Gestatten: Elite von Julia Friedrichs

Yesterday we had an important visit at the office. Important for the business.

A day before, we were told to tidy up our desks (no trace of any kind of paper or water) and ourselves. And so, the giant Santa, who has been sitting on a table watching us with his quite strange inquisitive eyes since Christmans, was dumped into the server room.

S., the Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! colleague, took it all serious, as he does with each rule. He did not move from his desk, not even for his most desired coffee, for the whole day. In between calls he grumbled, oh my coffee.

There was no rule against getting up but he likes to exaggerate.

We were told to pretend like working, in a joking-serious way. Nobody should have any personal page opened up on the screen, for that period of time.There are people in the office who can’t do without their FB page. For that 30-40 min they would have to find a way.

Unfortunately, we were not told what was the visit about exactly, what were they talking about, looking at, and why are we supposed to pretend like everything is like it is not.

I was sitting there in my new place, the German team, thinking about what was happening. Why are we supposed to do the happy monkeys only now when the important business visit is happening. Why aren’t we doing it all the time, for real?

Why is the management team so afraid that one of us would say something?  Why isn’t there a person to provide a clear and consistent training so that the new colleagues would not feel like monkeys afterwards. Monkeys because one is not ready to jump on the line if the whole process is not presented in a accessible manner. Of course the clients are thinking you are dump if you have to run around the office to ask and have them on hold! Of course they will and of course you are going to feel like a fucking stupid thing.

I mentioned this several times, even yesterday, when we were told to pretend like we know what we were doing, I said, like me every day, I mentioned even before moving to the German team, that I am quite unsure if my technical  skills are OK. I was told, yes, they are. Yesterday, the manager looked at me strangely and passed on to the next joke.

These important people know that most of what they are seeing is set up to look as perfectly functional. If they don’t, which I deeply doubt, they should make a reality check.

Questions linked to the moral values of business, the ethical values of a human agreement which is then made official, legal and payed for with money, these kind of questions were running through my head. I am going deep, just like S. in a different direction, and I am not going to stop it. I am not a monkey because I decided long ago not to be, but I am part of a group of people who are doing the minimum required, to pass the day, and I have to find a way to communicate and work here. I do not want to settle for the minimum and also do not want to spend 120h per week doing a job. Balance is what I am trying to learn.

I thought also at the the book I read a few days ago. A book about elite. Who are these people, how are they created? Are they born like this or there are other factor turning them into elite?

The topic has always interested me because I felt that they have something going on, something interesting, something worth living for. For me elite means choosing value over quantity, choosing curiosity over lamentation, choosing clarity instead of chaos. This in all aspects of life. In time my curiosity was filtered and I am now most interested in how some people use their creativity to live on Earth, according to their values, how do they manage to help or inspire other people. How do people in powerful positions feel and what keeps them centered?

Julia Friedrichs wrote a delicious book, Gestatten: Elite. Auf den Spuren der Mächtigen von morgen.

Book cover and empty snail shell

For one year she traveled across Germany to understand who is the elite. Where are they coming from? How are they created? She visited private, high profile boarding schools and universities, where this species goes and  pays at least 10000 euro per year. She went to European Business School in Wiesbaden, to Elite Akademie in Bayern, to the private school FasTrackKids in Berlin where students of three – six learn Mathematics, Biology, Literature, Astronomy and Life strategy. This kind of schools are spread all over the country. One month there costs at least 1000 euro. She went to a private boarding school, located in a castle, on a mountain with the Alps in view, where parents pay (2006/2007) at least as 29480 Euro per year. She went to Harward also and spoke with a group of perfect students who have good intentions, work/study 120h/per week and want to continue with business consulting jobs.

After one year of research she stopped. It made no sense any more. She was impressed by the fracture between the elite’s world and the rest.

And I am sitting here in the office, during the very important visit, during all the other days, thinking, feeling and being present. How come I can’t see any elite here? How come they vanish when the “dirty” job has to be done?  Where do they go? We, the remaining, are we here because we choose or because of what?

Does S. realize that he is out of touch with himself or is he using his craziness to keep people away just like the elite is using money? What would these important people say about the last 2 months when I was most of the days alone on the Italian line because the febrile Sicilian colleague decided to dump everything, just like the other Italian colleague did soon after? Was the client content? Is this the good service the elite planned? The local management was pretending like nothing was. I was there and lived through it.

My favorite part in the book is this:

“Es war gerade dunkel geworden. Ich stehe in Brüssel, am Place Schumann, blicke auf das Berlaymont-Gebäude, das vielstöckige Verwaltungszentrum Europas. Wäre heute nicht Samstag, würden fünfundzwanzigtausend Europa-Beamte, Hunderte Parlamentarier und unzählige Interessenvertreter hier verwalten, verhandel und dinieren, im Takt der vollen Terminkallender. Hier, wo ich stehe würden Menschen aus der Metro-Station quellen, Autos würden sich stauen. Jetzt ist um mich herum alles leer. (…) Das Europaviertel rund um den Place Schumann führt an Werktagen ein hektisches Leben, das am Wochenende fast völlig erlischt.

Dies hier ist einer der Orte, an denen deutlich wird, wie konsequent sich die Elite manchmal von der Masse abwendet. Im Rücken der dreckigen, aber lebendigen Stadt Brüssel hat sich Europa ein eigenes Reich errichtet. Normale Menschen trifft man hier nur als Dienstleiter in Hotels, Restaurants und Kiosken an. Am Wochenende, wenn Europa nach Hause gefahren ist, essen, feiern und schlafen diese Menschen unten in der Stadt. Das Europaßviertel belibt verlassen zurück.”

After the important visit is over we remain in the office to finish our shifts, the water machine is still broken, S. is gone home without saying goodbye to anyone. Just like he does in the morning. He obeys the rules created by the elite and he follows them. If something get’s in the way he is going to scream Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! and be angry. He doesn’t want to let the guard down. This is way too scary.

Hey Elite, where ever you are, consulting whoever you are consulting,  remember to use things and love people because the opposite never works, like one of The minimalists is saying.

People can break and nastier things happen from there.

People can also heal if other healthy people are around.

Choose to be real and healthy. It is more difficult, I know, but the pain is worth it.


S., I see you and I will say good bye and good morning even if you don’t understand why.



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