The Square

The Square

The foreign language film The Square was the first Egyptian production ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.  It didn’t win last night, but the story it tells reminds us of the power and promise of collective action.

The film recounts the heady early days of the Egyptian Revolution, when tens of thousands of ordinary people gathered in a city square, overthrew a powerful dictator and charted a course – albeit it one still strewn with obstacles – toward democracy.  There’s more to the story, of course, but I think that’s the key lesson the film holds for Career Activists.

In my “career novel” A Multitude of Hope (you can read an excerpt at www.AMultitudeofHope.com), I tell the story of three working Americans who feel oppressed by the shrinking sense of optimism and disappearing middle class in America.  Is that challenge of the same magnitude as a violent dictator ship?  Of course not, but it is an existential threat to a nation built on free and unfettered access to opportunity.

Each of the three workers takes a different path in dealing with this threat looming over their career, their family and their own perception of self-worth.  It is the narrator, however, who sets the tale in motion.  He is contacted by a secret online group of activists who are working to revolutionize the American workplace.

The strategy of this group is as simple as it is profound.  They are creating a huge database – not of company faults as so many Web-sites now do – but of employers who respect and support their employees.  They call it Tahrir – the name of the square where the Egyptian Revolution began.

The idea is to reinvigorate the hope of working Americans by providing the one thing that’s missing from today’s always-on, forever connected, constantly updated world of work – the information they need to find the good and decent employers that are right for them.

There are millions of such employers, but they have been made invisible by all of the outside noise in the workplace.  So, the people of Tahrir go to a different source for a true and accurate portrait of the employers that deserve their talent – their fellow Career Activists.

They are, in effect, creating a model for how American workers can stand up for themselves in the 21st century.  Unlike unions with their collective bargaining, the Career Activists of Tahrir are committed to collective hope building.  And, with more and more surveys showing mid-career professionals struggling to hold onto the middle class and recent college graduates unable to start the careers for which they’ve prepared, genuine, durable hope is exactly what we need in America today.

Thanks for reading,
Peter