Corporate Fundamentalism

Many people will tell you that a company’s sole purpose is to “maximize returns to its owners.” As with most (if not all) fundamentalist approaches that attempt to reduce a complex reality, it eviscerates reality.

In North America a corporation is a creation of, and at least in theory is subject to the oversight of, we the people as expressed through our duly-elected representatives. It is created to maximize long-term benefit to all its stakeholders. Note that the US Constitution does not directly address corporations, partnerships or any other form of commercial operation. In the Preamble is the phrase “promote the general Welfare, with that last word referring not to a government-run program but rather to “Health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being,
(American Heritage Dictionary). Of course a strict constructionist might chose to read that phrase as permitting corporations to focus on maximizing the ‘good fortune’ of shareholders but the use of ‘general welfare’ suggests a broader reading.

A corporation’s stakeholders include all who potentially benefit (or suffer) from its activities; shareholders, management, other employees, suppliers and customers. But also citizens who never directly interact with the company. People who drive on the same roads the company’s vehicles or suppliers use, as one example. A company that doesn’t contribute its fair share to the cost of structural upkeep is mistreating everyone. A corporation that pays employees such a small wage that people who never shop there have to ‘pick up the tab’ for food assistance and other programmes their employees need to survive is harming the general welfare.

Management of publicly-traded stock companies have replaced maximizing long-term benefits to all stakeholders with a focus on short-term results that impact the company’s share price and their own remuneration. Additional pressure comes from the currently-promoted mythology of the “self-made man.”

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

John Donne

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately
Ben Franklin

It is necessary to remind our elected officials that corporations are not, and can never be, ‘people‘ in any sense of the word. They are creations of the State and must be reigned in if we have any hope of promoting the general Welfare. Once the ridiculous and erroneous SCOTUS decision (‘Citizens United’) has been overturned, it will be time to change how corporations are overseen and brought into line with the Constitutional requirement to promote the general Welfare.
Common Cause

At the same time, we must take steps to reign in our addiction to rampant consumerism. And to the degree that we have funds to spend, use them to support local independent businesses.

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gratitude [grat-i-tood, -tyood]
the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful:
He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.

The word has become quite popular of late; I stopped counting the number of Twitter handles that include the word at 36 as I could see there were scads more. Likewise for blog and domain names. Being thankful is a good thing; it may reduce anger and hopelessness, and keep us humble. Yet I have my issues around the word. They weren’t part of my review of Gratitude and Trust by Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson as I wanted to focus on the quality of the book’s content. A ‘must-read’ btw.

Certainly in a ‘big picture’ sense I am grateful. I was an out and proud gay man in Toronto in the 80s and 90s who remains uninfected, I survived being mugged in Toronto and a serious car accident in November of 2000 (18 day hospital stay with mutliple surgeries). I am grateful.

However on a day-to-day basis it is a struggle; I am broke, under-employed and fighting foreclosure. Going to a movie theatre or live performance is beyond my resources, much less going back to Toronto for World Pride last month. My health is not terrible but there are aches and pains. Which of course leads to self-recrimination; so many of the people I knew in Toronto 30 years ago passed long before gout or arthritis could become an annoyance.

And then there’s that whole not wanting to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ attitude of mine.

At the same time, I have an almost visceral response to “being grateful” that seems to stem from a few different sources. First is the far-too-common use of ‘just be grateful for what you have’ in religion, employment and politics as tools to control we, the people. No upsetting the proverbial applecart. Accept your place. There was a time we gay folk were advised to be grateful for whatever crumbs society deigned to permit us. Back when we protested for non-discrimination legislation and the concept of ‘same-sex marriage’ wasn’t a pipe dream, it was a non-existent concept. And when it did become at least a dream there were many who said the time ‘wasn’t right’ to push. Since there is still no national employment non-discrimination protection in the US, perhaps their fears were not without some foundation. Fortunately some souls decided to ignore the nay-sayers. While full marriage equality has yet to arrive in the US of A, it is no longer a pipe dream.

However, I am learning to limit the hold my past has on me, while not forgetting valuable lessons. And so I move forward – in gratitude.

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Dropper of Names

Over the past few days I have been contemplating a new blog post about Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, selfishness, celebrity and my Grandma’s last few years- plus whatever else my brain connects with any of that. It is interesting what crosses my mind as I clean warehouse bathrooms and vacuum a Call Centre. I’ve also been thinking about an acquaintance’s suggestion that I am a name-dropper. And yes, I am more interested in this person’s accusation than the same one leveled at me by a small-time radio host who clearly projects their own insecurities.

Although some people apply that label to anyone who mentions their connection (genuine or not) with people of note, I am pleased to see dictionaries ranging from the traditional Cambridge to the more populist Urban Dictionary continue to recognize the additional judgement attached to the term. To acknowledge one’s connection to a person of note may well be merely a statement of fact; one of my instructors at the local Community College is a cousin of Liza Minnelli but says so only when asked directly.

The ingredient necessary to go from Namer of Names to Dropper of Names is either (or both):
* the person claims a significantly closer relationship to the person of note than what exists;
* the person inserts the Name(s) of Fame into a conversation where it has no relevance;
and most often does so “in order to achieve a self-gratifying level of social acceptance and/or ego boost” as noted in the first definition found at the above-linked Urban Dictionary.

For example, in the movie Monster-in-Law Jane Fonda’s character responds to Jlo seeing a photo of Jane and Oprah by acknowledging that she knows her. Not name-dropping. On the other hand, when Jane’s character is leading the conversation at a dinner table she says “So there I was sitting next to the Sultan of Brunei with Maureen Dowd, Carrie Fisher and Snoop Dogg” in a story that involves only the Sultan and Snoop. Arguably not namedropping to mention those two but adding Maureen and Carrie’s names clearly qualifies.

Of course whether one finds name-dropping to be offensive is a personal decision. For that matter, one may decide that mentioning any connection to Names of Note is pretentious while someone else enjoys any opportunity to learn something from such a story.

And a somewhat parallel situation is the term ‘name-calling’. Imagine if you will that your parent comes out on the porch and calls for you. Presumably to come wash up for dinner (yes, an image from another era; kids willingly playing outside without electronic gadgets and then sitting down with the rest of the family for a meal). They are calling your name, but most people would not say they are calling you names. Name-calling clearly refers to “the act of insulting someone by calling them rude names,” as the Cambridge dictionary puts it.

Oh- that post mentioned in the first line above is still being mulled over- stay tuned.

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