Do any of you scholars remember the brief tale of “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, by Herman Melville (he of “Moby Dick” fame)?
The narrator, an elderly, unnamed Manhattan lawyer with a comfortable business, relates the story of the strangest man he has known: Bartleby. At the start of his story the lawyer already employs two scriveners to copy legal documents by hand: Nippers and Turkey. An increase in business leads him to advertise for a third, and he hires the forlorn-looking Bartleby in the hope that his calmness will soothe the irascible temperaments of the other two.
At first, Bartleby produces a large volume of high-quality work. But one day, when asked to help proofread a document, Bartleby answers with what soon becomes his perpetual response to every request—”I would prefer not to.” To the dismay of the lawyer and to the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby performs fewer and fewer tasks, and eventually none. The narrator makes several futile attempts to reason with him and to learn something about him; and when he stops by the office unexpectedly, he discovers that Bartleby has started living there.
Sometimes life imitates art. As in this story.
NEW YORK (WABC) — A man is suing Costco for religious discrimination.
Must be another of those radical Christians!
He tells Eyewitness News exclusively that when he refused to work with pork…
No, I guess not a radical Christian. A Jew, do you suppose? But in any case, oh, please, somebody tell me he said “I would prefer not to.”
Anyway, the response…
… the major retailer sent him outside to gather carts.
Much as Bartleby’s employer attempted to set him to other tasks. Except…
Camara says he asked his managers if he could work in the electronics department, but his requests were repeatedly denied.
Sure, let everyone define his own job, that makes perfect sense. And if his name is indeed “Camara”, my gosh, he belongs in the electronics department. What sort of Islamophobic fiend would bar Mr. Camara from the camara, err, camera, department?
Unlike Bartleby, this guy didn’t move into Costco; instead…
He ended up filing a human rights complaint against the company.
Why move in when you can stay put and make the company pay your room and board and probably a lot more?
16 days later, he was fired for insubordinate conduct.
Yeah, this is what happens in the real world when you tell the boss “I would prefer not to”.
Bartleby suffered a different fate, perhaps because he was a fictional character who was somewhat sympathetic in spite of everything, and also was presumably mentally ill. Maybe this guy is a head case (we seem to see a lot of head cases these days), but he’s not a good head case. (There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a head case; I’m halfway there myself. But headcases that expect to be tolerated by the greater society ought to extend that same tolerance to the rest of us. The universe does not revolve around our egos.)
I’m curious how this will turn out. One would expect this guy would get laughed out of court. On the other hand, playing the Islam card seems to have a lot more traction than the Christian card at this moment in history.