Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Corporate profit before all else.

Certainly there will come a time when the "corporate profit before all else" mentality has to come to an end. The questions are: When and how are we going to get there?

As a younger, more idealistic version of myself, I used to think that I had a strong dislike for "corporate America" but didn't completely know what that meant. Now that I'm a little bit older, I realize that I still don't know what it means.

I remember standing in a corporate bookstore flipping through a copy of Adbusters magazine, but (of course) not buying it. (Aside: How can you justify buying something with the whole profit model based off of convincing you not to buy something else? Wait, isn't that how a large portion of our consumer culture works? "You'll certainly be happier if you buy this brand of dishwashing liquid instead of that cheap ass one that's sure to leave your dishes dirty and make you the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood!!!") I'm sure I stood there for a few minutes in my [brand name] sneakers also flipping through a stack of magazines about mountain bikes, cars, running and whatever else I was interested in at the time thinking about "culture jamming" and the destruction that corporations were causing the world.

I remember eventually coming to the conclusion that it's hard to walk the line between feeling like a socially conscious, responsible person and a complete hypocrite... and the days I feel like I'm more on the former side, it's just complete and total ignorance.

The fact is that it's close to impossible to opt out of the "system" and still survive. Even if you pick an area of focus and do something that you think is a better, more responsible choice like buying "organic" foods at the supermarket from smaller companies, chances are good those brands are now owned by giant corporate conglomerates that have snatched them up for the brand name and the increased profit that comes with them.

In this example, larger companies snatch up smaller companies with good ideas / market share / turf that they desire and then slowly kill them off internally, fold them into their massive corporate structure and then "downsize" or just grab the brand and/or patents and sit on them. There are hundreds of things that are done purely in the name of profit that are much more questionable or unethical than buying up your competition, but I don't want to turn this into a massive list / rant.

Now usually when people become outraged by something they clamor for "increased regulations" but that usually just makes things worse. Tying shit up in bureaucracy for years and trusting someone that somewhere up to half of the population didn't vote for based on the side they label themselves as or even just how familiar their name is. Then these "representatives" hopefully ignore their convictions, biases and contributors and do the right thing for the country and the majority of the people. Yeah. That sounds like *exactly* what happens. (/sarcasm.)

There have been some headlines in the past few years about "corporate personhood" here in the United States (in light of a recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby, contraception coverage by insurance and religious convictions) and how it's probably time that it's ended. Many of the comments about these type of articles tend to lead to the conclusion that if a corporation was actually a person it would be a heavy-handed, greedy, money-driven psychopath with no empathy, sympathy or conscience.

That's the whole game, though. If (corporate) profit drives all available choices, and every one of those choices is a bad choice for someone or something else, why not just pick the best choice for you and get on with your day? Why care at all?

Acknowledging this isn't me giving up. This is me realizing that just saying you don't like something isn't going to change it. It's time to break free of conspicuous consumption and unchecked corporate profit and power.

We need to find better ways of defining what it is that makes us happy and better ways to get there if we want to have any sort of a future.
  • We need to figure out how to destroy the notion of corporate personhood.
  • We need to take away incentives to destroy everything (the environment, people's rights and freedoms, etc.) in the ruthless pursuit of profit.
  • We need to tweak the legal system to end frivolous lawsuits.
  • We need to stop funding government organizations that don't have the best interests of the people they serve as their only reasons for existence.
Most of all, though, it starts with making better choices as individuals. Some things that will help:
  • Stop coveting other people's stuff.
  • Pick some concerns that you're passionate about to focus on (environment, local business, etc.) and try to work them into all purchasing decisions.
  • Take a few extra minutes to consider whether you really need something when making purchasing decisions.
  • Try to buy secondhand goods, when possible.
  • Donate or sell things that you've accumulated that someone might make better use of.
  • Look for more durable, locally made products as an alternative to the mass-produced junk at the local big-box store.
  • Services aren't exempt, either. Find a local Credit Union to do your banking. Skip chain restaurants, haircuts, stores...
The more we can shift power (money) back into our local economies and businesses, the more quickly change will come.

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