The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 18, 2002


Loyalty: A Lost Virtue?

Loyalty, the glue that strengthens two-way ties between employers and employees, is in decline. As the "dot com" bubble burst, followed by a wave of recession-induced layoffs at both old- and new-economy companies, the concept of loyalty has taken a beating.

Perhaps because my children are now entering the work force, or maybe because my own "corporate career" has ended, I've recently been struck by the stark realization that loyalty, as Haynes Johnson puts it in his new book, The Best of Times, has become "a one way street Mine, not yours." Johnson interprets one lesson of the dot com collapses thusly: "It's nonsense to stick around building a company, or a career with this or that firm; everyone knows no one stays in place anymore. Beware of committing yourself, personally or professionally. Take care of yourself first, because no one else will. Selfishness becomes a necessary trait."

How sad to think that "cash in and cash out" has replaced the traditional American values of loyalty and commitment. The idea of working for the same company for 30 years, as I did, is a modern day anachronism. Of course, the blame lies not with today's young workers, but with America's corporate leaders, raiders, traders and deal makers who spent the eighties and nineties trying to get bigger or richer rather than better. And the same disease spread through many other American cultural sectors, including politics, sports, entertainment and media. Even higher education is buckling under cost-cutting management approaches, with part-time hired hands replacing tenure-track professors. And physicians are abandoning their patients and practices, or turning to new models of health care for the privileged, in order to escape the tyranny of HMO administrators.

Millions of 20-something workers, including many of our own Carlisle kids, have seen their parents laid or driven off after long and loyal years of service to organizations suddenly struck by the need to downsize or economize. Some, in fact, have already been caught themselves in the flameout of Internet comets. In such an environment, it's no surprise that loyalty has lost its relevance.

All of which leaves me in the uncomfortable position of being clueless when it comes to advice for my own kids. How many jobs in a five-year period are too many? How does one learn a business, trade or profession without working up from the bottom to the top? Why pay dues? Unfortunately, yesterday's answers, the basis of my reality, are probably wrong.

Do these sorts of changes run in cycles? Will the old values, ethics and strategies return? My natural optimism seems to have deserted me on these questions. The new rules of the game, based on free market economics on a global scale, require that there be winners and losers. That means winning and losing companies, countries, consumers, producers, and all the service trades and professions who support them. The virtuous aim is growth, development and improved living standards, which will surely come to the winners. In such a race, I'm afraid, productivity will flourish and loyalty will cease.

But let's not bury loyalty as a virtuous trait. We can teach, practice and continue to value it in our families, our friendships, our non-profit institutions and in all the nooks and crannies of life that don't get measured by financial profits and losses. Committing ourselves to support those people and institutions that have earned and deserve our loyalty, through good times and bad, is a true expression of humanity in what sometimes seems an inhumane world.

The green giant won't go away

After four months of hearings on the application of the American Tower Corporation to build a 150-foot "stealth monopine" cell tower at 662 Bedford Road the board of appeals (BOA) is agonizing over its decision to grant three variances. At this time the decision is not known, but the outcome is clear. Regardless of the BOA's decision, someone ­ the cell companies or the abutters ­ will probably sue the town. It is a predictable cycle and one that is likely to repeat itself.

Admittedly, the proposed location is not ideal. Too many neighbors live too close to the site, one only 200 feet away; the town's bylaw requires a setback of 900 feet from a residence. On the other hand, there are very few sites in Carlisle that conform to our very restrictive bylaw ­ only three on town-owned land, according to town administrator Madonna McKenzie, and these are not in the Route 225-Concord River area where companies claim there is a gap in coverage.

Concerns about the dangers of cell towers are overblown. They are built to crumple rather than topple, and claims of insidious health effects have been convincingly disproven. The real objections are aesthetic, with some legitimate concerns about an impact on property values.

But the green giant won't go away. The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandates towns to provide access to cell companies for nationwide seamless coverage. The law has teeth, with numerous precedents of courts siding with cell phone companies, as happened in Concord last year. It's unavoidable.

Some creative solution is needed that will distribute the burdens and benefits among the three parties, the companies, the town and the abutters. If the BOA approves this application, perhaps a monetary compensation can be offered to residents negatively impacted by the variance, whose homes lie within the setback defined by town bylaw, in exchange for a promise not to sue. This payment should be borne by those profiting from the variance, in this case the applicants and the owners of the property being rented to the company.

If the wisdom of the board is to deny this application, then we must ask the board of selectmen to work proactively with cell companies and town boards to find a better alternative site. Just saying no guarantees that we will continue an exhausting and expensive cycle of hearings and litigation.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito