Managers often mistakenly think that putting pressure on employees will increase performance. What it does increase is stress—and research has shown that high levels of stress carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.
Essay by Scott Kriens. When first asked to speak at an upcoming Compassion in Business conference, I was struck by how seldom we hear those two words in the same sentence. Why? I think it's because we think of compassion too abstractly, and we're probably equally guilty in thinking of "business" too clinically.
My closest friends, in the truest sense of the word, are all ex-refugees, none of them live in the U.S., but when we meet, usually once a year, distance and time seem to have made little difference to our relationship. My relationships with others is quite different, because when one has not shared a common experience, especially such a traumatic one, clearly one can never be as close.
My religious beliefs, which had always been humanist and not doctrinaire are now Unitarian-Universalist and I am active in that denomination.
I have always had and always will have an emotional attachment to the State of Israel, however stupidly they may act. They have in my eyes redeemed the Jewish psyche, which has suffered so badly because of the holocaust.
I have shared much of what happened with both of my children, but it probably had a greater impact on my son, who lives in Vienna and is constantly exposed to the history and the extensive remembrances and discussions which have taken place during the 50th anniversary year of the Anschluss. He visits the graves of his grandparents and is very much aware of what happened.
During my early visits to Vienna, I estimate that I have been back there about 30 times since the end of the war, I always made a point to walk by my old apartment house and to look at the places where I played and met my friends. It was really not very nostalgic, because it was all so run down and depressing. I have not looked at it for many years, but I am still quite conscious of it all every time I drive in the vicinity. The city as a whole still has a certain effect on me, I know it extremely well and find my way instinctively, despite the many changes the automobile and progress have wrought.
I have no animosity toward any of the [Austrians] I’ve mentioned, indeed I quite understand passivity, indifference and selfishness because it took incredible courage to resist the Nazi machine. In Poland it was a capital offense to help a Jew, despite that 2500 Poles were executed for doing so. A handful of people helped in Germany and Austria as well. I have tremendous feeling of animosity toward those who were guilty of crimes, it was a minority, as well as those of later generations who failed to punish the guilty.
There is no doubt that the Hitler period influenced my views, I was too young to have them altered. It, and I include the war as part of that period, were the most influential events of my life. I saw clearly for the first time what motivated people...greed, hate, selfishness and unselfishness. In the latter category, I remember men coming back from the concentration camps with news of my father, who could not speak highly enough of his behavior toward others during that time, such as sharing the last bit of food and always being helpful and supportive during heavy physical labor in the stone quarry in Buchenwald. i wish I knew more about it, so it could be recorded. Now no one will ever know.
I also learnt that there were people who cared for others, not necessarily just their family members, friends or even their tribe. People who wanted to correct a wrong, help the victims of injustice without any ulterior motives. I believe this to be a uniquely Anglo-Saxon virtue, a phenomenon which can be found among the British and Americans and among the latter it is not necessarily people with Anglo-Saxon roots, who display these qualities. It seems to me that it is the environment which creates and influences this behavior.
I most certainly have a tendency to feel anxious, distrustful of the future and anything but optimistic. I am also a compulsive planner, always assuming a worst case scenario and ultimately being pleasantly surprised when things turn out better than I thought they would. Whether that behavior is due to history and events affecting my basic sense of security or it is hereditary, based on the hard life of my father especially, I am not qualified to say.
My views of the “basic goodness of people” changed both for better and for worse. Do these positions cancel each other out? However, I am not disinclined to form new relationships, even at my age.
I was faced more with separation rather than loss of family and I probably substituted ultimately more by creating my own family than just simply by having friends. I felt very much as an outsider during my 10 years in Britain, where the natives have a way of making the foreign-born feel that way. The feeling persisted in the military, despite my exalted rank and also during my four years in Canada, where I kept my antecedents very quiet. Despite that feeling, I do not believe that my self-esteem was necessarily adversely affected, but it did provide an incentive to continue to search for a place where I would not, or to a lesser extent, have those feelings. I believe that the U.S. is that place for me at least. American Jews who emigrate to Israel obviously have other needs.
I'm Extremely Grateful
I think I would have been a very different person, but for Hitler. My life would have been much narrower in little Austria with many fewer choices, probably less formal education and above all, I would never have experienced the sense of freedom which this country offers to all.
There is no doubt that when I meet people of my own background, there is established an immediate rapport, because of the common experience, however different the details might have been. Although I have many friends with the same background I have, few if any, are geographically close.
There was fear while living under Hitler, but the real emotional impact came much later.
Probably most recently with all the anniversaries and all the horrible facts being brought to light. i was talking to a friend in London about this recently and we both allowed that even immediately after the war, when we were both in Germany, we were not aware of the enormity of the events until much later. I believe that literature bears this out.
If there are any emotional scars left, I cannot describe them.
I get emotional when I visit my parents’ grave at the Jewish cemetery in Vienna and see memorials to the victims of the horrors, especially a very prominent one for eight people who had been hidden all through the war, but were betrayed and shot on the day the Red Army took the city, one of them was just about my age.
We have a Responsibility
The 50th anniversary of the Kristallnacht certainly made me reflect on the events of that time. I have already discussed the early morning visit of the man, who “bought” the family business, accompanied by the gentleman from the SS, but I also remembered the drunken singing of the group of SA men the evening before, who mercifully did not invade and wreck the apartment. I even remembered the song they sang over and over again, “Wenn’s Judenblut vom Misser spritzt.”
Azar Nafisi is a visiting professor and the director of the Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She has taught Western literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University, and the University of Allameh Tabatabai in Iran. In 1981 she was expelled from the University of Tehran after refusing to wear the veil. In 1994 she won a teaching fellowship from Oxford University, and in 1997 she and her family left Iran for America. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.
Excerpt from Things I’ve Been Silent About
Nafisi, Azar. Things I've Been Silent About: Memories (Random House, 2008).
I have often asked myself how much of my mother’s account of her meeting with her first husband was a figment of her imagination. If not for the photographs, I would have doubted that he had ever existed. A friend once talked of my mother’s “admirable resistance to the unwanted,” and since, for her, so much in life was unwanted, she invented stories about herself that she came to believe with such conviction that we started doubting our own certainties.
In her mind their courtship began with a dance. It seemed more likely to me that his parents would have asked her father for her hand, a marriage of convenience between two prominent families, as had been the convention in Tehran in the 1940s. But over the years she never changed this story, the way she did so many of her other accounts. She had met him at her uncle’s wedding. She was careful to mention that in the morning she wore a flowery crêpe-de-chine dress and in the evening one made of duchess satin, and they danced all evening (“After my father had left,” she would say, and then immediately add, “because no one dared dance with me in my father’s presence”). The next day he asked for her hand in marriage.
Saifi! I cannot remember ever hearing his last name spoken in our house. We should have called him—with the echo of proper distance— Mother’s first husband, or perhaps by his full title, Saif ol Molk Bayat, but to me he was always Saifi, good-naturedly part of our routine. He insinuated himself into our lives with the same ease with which he stood behind her in their wedding pictures, appearing unexpectedly and slyly whirling her away from us. I have two photos from that day—more than we ever had of my own parents’ wedding. Saifi appears relaxed and affable, with his light hair and hazel eyes, while my mother, who is in the middle of the group, stands frozen like a solitary centerpiece. He seems nonchalantly, confidently happy. But perhaps I am wrong and what I see on his face is not hope but utter hopelessness. Because he too has his secrets.
There was something about her story that always bothered me, even as a child. It seemed not so much untrue as wrong. Most people have a way of radiating their potential, not just what they are but what they could become. I wouldn’t say my mother didn’t have the potential to dance. It is worse than that. She wouldn’t dance, even though, by all accounts, she was a good dancer. Dancing would have implied pleasure, and she took great pride in denying herself pleasure or any such indulgences.
All through my childhood and youth, and even now in this city so far removed from the Tehran that I remember, the shadow of that other ghostly woman who danced and smiled and loved disturbs the memories of the one I knew as my mother. I have a feeling that if somehow I could understand just when she stopped dancing—when she stopped wanting to dance—I would find the key to my mother’s riddle and finally make my peace with her. For I resisted my mother—if you believe her stories—almost from the start.
I have three photographs of my mother and Saifi. Two are of their wedding, but I am interested in the third, a much smaller picture of them out on a picnic, sitting on a rock. They are both looking into the camera, smiling. She is holding onto him in the casual manner of people who are intimate and do not need to hold onto one another too tightly. Their bodies seem to naturally gravitate together. Looking at the photograph, I can see the possibility of this young, perhaps not yet frigid, woman letting go.
I find in the photograph the sensuality that we always missed in my mother in real life. When? I would say, when did you graduate from high school? How many years later did you marry Saifi? What did he do? When did you meet Father? Simple questions that she never really answered. She was too immersed in her own inner world to be bothered by such details. No matter what I asked her, she would tell me the same stock stories, which I knew almost by heart. Later, when I left Iran, I asked one of my students to interview her and I gave specific questions to ask, but I got back the same stories. No dates, no concrete facts, nothing that went outside my mother’s set script.
A few years ago, at a family gathering, I ran into a lovely Austrian lady, the wife of a distant relative, who had been present at my mother’s wedding to Saifi. One reason she remembered the wedding so clearly was the panic and confusion caused by the mysterious disappearance of the bride’s birth certificate. (In Iran, marriages and children are recorded on birth certificates.) She told me, with the twinkle of a smile, that it was later discovered that the bride was a few years older than the groom. Mother’s most recent birth certificate makes no mention of her first marriage. According to this document, which replaced the one she claimed to have lost, she was born in 1920. But she maintained that she was really born in 1924 and that her father had added four years to her age because he wanted to send her to school early. My father told us that my mother had actually subtracted four years from her real age when she picked up the new birth certificate, which she needed so that she could apply for a driver’s license. When the facts did not suit her, my mother would go to great lengths to refashion them altogether.
Some facts are on record. Her father-in-law, Saham Soltan Bayat, was a wealthy landowner who had seen one royal dynasty, the Qajars (1794–1925), replaced by another, the Pahlavis (1925–79). He managed to survive, even thrive, through the change in power. Mother sometimes boasted that she was related to Saifi on her mother’s side and that they were both descendants of Qajar kings. During the fifties and sixties when I was growing up, being related to the Qajars, who, according to the official history books, represented the old absolutist system, was no feather in anyone’s cap. My father would remind us mischievously that all Iranians were in one way or another related to the Qajars. In fact, he would say, those who could not find any connections to the Qajars were the truly privileged. The Qajars had reigned over the country for 131 years, and had numerous wives and offspring. Like the kings that came before them, they seemed to have picked their wives from all ranks and classes, possessing whoever caught their fancy: princesses, gardeners’ daughters, poor village girls, all were part of their collection. One Qajar king, Fath Ali Shah (1771–1834), is said to have had 160 wives. Being of a judicious mind-?set, Father would usually add that of course that was only part of the story, and since history is written by the victors, especially in our country, we should take all that is said about the Qajars with a grain of salt—after all, it was during their reign that Iran started to modernize. They had lost, so anything could be said of them. Even as a child I sensed that Mother brought up this connection to the Qajars more to slight her present life with Father than to boast about the past. Her snobbism was arbitrary, and her prejudices were restricted to the rules and laws of her own personal kingdom.
Saham Soltan, mother’s father-in-law, appears in various history books and political memoirs—one line here, a paragraph there—once as deputy and vice president of Parliament, twice as minister of finance in the early 1940s, and as prime minister for a few months, from November 1944 to April 1945—during the time my mother claims to have been married to Saifi. Despite the fact that Iran had declared neutrality in World War II, Reza Shah Pahlavi had made the mistake of sympathizing with the Germans. The Allies, the British and the Soviets in particular, who had an eye on the geopolitical gains, occupied Iran in 1941, forced Reza Shah to abdicate, exiled him to Johannesburg, and replaced him with his young and more malleable son, Mohammad Reza. The Second World War triggered such upheaval in Iran that between 1943 and 1944 four prime ministers and seven ministers of finance were elected.
Mother knew little and seemed to care less about what kind of prime minister her father-?in-?law had been. What was important was that he played the fairy godfather to her degraded present. This is how so many public figures entered my life, not through history books but through my parents’ stories.
How glamorous mother’s life with Saifi really was is open to debate. They lived at Saham Soltan’s house, in the chink of time between the death of his first wife and his marriage to a much younger and, according to my mother, quite detestable woman. In the absence of a lady of the house, my mother did the honors. “Everybody’s eyes were on me that first night,” she would tell us, describing in elaborate detail the dress she had worn and the impact of her flawless French. As a child I would picture her coming down the stairs in her red chiffon dress, her black eyes shining, her hair immaculately done.
“The first night Doctor Millspaugh came...you should have been there!” Dr. Millspaugh, the head of the American Mission in the 1940s, had been assigned by both the Roosevelt and the Truman administrations to help Tehran set up modern financial institutions. Mother never saw any reason to tell us who this man was, and for a long time, for some reason I was convinced that he was Belgian. Later, when I reviewed my mother’s accounts of these dinners, I was struck by the fact that Saifi was never present. His father would always be there, and Dr. Millspaugh or some other publicly important and personally insignificant character. But where was Saifi? That was the tragedy of her life: the man at her side was never the one she wanted.
Several years following the end of the First World War memoirs began to be published. Most were penned by writers who had fought in the war, others written by journalists and nurses. Three of the best memoirs were written by Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. Excerpts are available on line and hard copies can be obtained through library services.
Blunden, Edmund. Undertones ofWar (London: R. Cobden-Sanderson, 1928).
Graves, Robert. Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography (London: J. Cape, 1929). New edition published by Berghahn Books, 1995 includes a biographical essay and annotations.
Sassoon, Siegfried. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1930).
The Importance of Relationships
As many of the poems in this module show, war can be a lonely and most predictably a life changing experience. Several writers found encouragement from one another. For example, the friendship of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, while the two were patients at Craiglockhart, was important to the literary development of the two. Both wrote for the hospital’s literary journal, The Hydra. Issues of the journal can be obtained through the web site: www.lib.byu.edu/~english/WWI/index.html.
Stephen MacDonald’s play Not about Heroes (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983) depicts the friendship between the two men. A more recent book, Regeneration by Pat Barker (New York: Plume, 1993) centers around the doctor-patient relationship between Siegfried Sassoon and his psychologist, W.H.R. Rivers.
Helen Thomas wrote a two-volume autobiography about her life with her husband, poet Edward Thomas. Thomas was killed in 1917 at the Battle of Arras. As it Was (London: W. Heinemann, 1926) and World Without End (London: Heinemann, 1931) addresses her husband’s struggle to become a poet.
The Death of a Son
One of England’s most famous writers, Rudyard Kipling, was convinced that the First World War would be short-lived. His belief was so strong that he urged his teenage son, John, to join the military. John was wounded in 1915 and two years later after being reported missing, was declared dead. In honor of his son Kipling wrote a history of The Irish Guards in the Great War (London: Macmillan and Company, Limited, 1923) and a short story, “The Gardner,” a moving tale about those who are left to mourn the dead.Another work, My Boy Jack by David Haig (London: Nick Hern Books, 1997) tells the story of John Kipling.