Calling Bullsh*t on That Play

Gayle Leslie
3 min readSep 29, 2023

“First of all this is a very cyclical business and we’ve had a very strong run.” ~ Mary Barra, General Motors CEO

Cancel Culture: the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.

Consequence: a result or effect of an action or condition.

This is an excerpt from a more comprehensive piece I wrote on the banality of ‘whiteness.’

I’d thought to write a piece on the cascade of uber wealthy saying the quiet part out loud in recent weeks, telling us — to our faces — that all those decades of working people ‘complaining’ about the institutional racism, misogyny and classism that we intuited were keeping us on our knees, unable to prosper, to move forward, to thrive — all the reasons, the excuses these self-congratulatory gatekeepers had for not treating working folks with dignity, let alone paying them — was all in our heads. That all ‘we the people’ had to do was work harder, be sweeter and stop complaining and that we would be fine.

The self ordained ‘ruling class’ were not ‘gaslighting’ us, they were just smarter, they worked harder, they just knew better than we did what was good for us. That ‘we the people’ were lazy and ungrateful.

‘We the people’ aren’t fine. In fact, weren’t f*cking pissed and over it.

My first thought was to write about them, but lately they’ve done such a stellar job of telling us themselves, saying the quiet part out loud that I’ve elected to let these clever folks speak for themselves.

Reporter: “Why shouldn’t workers be entitled to what they gave up fifteen years ago, especially since GM is making record profits right now?”

Barra: “First of all this is a very cyclical business and we’ve had a very strong run. I think that is because of the demand from the economy and what we’ve been through unprecedented hardship with Covid…This is a pivotal point in the auto industry…”

Oh dear god, I have to call bullsh*t: what does that even have to do with these negotiations? Barra has her narrative down, and I am sure that she is ‘clutching her pearls’ to stave off a shareholder revolt. But this is utter pablum and she goes on repeating herself for over eight minutes.

Workers gave up huge concessions to save the companies in the catastrophic downturn of ’08. When automakers experienced a historic resurgence in subsequent years, they used the windfall to pay stock-buybacks to shareholders, failing to even remotely make their employees whole.

When Covid shut down manufacturing the auto execs again beseeched assembly-line workers to come back to keep factories open. Many did and some died of the virus they contracted on the job. As profits exploded exponentially, Barra, other execs and shareholders made more money than a single human can spend in a lifetime and again, those working on the factory floor did not see anything approaching that kind of compensation.

Consider this: if auto execs across the board seeded roughly 15% of their windfall they could meet virtually all the existing demands of striking workers. Does anyone believe that Mary Barra does any amount of actual work that warrants $29 million dollars a year? If she did anything at all it was from a hidden estate far from the assembly line.

Chuckleheads like Mary Barra leverage their whiteness to access the levers of power: power to gerrymander elections; power to gerrymander the stock market; power to gerrymander the mechanisms of governance, taxation, regulation and the judiciary; the power to gerrymander the assembly-line floor, to withhold life altering healthcare, to rape with impunity and to decide who becomes a star and who is never heard from again.

While the rest of us are expected to resign ourselves to our lesser station in the social order, bend over and grab our ankles and take it up the a** without resistance or complaint.

Begging the question: how’s that goin’ for ya’?