2.0 Szeged – Introduction – Part 2
It struck me as strange that they knew my name. In the several months that I had been at the company, I had never encountered any of the workers directly. The closest contact I had had was seeing them at their various machines when I was taken on a tour of the plant during my initial days at the company.
As I approached the staircase, the workers moved aside to make a pathway for me up the middle. Upon reaching the upper landing, a stocky woman in her thirties approached me. “I am Martha Kovacs, the union representative,” she said in a husky voice. I introduced myself in turn, and asked Marta what was going on? “Last Friday was pay day. When we opened our envelopes we found that our pay had been cut by a third.” Martha went on: “No one notified me, or anyone else. We have come here to talk to someone in charge, but the only person here is Magdi (the VP Finance), and she is not willing to talk to us. Will you speak with us, Mr. Hardy?”
After a few moments of hesitation, I agreed to the request. It was decided that the best venue for the exchange was the building next door, which housed the cafeteria. Once the workers were all assembled in the auditorium, I gave a short speech in which I described my mandate and my position as the bank’s representative. I discovered that my decision-making powers had been greatly exaggerated to the workers by the senior management, and that their current predicament had been laid at my feet. I explained that their current picture of the situation was a misunderstanding, and I asked to speak with the line managers so that I might gain a better understanding of what was really going on.
The shop steward then arranged for the line managers, a group approximately twenty in size, to convene with me in an adjoining room. The steward joined us as well. We assembled around a large table, and I listened. We came from different worlds, but one thing we shared in common was the shock, and outrage at having been duped.
Over the course of the next several hours, I found out more about the company and its situation than I had learned in several months of meeting with the executives. I saw then that I had been purposefully cocooned in a world of paper reports, lunches and speeches. Here, for the first time, reality was staring me in the face. However, far more importantly, something magical took place in that little room with twenty odd people crammed around a lunch table.
Every one of those managers in attendance had lived their entire lives under the Communist regime. The Socialist double-speak in which everything is justified in relation to the cause, the people, or the party, was all that they had experienced in their entire working lives. This was the first time that a person in a position of authority was genuinely interested in their experiences, in their insights, in what they had to say.
What ensued was not a choreographed staff meeting, but instead, an authentic exchange between human beings. I have no doubt that the incredible feeling of hope and camaraderie which I experienced, was shared by everyone in that room. For a brief window in time, we all shared a belief that a better, kinder, saner world was possible.
The fact that the old guard soon got wind of what was cooking, and in short order managed to quash the nascent rebellion, is lamentable. However, what we experienced in that room could not be undone, un-remembered, by any of us. The very fact that a collection of people, at a singular moment in time, could feel that level of hope and connection means that this was more than an aberration or a collective illusion. There in Szeged, with people who had lived their entire lives in the greyest of environments, who had no objective basis to believe that life should promise anything different, I witnessed a flare ignite in each and every one of them as they came to believe in the possibility of something better.
What this tells me is that the drive to connect to one’s fellow man, to strive to create a better world for all of us to live in, is not a function of environmental conditioning, but is innate to each and every one of us. The human tragedy is that every organized society since the dawn of civilization has suppressed this impulse. This book is about the one great obstruction placed before human progress that has kept the vast majority of the human race in a state of penury since time immemorial – the Hidden Game.