“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness (Psalm 89:14-16).”
Jimmy McNulty can’t win for losing. He’s a loser at office politics.
Jimmy is a fictional detective in the TV show called “The Wire”. He’s something of a rebel, at least to his superiors in the Baltimore Police Department.
Jimmy doesn’t really mean to get his bosses mad at him. He just wants to be a good cop. However, all he does is get himself into trouble and get himself isolated.
The “fun” begins when McNulty attends the murder trial of DeAngelo Barksdale, a member of a drug running family. When a witness backs off her story and DeAngelo is freed, McNulty is there.
McNulty understands that the body count in the section of Baltimore where the Barksdales operate is due to their brutal methods. In a visit to an old friend, a powerful city judge, he brings this up in conversation.
The next thing you know, McNulty is being called on the carpet for insubordination. The judge has made a phone call to the detective’s boss.
When a witness who actually did testify in DeAngelo’s trial is murdered after the verdict, things get even worse for McNulty. He suggests to his fellow detective that the murder was probably done by the Barksdales as payback. When the story is spun that way and published on the front page of the Baltimore newspaper, McNulty gets the blame, although he has not talked to a reporter.
Afterwards, his superior officer walks into the cubicle area of the office looking for McNulty and when he finds he isn’t there, takes his hand and clears a bunch of stuff off his desk. When he learns from the sergeant manning the office that the desk he has just mutilated belongs to another officer, the boss turns around and walks away in exasperation.
McNulty’s problem is that he just doesn’t trust his bosses, and with good reason. They are the types who will cover their own behinds and are motivated more by politics than doing the right thing. When McNulty does try to do the right thing, he is slapped down.
Furthermore, his superiors seem clueless. McNulty is a detective, which means he does his homework. However, his bosses just don’t want to make waves and ignore the problems in their department and in the city of Baltimore, to the detriment of both.
Caught in the middle between the big bosses and McNulty is Lt. Cedric Daniels. When the police heads have to address the murdered witness issue because of the headlines, they put him in charge of a sham unit assigned to investigate.
The section by design is loaded with incompetents and do nothings. Only McNulty and another female detective are capable.
When Daniels complains to his wife about the case, she advises him to “get out of it”. Her husband asks her how he could do that, and she replies. “I don’t know, but you cannot lose if you do not play.”
She summarizes Daniels situation for him. She tells him that if he pushes to hard and things go wrong, he will get the blame. On the other hand, if he does nothing, he will get the blame for that, too.
She reminds him that he is investigating a case his bosses do not want. They have given him bad people to sabotage him. “You cannot lose if you do not play”, she reiterates.
The choices are not good when you are dealing with poor supervision. You can either demand to be heard or do nothing, but in either case you are left alone and hung out to dry when your bosses are corrupt.
The Bible has a story that shows what can happen when those in charge actually do get behind their subordinates. It involves King David and some of his ambassadors.
In the episode, recorded in II Samuel 10, David decides to honor an ally by sending emissaries to their king’s funeral. He has had a good relationship with this man, the leader of the Ammonites.
However, the dead monarch’s son isn’t so friendly. On the suggestion of his advisors, he is suspicious of David and humiliates his ambassadors, cutting off their clothes at the buttocks and shaving off half their beards. (A full face of hair is the sign of a man in the Middle East.)
Imagine yourself in the place of these ambassadors. Most of us, given our experiences with today’s employers, would have probably expected David to ignore the whole situation.
However, this is not what happened. David told the men to lay low until their beards grew back, thus showing them respect. Then, he began a war against the Ammonites, which he won in a mighty fashion. He brought everything to bear against the opponent (II Samuel 10:1-19).
David sent a message to those who thought they could get by with double dealing and chicanery. After their defeat, these people were afraid to mess with David and his people in the future (II Samuel 10:19).
We shouldn’t be surpised at today’s workplace. The source of all the chaos comes from one source. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones wrote some lyrics which describe him:
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.
So who is this person who makes people like our bosses walk away from our troubles? What is his name and what is his game? Jagger later tells us:
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint.
Behind all the messiness at our jobs is the devil himself. Ironically, the song “Sympathy for the Devi”l caught hell from “good” people when it was released. However, Stones guitarist Keith Richards explained its true meaning in 2002:
“Sympathy is quite an uplifting song. It’s just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He’s there all the time. I’ve had very close contact with Lucifer – I’ve met him several times. Evil – people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t rear its ugly head. Sympathy for the Devil is just as appropriate now, with 9/11. There it is again, big time. When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America has found out to its dismay, you can’t hide. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don’t forget him. If you confront him, then he’s out of a job.” (Songfacts.com)
The problem in today’s office is that employers refuse to follow Richards’ advice and confront evil. They’d rather wash their hands of it like Pontius Pilate. In that respect, Jagger is correct when he says that “Sympathy for the Devil” is also about the darkness of man.
If the boss won’t do it, I suppose it’s still up to us, if we are followers of God. It’s our task to look Satan in the eye and take him out in our places of work.
If our employer isn’t on the side of good, we still have an ally walking the halls of work with us. That would be Jesus Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God.
Like His ancestor and His Father, when we cry out to Him over the injustices in our offices, He cares. Also like David, Jesus will do something about them, even if our bosses won’t!