During my recent and frequent musings over the OWS movement and who they are, why they are, and the like, I tried to ask myself some serious questions about how we got here.
Inevitably I encounter the platitudinous terms “multi-national corporations” and “big business.” I write platitude because we speak of these entities as some alien being, a nebulous group of animated buildings in some far-off city making decisions and taking actions against all concepts of justice. In the middle of all of this, and after a personal experience, I had an epiphany. Once the shallow and meaningless blathering ceased, I was left with a simple definition of these profit-hungry zombies from beyond:
The collective will of individuals for profit.
What, exactly, does this mean? I don’t want to get into an argument over whether profit itself is good or bad. I think we can all agree that profit is neutral. What I’m talking about in terms of the individual is just that: individuals. Corporations aren’t bad, people are bad. Do I mean all people? No. I am saying there are enough bad people to cause immeasurable damage to our system and society. And in a corporation, they are able to hide behind the entity’s veil.
Even beyond the Dr. Frankensteins of the world who genetically design soybean seeds to easily contaminate adjacent fields and the executives who pay them well for their services, there are the lawyers who defend them and antagonize family farms, and the administrative associates who copy and file their paperwork who say, “Hey, I didn’t know. I’m just a secretary,” or “I don’t know about that stuff man. I just do my job.” In other words: the problem is YOU, US…the people who do their infrastructure work, allowing them to focus on conquering. In return we get a paycheck and apparently cheaper food.
We trade our consciences in for good surf and turf! This happens all of the time. I experienced it recently. Someone did something that goes totally against the philosophy and ethics of their profession, they knew this, and did it anyway. Why? The client asked them to do it. If they were to share what happened with other providers, they would every last one.
It reminds me of what happened to Ralph Nader in 2000 when he was denied entry to a Presidential Debate even though he had a ticket to the event. The State Troopers were asked by the debate organizers to deny him entry…and they did. Here’s the thing: did the organizers break the law by asking? No. The State Trooper broke the law by deciding to be their thug. He said yes when he should have said no. If the trooper, using his authority properly, would have said, “No. That would be against the law. Neither I nor any of my troopers will do anything to stop someone from getting in who has a ticket and has done nothing to prohibit entry,” the organizers would have backed down. Unfortunately, the trooper didn’t have the moral courage to say no. He made himself a tool for something unethical.
These people are not faceless. They are neighbors, friends, and family. They are us. We give this power…and then get upset at the fact that they made the request.
In the end, they know we will side with “our guy” when the going gets tough. Our guy can be that friend, family member, client, etc. A sports analogy: San Francisco Giants fans, while the rest of the country held him in disdain, loved Barry Bonds and backed him up even if they thought he did something wrong. However, the day he retired his popularity went down. They had to back him as long as he was their guy. Once he left them, that was it. Have you ever watched a game with someone who will argue a call that’s as plain as day, and they know it, but they can’t help but argue for their team, club, etc. You see this with parents and their children at games. The kid can do no wrong. Somehow, we’re wired that way.
How are we to change this? It’s a tough one. Integrity isn’t easy. It’s like tough love with children. A failure in their character is often taken by the parent as a failure in theirs. So instead of facing the possibility of guilt on both counts, it’s ignored entirely. We’ve gotten ourselves into this thing by ignoring the problems over time and allowing the cancer to spread. With OWS, we know it’s at our front door. If you’ve ever read anything by John Perkins, you know that he is often encouraged by sympathetic people working for some of the organizations he outs. Instead of continuing to work for them, leave their employ…or call them out. If we cannot do that, we’re lost.
Be the change you want to see in the world. Each of us need to reflect on those times that we’ve forfeited conscience and fed the leviathan. In that reflection and realization perhaps we can find something new, and the resolve to not let it happen again. Otherwise, when that beast knocks and you answer, you just may be facing yourself.
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