMETAME is a pioneer in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and shows that despair in  the individual, family and community can be fought and still be profitable for both society and company.

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