Fasten your seat belts. Strange metaphors ahead and a rough topic. But judging by the demographics of this readership (you) you can handle it…process it, without blowing a circuit.
Frog on a Stove: Here’s a little known fact, and it comes in two parts: If you have a pan of hot water and you toss a frog into it, the frog will jump out. Duh… So far, so good. But take a pan of cold water and put that same frog into it and set it to simmer on the stove. The frog doesn’t leap out, because it doesn’t notice the gradual heating. It just sits there cooking because from any single moment to the next, things aren’t that different. Do that for ten minutes and you have a dead frog. Yup, you know where I’m going with this but it gets more complicated.
Now, you can plug in the word, Earth, or the word, America into that metaphor and it still works perfectly. Things in America are changing just gradually enough that most of us don’t notice. Or if we do, the change is slow enough that we choose to throw up our hands and say, Well, I don’t know what the hell to do…so I’ll do nothing. The saddest thing of all is that the younger generations were born in (metaphorically speaking) very, very warm water. In their worlds, definitionally, it’s always been this way, so no point in fighting.
Godzilla: Okay…one more metaphor and then I’ll attempt to connect the dots…. to show how just hot the water really is: In the old sci fi movies, sleepy Tokyo Harbor would suddenly be awakened by a monster. Godzilla emerges from the ocean depths and begins terrorizing Japan, stomping on skyscrapers, eating army tanks and spewing out radioactive gas to anything that comes too close. But, it’s not just Godzilla. The movies are overflowing with giant robotic transformers, Rodan (giant flying pterodactyl), giant ants, invaders from Mars, and in every movie, humanity eventually wakes up, rolls up its collective sleeves and fights back. Well, sure. Of course. It’s what we do…EXCEPT when the monsters move slowly and move against us almost invisibly…and usually without our knowledge Care to guess what the monsters are? I’ll give you a hint. It’s one word…sounds like…corporations. Oh, wait a minute. It is…corporations.
Here’s a pretty easy example that most of us can agree on: Philip Morris Inc., R. J. Reynolds, P. Lorillard and Brown & Williamson. The four BIG Tobacco companies. These corporations, with their shining 100-story mirrored facades, amazing commercials, and a super savvy executive board, knowingly and cold-bloodedly chose to hide the fact that their product kills people and in the most heinous and insidious way: Lung Cancer. For a bit of perspective, what if your neighbor next door, set out to knowingly kill your wife, your son, or your daughter? You’d either call the cops or go over there with a baseball bat. But then…it’s a great big building and hell…those cool commercials, and lots of people involved. There has to be some kind of mistake. I assure you. There isn’t. Philip Morris, Reynolds, Lorillard and Brown & Williamson are pretty okay with you dying.
Corporations are now treated by the Supreme Court and the US Government like people. Even the Supreme Court succumbed. Corps can vote…big time, big enough to control the outcome of elections. Two brothers in one corporation have the power of ten million of us. Was that what our founding fathers had in mind? The only thing corporations are NEVER culpable for is murder, embezzlement, theft, extortion, and torture. When that happens, the corporate lawyers grin (because now they get even more money) and bury you, the injured party, in legal fees. A corporation can kill you by the tens, hundreds, thousands, but there is no death sentence for a corporation. There should be…
Okay, Henry, I’ll give you that one. But, most corporations are good. They want me to be safe, healthy, happy. They may even like me. No, no, and Hell no! All they want is money. It’s that simple. It’s their raison d’etre…their reason for existence.
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane. FOMOCO, Ford Motors, makers of the Ford Pinto decided it was cheaper to pay-off the few hundred people who thought to sue when their kids burned to death because of a horribly designed fuel tank location. They tucked the fuel tank in under the back seat to save $22.37 per car. Only trouble is: when you sent your daughter out to WaWa…for some milk, if she got rear-ended, she burned to death. Think about that one. FOMOCO, a corporation, knew this was happening. They did tests…and figured out the cost-to-benefit ratio. Again, if your next door neighbor sold your daughter a car…knowing it could burn her to death…what would you do?
But that was a long time ago, Henry. Things are better now. … No, they’re worse. General Motors is now in huge litigation only because their screw-up was sooo large, millions of people opened their eyes for a moment and said, ENOUGH. GM has more recalls right now than it has sold cars in the past five years. And it’s not just Ford and Chevy. Toyota spent years denying any trouble with their cars…until the numbers got too huge. (1.2 billion dollar settlement for Camry alone). Chrysler, same thing. Infinity…same thing.
Thalidomide: Is this restricted to cigarette and car manufacturers? No. The first time my alarm bells started going off was in 1957 with a German pharmaceutical company, Grünenthal marketing Thalidomide to cure insomnia, which it did very well. Only trouble was, it did hideous things to pregnant women’s babies. Of the 10,000 plus cases of thalidomide poisoning that occurred, less than 50 percent of the babies survived. Did they know about the side effects? They did, but being a corporation, the money was just too good to turn down.
Ambien: Quote: “The most common side effects of Ambien are: drowsiness, dizziness, and a “drugged” feeling. Other side effects include: confusion, insomnia, euphoria, ataxia (balance problems) and visual changes. Ambien can cause withdrawal symptoms (muscle cramps, sweats, shaking and seizures, suicide, and mental imbalance)”. Other than that, party on.
Lunesta: I really love the Lunesta commercials. A big sleepy-looking green moth flutters by. The gal yawns and smiles and then goes to sleep. Next morning she’s up in her jogging suit and ready to go. Then listen carefully to the disclaimers which are whispered to you in triple-time. Do you really want to risk seizures, confusion and death to get a better night’s sleep?
And on and on it goes: BP, British Petroleum, spent many millions denying that the oil spill that wrecked the Gulf of Mexico was anyone’s fault. It was just a mistake. Yup, a mistake caused because men were rushed, forced to take short cuts because it would cost a bit more. Who paid for that? I did and you did. Do you remember the Exxon Valdez?
Halliburton and Dick Cheney. No conflict of interest whatsoever. None. Zero. The only reason we’ve spent THIRTEEN YEARS fighting this war in the Middle East is because of our undying love for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We must really love these people. Or, there’s a whole lotta oil beneath those sands. Take Halliburton out of the equation. Take all the oil companies out of the equation and we’d have spent as much time there as we do in Estonia. Great for the oil companies, not so hot if your kid had to go over there. By the way, World War II only lasted six years…less than half as long.
Even our armed services have become large corporations with all that entails. They asking your son and your daughter to risk their lives. But…should they happen to lose an arm or a leg, it’s not really financially advantageous for them to give him or her an appendage that might help them to live a normal life. It costs too much……… This one really tightens my shorts. Congress could turn this around in one day, but then there’s that cost to benefit ratio again. These soldiers aren’t worth it?????
DOW: Better Living Through Chemistry…with AGENT ORANGE. Depending on how old you are…ever hear of Agent Orange? It’s a great herbicide that DOW Chemical came up with. In our infinite wisdom, we decided to remove all the foliage in Viet Nam using Agent Orange. It worked great….and we won the war…………..(no, not really) Only trouble is, it also killed the innocent Vietnamese men, women, and children , as well as our own soldiers in a slow hideous way. DOW Chemical Motto: Better Living Through Chemistry. Interpretation: Much better Living( for DOW Execs Only).
Sooo…where are we at? Look around you and wonder what corporations are on your side versus just trying as subtly as possible to remove money from your account. Banks? Savings and Loans? Oh, hell no. Comcast? Nope. Walmart? Nope. Almost none of the entities we know as corporations have any ethical sense or awareness whatsoever. The one and only ethic of a corporation is to make a profit. That’s it. As long as the shareholders are happy…
Remember the movie, Network? There was a famous scene in it. The protagonist had had it. Truly had it. He opened a window and screamed, “I’m mad as hell…and I’m not going to take it anymore.” In the movie, other windows slid open and people began screaming the same thing. The only time when individuals can win against an invisible monster known as a corporation is when they group together…communicate. When we don’t, we’re frogs on the stove…simmering.
THE SOLUTION What can be done? It’s bodacious. It’s audacious. It’s a long shot…but is it worth it? Hell, yes. For you, your family, your kids and generations to come, begin to make a buzz, friction, a complaint, a dialogue. What do we want? It’s a small thing. We want ALL corporations to have a legal requirement to initiate an INDEPENDENT quality control/ethical standards division. All problems, decisions that have a QC and/or ethical impact must be routed through this independent ethical standards division for assessment. If a corporation is to be treated like an individual…it should have an ethical code as well. Let’s start somewhere…start a blog: Committee to implement Ethical Standards for Corporations. In whatever way you can, get out of this simmering pot.
P.S. No, not all corporations are bad. Just most of them. Remember Paul Newman? Good actor, personable, and highly ethical. He started a corporation to sell…salad dressing. It’s called Newman’s Own. What percent of the profits from Newman’s Own go to charity? 100%.
Bill Gates is doing well, too and there are others…setting a standard which if other corporations took to heart, would save millions, possibly billions of people. You just might find that there are thousands of corporate employees who’d rather be proud of what they’re doing and where they’re working than utterly ashamed and disgusted.