Is MetLife’s Code of Conduct Recklessly Incoherent Bullshit? — An Open Letter to MetLife CEO Steven A. Kandarian

Hello Mr. Kandarian,

Is it possible that MetLife’s so-called “Code of Conduct” is recklessly incoherent bullshit?

I ask this question because I believe my own apparent failure to understand the Code’s “guidelines for appropriate business conduct and ethical decision-making” has brought relentless woe unto me and my family, not the least of which is now the threat of a criminal conviction and all that goes along with it (fines, possible jail time, etc.).

Of course, I do realize that the Code itself might be just fine, and that my failure to understand it nothing more than a unique consequence of my own idiosyncratic manifestation of Autism Spectrum Disorder. But given that I might not be the only person to find this document dangerously confusing, and of course, on the chance that it might just be equally incomprehensible for everyone, here I wish to explain why I strongly suspect it probably is just that, or as I’m inclined to put it: recklessly incoherent bullshit.

To begin with, on page 2 of the Code you personally exhort MetLife employees to “…read, understand and abide by our Code of Conduct and raise awareness of issues that may undermine the public’s trust in our corporate integrity,” [emphasis added].

Then on page 4, all MetLife employees are charged with the “…responsibility to…Disclose or raise concerns about any potential violations of law or policy, or any other potential issues….” [emphasis added].

Now, the way I see it, for the past two years or so I have attempted in various ways to fulfill this Code-mandated “responsibility”. More specifically, I have tried to raise awareness on a variety of issues, not the least of which is a psychologically damaging procedural artifact I think of as The MetLife Meat Grinder, meat_grinder_MetLife_your_brain_750x500by which I mean MetLife’s systematic, for-profit exploitation of people with psychiatric disabilities (Autism, Bipolar Disorder, etc.). But despite my persistent efforts to raise awareness of The MetLife Meat Grinder and other “issues that may undermine the public’s trust in [MetLife’s] corporate integrity”, I must tell you that the company’s reaction toward me has been not just ungrateful, but in fact quite fiercely retaliatory, and thus precariously out of sync with the company’s glossy promise to not retaliate against attempts to fulfill this “responsibility”.

As boasted in MetLife’s Code of Conduct:

Our commitment to non-retaliation

We do not tolerate retaliation for making a report in good faith. MetLife prohibits employees from engaging in any form of retaliation against anyone for raising concerns regarding a violation of any law, rule, regulation, internal policy, this Code, or about unethical activity….

Code of Conduct, page 6

Yet despite this boast, MetLife fired me illegally last year, subsequently lied to EEOC investigators about why I was fired, tried to bribe me with $37,000.00 to keep my mouth shut about what had happened, most recently requested and was granted a No Contact Order against me, and is now pressing criminal charges against me, all in what looks to me exactly like retaliation for my numerous Code-mandated attempts to raise awareness of The MetLife Meat Grinder and other issues.

Did I get that right? Am I overlooking something?

Actually, I’m pretty sure the source of my hapless misunderstanding of the Code can be traced back to one particular sentence, found on page 6, and which I find especially baffling, thus:

“We do not tolerate retaliation for making a report in good faith“…

[emphasis added]. Now, really, what’s baffling for me about this sentence is that I have no idea what is meant by this phrase “in good faith”, although I do think it’s safe to say at this point that MetLife as a company has somehow decided that my many reports have definitely not been made “in good faith”, and also that in such a case retaliation is not only tolerated, but for me at least to be pursued with fanatical zeal.

That much seems obvious, but what isn’t obvious to me at all is who judged my numerous reports as being not “in good faith”, and by what criteria was this judgment made? Was there any sort of objectivity involved in making this judgment? Was my “faith” evaluated against some sort of checklist?

Was the Bible consulted? The Hadith? The Code of Hammurabi? The I Ching? This can’t possibly be a religious thing, can it? Did you all somehow figure out that I’m an atheist and decide to persecute me for my lack of religious belief? I don’t seriously believe that, of course, but then what?

Why have my attempts to report The MetLife Meat Grinder (and other issues) been judged by MetLife as being made in not “good faith”?

Here I wish to submit for your consideration that there is no rational answer to that question. Here I wish to propose that the aforementioned judgment of my “faith” as not “good” was made for no rational reason at all — that it was in fact made whimsically, nonsensically, wholly arbitrarily. Here I will publicly suggest that the human beings who judged my utterly sincere reports did so impulsively, thoughtlessly, and with great and continuing negative consequence to me and my family.

To be clear: I’m not claiming here that these individuals are actually as incompetent as they appear. On the contrary, I think they did what they did because the Code itself is confusing, by which I mean recklessly incoherent bullshit.

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Scholten, a.k.a. “The Walrus”

A Cow and 3 Hours of Jazz While I Ponder My Options…

Not quite sure what to say at this point other than that I’m thinking things through and trying to figure out what’s next.

In the meantime, above is a funny picture of a cow (thanks, Pixabay!) and a YouTube Jazz compilation that’s, like, three hours long. Enjoy….

🙂

Oh, Great, Now I Need a Permanent Alibi

So apparently my physically harmless, civilly disobedient, one-man protest at the MetLife campus on June 14 has left a number of my former colleagues traumatized and fearing for their personal safety. In several sworn affidavits submitted by MetLife last week on their behalf, four of them affirmed things like like:

“…I feel targeted by Mr. Scholten and fear for my personal safety.”

“…I fear for my personal safety and the safety of my family.”

“…this post [a reference to this post], coupled with the fact that Mr. Scholten broke into MetLife and came specifically to the executive offices, cause me to fear for my safety…more importantly, I fear for the safety of the MetLife employees….”

Now, because I know for a fact that I pose absolutely no threat whatsoever to the personal safety of any human being, MetLife employee or not, at first I had serious doubts about the sincerity of these highly defamatory allegations. But in a hearing yesterday at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh I had the chance to face three of my accusers, and after watching them testify I must say that I now have no doubt whatsoever that these folks are frightened.

My sister had come with me to the hearing and the two of us did what we could to reassure them that I am harmless and that they are safe, but in the end it was all for nothing because the District Judge granted MetLife’s request for a 1-year No Contact Order Pursuant to the Workplace Violence Prevention Act which imposes on me a long and fundamentally useless list of restrictions that…

1. Cannot possibly make me any more harmless than I already am.

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Hmmm. How could we make this cute little duckling even more harmless? Image Credit: Pixabay

I am already harmless, and these restrictions won’t make me any more so. I have no history of violence; no interest in violence; I own no guns nor weaponry of any kind; nor do I know or practice any martial arts (karate, boxing, etc.). I don’t even play violent video games. Once a gun has been unloaded, disassembled, and melted down into scrap metal, really the only thing left is to cast a magic spell over it. That’s really all this No Contact Order is: just a worthless magic spell that the Judge has cast over an already harmless person in order to make him harmless.

2. Cannot possibly even make me seem anymore harmless than I already do.

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Would this gargoyle seem less frightening with a nice coat of paint? Next to some flowers? With a duckling on its head? Image Credit: Pixabay

These folks are truly frightened and confused. Of course, they’re not really frightened of me, but rather their misunderstanding of me. I am not their misunderstanding of me. Their misunderstanding of me is an imaginary bogeyman who is so deranged that he intends to harm them, and I am absolutely not that guy. But if he’s truly that deranged, then surely he won’t let some court order stop him in his blood-thirsty quest to hurt them.

These folks aren’t thinking straight. They all believe that on the afternoon of June 14 their bogeyman stood right next to them while they were working. It was actually just me, of course, but were I really as dangerous as they imagine their bogeyman to be, they’d all be injured or dead right now. The fact that they aren’t proves that I’m not their scary bogeyman. But their fear blocks them from seeing it that way. Maybe they think that the visit on June 14 was just a warm-up. Maybe they think their bogeyman was just there on some sort of reconnaissance mission and that now that he understand the lay of the land, he’ll be coming back for the real kill.

What’s more, this court order only protects them at the MetLife campus. What if their imaginary bogeyman visits them at home? Or what if he ambushes them while they’re sitting at a traffic light on the way to work? Of course I — the utterly harmless real me who is definitely not their bogeyman — would never do anything like that, but they have no idea that the real me actually exists. For all they know their bogeyman is an extremely clever sociopath who truly exists, but who is pretending to be a harmless autistic person who has merely been misunderstood as a dangerous sociopath, etc., etc.

This is not reasoning. This is just rampant, ignorance-fueled imagination run amok, and the No Contact Order can do nothing to get it under control.

3. Makes it impossible for them to get to know the real me.

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These giraffes look pretty friendly. I wish they would get to know me better and see that I’m friendly too. Image Credit: Pixabay

One of the best ways to get over any irrational fear is to choose to encounter the very thing that frightens you. Obviously that won’t work if you’re afraid of jelly fish or hungry sharks, but as long as what frightens you is harmless (like me), then the more you interact with it and see that no harm comes to you, the safer you will feel in its presence.

Really, the only way to help these people with their fears is to give them the opportunity to face them, which is now prohibited by law. These folks desperately need to get to know the real me, at least well enough to see that I’m not their bogeyman, that I’m harmless to them. But because of this No Contact Order, such an encounter is now impossible.

4. Means I now require a permanent alibi.

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I’m fresh out of excuses! Image Credit: ShutterStock

With this No Contact Order in place, I need a permanent alibi. For the next year at least, if anything happens to any of these people and which is even remotely mysterious, I am going to be suspect number 1. If one of them gets a mysterious flat tire I can be promptly arrested, booked, charged, and tried — even if I’m totally innocent. Even if I do have an alibi, that won’t help until after I’ve already been arrested, booked, and charged. Then the real investigation will begin and the alibi will exonerate me. But if I don’t have an alibi, then what?

Because of this fundamentally useless No Contact Order, I now need a permanent alibi. And something tells me that “Sorry, your honor, I’m autistic” won’t cut it.

I really don’t understand the purpose of this No Contact Order. Is the goal to ensure the objective safety of these individuals? Or is the goal merely to help them to feel subjectively safe. Although these are not mutually exclusive outcomes, in the end, being safe and feeling safe are really two different things. For example, many people are afraid to fly in an airplane, but feel perfectly safe in a car, which is objectively much more dangerous. Many people dread kittens, while others have no fear of texting while driving. Further, the pharmaceutical industry makes a ton of money selling anti-anxiety medications to people seeking relief from anxiety that they themselves know has no function whatsoever.

The fact is that fear is an unreliable indicator of objective danger, just as feeling safe is an unreliable indicator of objective safety. The one simply does not imply nor guarantee the other, and in any case, this No Contact Order will achieve neither goal, for the reasons described above.

 

Blueberry Pie for Dinner!?!? — Yet Another Metaphor for Autism

beef_goulash_331x210You’re sitting in a restaurant with a friend trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. You decide on a savoury beef goulash, and your friend orders a banana split sundae.

“Whoa, what about dinner?” you say. “I thought we came for dinner, no?”

“Oh, right,” your friend says. “OK, I guess I’ll start with the blueberry pie. That looks yummy.”

“Uh…no, that’s not dinner either. Pick dinner food.

“Dinner food, right, yes. Um…well, the carrot cake looks –”

“Nope! Try again.”

“Creme brulee?”

“HOLY COW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? PICK A STEAK OR SOMETHING!”

Now, unbeknownst to you, the waiter had accidentally given your friend a dessert menu instead of the entree menu, so that’s why your friend keeps making all of these weird choices.

Without pretending to speak for all autistic people, I can tell you that for me the situation with autism is a lot like that. From a perceptual and conceptual standpoint, I live in a world that is quite different from that of so-called “normal” people. But for me at least, and unlike with the restaurant scenario, this perceptual and conceptual “menu” of mine actually overlaps sufficiently with that of everyone else’s so that I’m able to communicate and function under many conditions well-enough. For example, I’m definitely not actually delusional or hallucinating, but under various circumstances my behavior can strike many as bizarre or crazy, as if I were delusional or hallucinating.

So if you ever witness me making choices that strike you as, well, bizarre, it’s just because I’m not choosing from the same menu as you. You’re making your choices off of your Normal Person’s Menu and I’m making my choices off of my Autistic Person’s Menu.

Two different people, two different menus.

I hope that’s helpful!

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Mmmmm, dinner anyone? Image Credit: Pixabay

Mr. Phicks and the Hill o’ Beans

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Uh oh, I think I may have frightened poor Mr. Phicks. Autism strikes again! Image Credit:

Oh, well, so it looks like the whole Mr. Phicks thing has phailed. All of that great “mysterious Mr. Phicks” schtick and it didn’t amount to a hill o’ beans.

Here is his response to my most recent letter to him:

Daniel,

I can’t talk with you anymore. My client has asked me to stop our discussions. My employer has asked me to stop our discussions. And it is clear from your actions leading to your arrest last week that my involvement in your life is counterproductive. We talked about moving on from your obsession with Metlife and you immediately go out and physically invade the Metlife campus. I clearly am not helping matters.

Please do not contact me again.

Ugh! Note the language used:

“…physically invade the MetLife campus….”

Yeah, that’s a great way to describe what I did. Physical invasion. I just totally invaded the MetLife campus. Like in 1945 when the allies invaded the beaches of Normandy, or that time a garbage fly invaded our car and our two-year old daughter screamed hysterically for 20 minutes.

“…physically invade….”

And did he really think he could help me move on from my MetLife obsession with a single phone call? I’ve been obsessed with this MetLife bullshit in one form or another since, like, August 2016.

Oh, Mr. Phicks. Did you really think you were going to phicks this mess that easily?

Listen, amigo, the DSM V is not a book of problems that can be phicksed with a single phone call. The DSM-V is a book of hard problems — e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bi-polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc. These are serious problems that require the training, knowledge, and skill of real experts who are trained to recognize and handle them.

But I guess you realize that now.

In any case, and for the reasons explained in my final letter to you: going forward I will consider you, your client, and your employer to be not my allies, which is to say, by default, that you are all allies of Frederick Fritz T. Smith and his high-schoolish gang of Inappropriate Behavior Police.

Well, at least we cleared that up!

Thank You! — An Open Letter to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison

Dear Sheriff Harrison,

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Image Credit: Pixabay

I wish to express my gratitude for the outstanding professionalism and humanitarianism demonstrated not just by your Detention Officers at the Wake County Detention Center on Hammond Road and my own arresting officers of the Cary Police Department, but equally for the kindness, helpfulness, and camaraderie of my fellow arrestees and the few inmates I had the pleasure to meet. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting before my arrest, but it certainly didn’t include any of that, and I must tell you that I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover it as part of the overall arrest/booking/charging experience.

Now, before I convey the wrong impression, I should tell you that despite that very pleasant surprise, overall I actually found thoroughly unpleasant the 13 or so hours between the moment the cuffs were placed on me at about 9:00 AM Friday morning and the moment I was finally granted release at 10:00 PM Friday night. Although as it began I was quite curious about what would happen next, it only took about two hours for my curiosity to be completely gratified, and then it all became thoroughly unpleasant. Although the anxiety was fairly mild, the 11 hours of uncertainty and chilly, gelatinous boredom were all but excruciating.

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Although my own jail experience involved clothing, plenty of light, and absolutely no bars whatsoever, this picture does convey the intense boredom I felt for, like, 11 hours! Image Credit: Shutterstock

I tried to transform it all into a kind of meditation retreat, but my meditation skills are sorely lacking. For the most part I was bored, bored, bored. Oh, my goodness, the boredom. If that’s all by design, then kudos to the designers. Eleven hours of sitting or standing around in a jail cell with a bunch of other equally bored arrestees, all of us waiting, waiting, waiting for the next step in the process, or at least for information about when it might take place.

That is actually not a complaint, by the way. I wish to express my gratitude even for that aspect of things. I think jail should definitely not be seen as pleasant. Really nobody should enjoy jail. Of course, nobody should be gratuitously tortured — even psychologically — but I see nothing wrong with boredom, even though I find it very uncomfortable. I actually think perhaps the best time to meditate is when one is bored, so when we bore prisoners, we’re actually giving them a chance to practice meditation, which is a good thing, I think, and could lead to less crime, to the extent that the prisoners accept the opportunity to practice mediation.

Of course, I realize that’s easy to say from the comfort of my own home, but still, as I reflect back on it all, I have to say that I find myself actually looking forward to going back to jail for more of the same. I am actually excited about my upcoming trial, and half hoping that I lose badly. Part of me seriously wants the full Orange Is the New Black experience. Naturally I’d write my own memoir. I even have a possible title for it already: How to Help Save the World and Make An Honest Living as an Ex-Con.

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To be clear: I’m only half-hoping for that. I actually have plenty enough to write about, so the possible 3-months maximum sentence I could receive is definitely not something I really need. And of course there are many ways in which even a brief period of incarceration or a small fine would be extremely inconvenient for me and my family. I’m not too concerned with the criminal record I would have (this is probably an autism thing, but I actually feel proud of my new arrest record, and will probably feel even more proud of an actual convinction record) but I do have two young children whom I love dearly, would miss terribly while I was away, and who would no doubt suffer from my absence. And of course, their mother would suffer too. Obviously, she needs my help to take care of our children.

So…there’s that too. I guess my real point here is that I’m feeling quite ambivalent about the outcome of my upcoming trial. However much I may actually want to lose, I also have a lot of good solid reasons for winning too. I’m not quite sure yet what to make of all that, but I suppose “time will tell”, as they say.

But what I’m not ambivalent about is my gratitude for all that I experienced last Friday as a result of my charges (“Breaking and Entering”), my arrest, and my day at your Wake County Detention Center.

Once again, I thank you, your staff, the Cary Police Department, and everybody else who helped make the day such an amazing one for me — including the inmates and my fellow arrestees.

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Scholten, a.k.a. “The Walrus”


Image Credit: Pictures of Sheriff Donnie Harrison can be found on the Sheriffs official campaign website.

 

Why I Gave Back that Laptop I Stole: Introducing, Mr. Phicks

Turns Out, Kindness Is My Kryptonite

laptop_with_other_objects_323x210Remember that laptop I stole from the most recent company that fired me for being autistic? Well, I decided to give it back.

I know, right? What happened? Did my civilly disobedient cyber-crime actually work? Did I get cold feet? Did the FBI raid my apartment? Did I succumb to torture? Am I now writing to you from a prison cell?

Uh…no, none of that happened. What happened, basically, is that some guy — let’s call him Mr. Phicks — called me up, explained that he represented my most recent employer (the owner of the laptop),  and then asked me kindly to give back the computer.

Then I pretty much just said “OK”, and gave it back to him.

For the most part, that’s what happened. I’ve left out a few details in that telling, but at the end of the day, that’s pretty much the size of it.

Now, the missing details can all be packed into that word kindly that I used to describe how Mr. Phicks asked me to give back the computer. He asked me kindly, by which I mean that he seemed genuinely concerned about me and my troubles and sincerely interested in understanding my tale of woe — including all the stuff that happened with MetLife. We actually spoke for about a half-an-hour, during which he really listened and expressed a genuine interest in helping me. He was warm, friendly, honest — i.e., he was kind to me. He was a really nice guy about it, and in the end I found it impossible to refuse his request to give back the laptop.

Turns out, Kindness has an effect on me something like Kryponite affects Superman.

And how do I know he was being sincere? Well, at first I didn’t, but I decided to take a chance and trust the guy. He assured me that if I gave back the laptop, it did not have to be the end of our conversation. He said we could certainly continue our conversation and that he’d be happy to help me explore other solutions to the problems I need to solve.

And I decided that the opportunity to talk things over with Mr. Phicks was much, much more attractive than going to jail for stealing a laptop, so I accepted his offer and returned the laptop.

Well, that was a couple of weeks ago, and now tomorrow morning we are scheduled to speak again. I have no idea what to expect from the conversation. Maybe nothing will come of it, but maybe something will.

I’m really curious to find out. 🙂


Image Credit: (olive branch) Pixabay