Damn the man! Save the Empire!

The title above is a quote from a classic movie from my adolescent years, Empire Records.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  To me, this movie encompasses my teenage years.  It’s something I can always look back on with fond memories.  I see it relating to what is happening around me.

The movie focuses around a group of misfits who work at a record store.  In many ways, I see it (sort of) mirroring myself and the misfits I work with.

Now – I mean misfits in the kindest of terms.  I love my coworkers.  To be honest, I probably have the best coworkers in the world.  We’ve kind of grown up together, we’ve been together for a long time, seen each other through some happy times and some not so happy times.  I call us misfits because we don’t really follow the norm of the rest of the institution we work at.  We’re all about “openness” and “innovation”.  Things that I think in the “normal” academic environment are seen as strange and unusual.  We don’t follow the regular academic paths, we make our own or we work with others who want to make a new path.  We want to share everything, we want people to know as much as they can, while the rest of the academic society seems to covet the hold they have on their knowledge and what happens with it.  We gain knowledge and we give it away, we shout it in the streets.  If others are shouting, we shout with them.

We’re misfits.

Now back to Empire Records and how it fits into my story.  A typical morning opening up shop at Empire Records begins a little something like this.  Now, I can’t say it’s exactly the same where I work.  We don’t have music playing, but you get where I’m going with this…hopefully.  It’s fun!!! We goof off, we laugh, we still get work done – but we have a good time doing it!  I wish I could say it was this cool.  Three members of the management team form a band with the husband of one of my coworkers and do play at work parties, but I don’t think it would be reasonable or responsible to have drum set in the office.  You’ll notice, however, at the end of that scene that the big boss shows up and ruins the mood.

The movie goes on, if you haven’t watch it – SPOILER ALERT.  Basically, the big boss wants to sell the store to some huge corporation, Music Town, making the store and everyone who works there have to conform to how every other records store is.  Just another big box store.  Something similar happens where I work.  The traditional academic world around says “hey, we need to be like every other institution out there, put away the openness and get back to our kind of work.”

And the music dies…

However, when the traditional academic institution that surrounds tries to conform us, make us just like them, just like another institution…something like this happens: Damn the man! Save the Empire! I swear, my boss has just as much control of us as Joe does over his employees.  At the end of the day, I could see him telling us to forget the permit – forget the traditional, right way of doing things…just do it the way we do it.

Something else I love about where I work, the support system that is there.  If you want to do something, you do it.  There’s no “it’s not within our scope” or “it’s too significant of an expense” or just simply “we don’t want you to do it”.  If there’s a will, there’s a way!  If you have an idea, if you have a dream, if you want to do something that isn’t in your job description but is something you’ve always dreamed of..DO IT!!! The support is there, the encouragement of creativity and innovation is very real and present.  Like in the movie, Gina mentions in a funeral scene (don’t worry, no one dies) that she’s always wanted to sing in a band but she’s never had the courage to do it.  Well guess what, she gets her chance in the end, with the support of her awesome work family.  If you want to get Sugar High, you get Sugar High!!!

And so concludes my story.  The man may try to get us down, may try to control, conform, reform, overthrow…but damn the man. Save the Empire!

And now for a little end-of-movie dance scene.

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