A Note from Golden
Source Bill Simpson
Date 09/01/05/09:40

Steve Stevens wrote:

> As to Marion Olson ... and her desire to repeatedly sue the city ...
> when we were young we would have said that she needs
> a good ----ing. Who knows ... that may still be the case.

ONE OF THE really demoralizing features of Golden's civic culture is the crabs-in-the-bucket problem. As a 5th-generation Golden native, I don't know much about seafood, but I've been told that if one crab attempts to crawl out of the bucket, the other crabs will try to pull it back down. I've thought about this quite a bit over the years and wondered where this dark feature of our civic mind comes from. My best guess is that it emanates from the Coors plant.

For over a century Golden's major employer has been a virulently anti-union company run by a family with its own control issues. In a non-union shop an employer can hire, fire, promote, demote or transfer an employee at any time for any reason or for no reason. Moreover, because the employer-employee relationship is defined by the labor contract, the employee will not have Bill of Rights protections while on the job. For example, an at-will employer doesn't have to respect a worker's Fourth Amendment privacy rights--and Coors regularly searched employees' desks and lockers. Coors did it because it could. In these circumstances, exercise of power is its own justification. With the Coors family, these features were not just formalities. They lived them, personalized them, and drove them forward with weird, neurotic intensity.

Among employees in this situation the first things to go are solidarity and honesty. If you want to keep your job, you watch what you say--or maybe even start saying the things that you think your superiors want to hear. It becomes even easier if you start identifying with your employer. The locker searches keep everybody safe. The anti-union propaganda is really educational and individually self-improving. People who are dissatisfied are disloyal and probably damaged. And as the mental accommodation continues it doesn't just stay at work.

Pretty soon, how the plant is run becomes the model for how the city is run. Public servants adopt the autocratic ways of corporate managers, and citizens give up their power and start reenacting the disempowered patterns of the workplace. On the citizen side, a couple things happen. First, there's a tendency toward infantilization. An expectation arises that people will come to city council meetings and interact with their elected representatives like children interact with their parents. The proper attitude toward council decisions is, therefore, gratitude, and if the citizens disagree, then it's because they're not aware of their own best interests.

The second thing that appears is resentment of autonomy. This is where the crabs-in-a-bucket stuff comes into play. The infantalized employee or citizen has made a core-of-self sacrifice for the sake of job security or a sense of being cared for by the city fathers. Now if somebody is perceived to be "getting away" with remaining his or her own person, this provokes a crisis. E.g., "She's getting away with being autonomous, but I made the sacrifice--something's wrong here." Unfortunately, the crisis is often resolved through the demonization of the rebel instead of with everybody becoming more free. For example, a citizen asserting her rights of judicial review of city council decisions is simply in need of a good fucking.

The good news is that the Coors family has removed itself from day-to-day management of the brewery and appears to be distancing itself from Golden. New people are moving to town and the citizenship as authoritarian submission ethos seems to be waning. If the Golden City Council wants to avoid being subjected to judicial review, the path is a simple one: let things change; be honest; be fair; treat people like adults; have enough ego strength not to demonize citizens who question your judgment; presume good will.

Happy New Year. Let's do things differently now.

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