Wounded Trust, Lost Revenues
American Big Business faces a terrible backlash: its arrogance is showing. The major issue with the consumer is trust. It’s been lost … it won’t be easily won back -- and it’ll likely get worse. Capitalism could go on trial, and it’s ill-prepared to argue its case. Just like the rest of us, it needs a valid world view for a guidance system, and a caring healthy psychology. It lacks both. Do CEOs care? No, they do whatever they want. We should just nuke them, and put an end to their endless piracies! Let’s declare war on America’s oil companies, and then go down a hit list! Evacuate Irvine, Texas, first, of course.
by Donald Croft Brickner
The good news, one supposes, is that once the smoke clears, capitalism will be viewed as just an economic system with lots of templates -- and very little else.
That things got a little out of hand had more to do with flawed people than ideas.
That’s mostly a good thing, really -- things could have been ever so much worse. It’s also the last two lines of this treatise placed on top, as a vaguely-considered literary device.
Closer to the truth, that flip-flop is also a gosh and golly preamble to a rant.
* * * * *
The smoke-clearing, of course, refers to the aftermath of a fervent, philosophical assault on the foundations of capitalism, its abuses and addictions. That there’s more than one theory about how to conduct the business of business can temper some of the assault that’s heading Wall Street’s way -- but not all of it.
No. The attack is already bundling up some barely contained steam, and is likely to manifest shortly -- and those initiating many of the attacks may come from a heretofore highly unanticipated source: our universities and seminaries! More on that in a moment.
So many Americans are suffering now, the nightly news reports don’t begin to do justice to the phenomenon. Hearts are being broken, and lives abruptly cut short in the (only likely-to-increase) wake of all kinds of aberrant murders and suicides.
An entire discussion can (and will) be built around the mounting horrors of 2009. But along with all of the shock and dismay will arrive new hopes, justly surfaced.
Humans are ever so much capable of standing tall, and being courageous. Some of the stories from this year are likely to become the subjects of major movies a few years down the road, when all of these disruptions will have palpably faded.
This year there’s likely to be countless passionate “exchanges of words” between individuals who are convinced they detest one another -- only it won’t be true.
Most of us are going to find ourselves really testy, and the whys won’t matter.
Still, anger is anger, rage is rage, and they will both find a way to be expressed over the next 11 months, and probably beyond that.
There’s a place for anger -- and on the topic of greedmongering, I’m loaded with it. So far, the chieftans of big industry -- most particularly, of U.S. oil companies, who I’m about to fire a round of testy criticisms at shortly -- have exhibited no remorse at all for their I’m-not-okay/you’re-not-okay destructive behaviors.
They’re acting like simpleton self-serving sons of bitches.
And they exhibit the characteristics of those who actually wish to harm others.
* * * * *
Big Oil and Wall Street are about to have their heads handed to them on platters.
It’s then, possibly, that out will trot an entirely new order of antagonists: our long silent, long-patient university and seminary faculty socialists -- they’re all over the U.S., from coast to coast -- who’ll begin their pounce by declaring, We Told You So.
Well -- we did. You stupid, stupid people were lost in Your Materialistic Coma.
American-born professors at American universities and American seminaries! -- yes. They’ve been plying such soft avocations as best as they’ve been able to now for a very long time (no one, but no one, has noticed) -- and believe-you-me, they’re more than ready to step into the forthcoming national debates about how best to get around the well-documented negatives of compulsive money-making.
The soft avocations referred to, above, are the acts of publishing, in professional journals, largely unread philosophical and theological position papers in support of socialism -- by rather frail-looking faculty figuratively featuring what seem like flat-hammered, caps-snapping Fanner 50s in expensive, cool-looking holsters slung around or just beneath the waists of their tenured jackets. The holsters are strapped down at the knees. The straps are a rich tan in color as are the holsters.
These folks are ready to draw those toy pistols now -- and fire: pop-pop-pop-pop!
Stupid proletariat cowards! (…pop-pop-pop-pop!) …Useless space taker-uppers!
* * * * *
Let’s do back up a step or two -- it’s like, angry faculty members … huh?! I know.
As most of you have already determined, the subject here (once again) is Greed Out-of-Control.
A very real difficulty in continuing to discuss this topic is how best to sidestep the application of ethics, and still have caps to pop loudly in the face of a capitalistic system that’s unquestionably been severely abused (and continues to be).
Ethics -- as in, identifying good from bad, right from wrong. It’s a problem our livid faculty professors, above, even may have taken for granted too often. Greed is “bad,” they’ll probably intone, and do so right out of the starting gate … allowing they do show up and participate in the national dialogue headed our way soon.
The thing is, in and of itself: greed is just greed -- and all human beings have the inalienable right to play around with it (and suffer the consequences, should they surface). Our purpose for living out our individual incarnations on an overpopulated (if illusory-by-Intention and design) planet is twofold: to experience, and to express.
That’s it -- which is why ethical calls are so very difficult to make, and pin down. It can’t be done without a uniform world view, and on this planet we don’t have one.
We simply don’t.
I’m being reasonable here. Don’t expect that to last too much longer, forthwith.
* * * * *
One primary ethical stance, however, isn’t all that hard to nail down. When people hurt other people, physically and (increasingly into our shared futures) emotionally, that’s a “bad” thing -- from just about everyone’s point-of-view, be they religiously- or spiritually-inclined, agnostics or atheists. That’s why all earthly cultures make a strong effort to define “hurt” -- and to decide how to punish those who do the hurting.
Capitalism did not “cause” its callous greed-mongering brethren to do the horrific things they’ve done to their fellow human beings -- it merely granted the callous with a ready and all-too-willing mechanism to deploy on behalf of greediness.
The callous may cite chapter and verse for their untenable beliefs, but the bottom line is they’re themselves unhappy and miserable children dressed up like adults.
And let’s end this gnawing-away question right here: socialism (itself nothing but a system determining the whys and wherefores of economic distribution) is not a “cure” for capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t need to be replaced, per se -- merely its excesses, brought on by the arrogantly hurtful who, it must be obvious by now, are idiots.
Self-destructive idiots -- not unlike practicing alcoholics.
* * * * *
Does that mean they don’t deserve our wrath, then, when it surfaces? Must we always om down meditatively to regain our proper, best footing? No. Not always.
Let’s be clear about this: if an alcoholic continues to hurt those around him or her and refuses to cease such behavior despite all pleas and provided alternatives to change, that alcoholic needs to be flattened with some variation on the theme of a hammer.
The same applies to greedmongers, who’re in the process of bringing the world’s economies crashing to a thundering, smoke-blinding ground zero.
This isn’t about ethics, at all, in the end, then. It’s about allowing criminals to get away with performing what are yet-to-be-fully-defined criminal acts.
Is it our fault these bums have abused every well-intended rule we’ve established to curtail or shut down their ongoing and relentless “mongering?”
We placed our trust as a people in America’s corporations. Now, in retrospect, all that most of their employees and customers alike have to show for this one-way relationship are two decades-plus worth of bullying; unfair, back-stabbing work environments; broken promises; bluntly removed jobs, and all retirement savings -- and, for Big Businesses, the worm at the bottom of the bottle for them: Americans’ lost trust.
It’s gone -- that lost trust is a broken arrow. No one wants, ever again, to build up piles of fake money, and then have it taken away from them.
The bums don’t get it, still. No one trusts corporate anything any more. Were we supposed to writhe in manipulated ecstasy and then race out our doors to buy, buy, buy a lot of useless crap because we watched some cute Super Bowl ads?
What planet are Wall Streeters living on? It isn’t this one. The severe economic entrenchment the greedy are shocked to observe around them now isn’t just some passing phase. We did it all their way (just as we did with old Republican far-right leadership) -- they had things their way for a very long time -- and we discovered it was hurting us. The hatred outside of the stock exchanges is real.
* * * * *
These folks are heartless, selfish, dysfunctional thugs. They have to be stopped. Talking to them has led us all nowhere. Hell, they aren’t even listening: not to the president, not to Congress, not to undervalued employees, not to customers.
They’re just sneering … which always comes off as really off-putting, anyway.
There’s a time and a place for all manner of confrontations. Now is a good time for this one:
If these clowns want a war, I say let’s give them one.
* * * * *
This isn’t about the Saudis or anybody else in the Middle East, by the way. We have an abundance of our own Big Shot oil companies, thank you very much.
U.S. oil company heads don’t give a rat’s petoot about their fellow Americans -- can that be any more obvious? While gas prices plummeted toward the end of 2008 (due in large part to their having been belligerently raised last summer), oil companies doubled the cost for buying motor oil throughout that entire period (not that our media noticed), and apparently planned to raise prices at the pump this year as part of their gauging plan, whether it was warranted or not (it’s not).
That they’re not alone in that corrupted mindset (half of Wall Street also shares it) doesn’t lessen their culpability as just plain lousy human beings.
The only question that remains, under these circumstances, is this: what are we going to do about it?
What? Will our new president and Congress stand up to these aggressors? Do they even have the courage and wherewithal to do so?
* * * * *
Before this essay turns into the increasingly high caliber rant it so (unctuously?) seeks to become, let’s focus briefly first on a key foundational concept: that of nihilism.
Gentility, caring and hope are all on the increase here in America. No question.
One might characterize it as The Obama Effect -- yet one suspects our renewed hopes may go a lot deeper than that and, in fact, are more sustainably nuanced.
But so, too, are their mirror opposites on the rise: hopelessness, lethargy, and cynicism. And over the next 12 months or so, those characteristics will appear to overpower the optimistic ones, I’m inclined to believe -- perhaps even to such an extent as to suggest that the Dark Side might overcome us.
It won’t -- but that image will be so strong at times as to suggest that it just could.
Regardless, lethargy, cynicism and hopelessness -- and the nihilist cesspool out of which they gestate and then thrive -- will likely go on trial, too, this year, although far less literally or widely. Given that a sizeable probability yet exists that nihilism can inflict such great damage, it shouldn’t be dismissed in the least.
Nihilism isn’t even on the table yet, almost anywhere, as a huge problem unique to these times, and that alone is going to contribute to our potential failings when it comes to dealing with such a debilitating psychological aberrancy.
Never mind the immediacy of destruction by way of Big Business. At the core of corporate crime is the pseudo world view of … yes, nihilism.
* * * * *
Look -- when the bad stuff happens, it often (although not always) arrives in a crawl.
Calamities, more often than not, don’t catch us off-guard. We just ignored their steady march in our direction.
For the nihilist -- whether he or she is even remotely aware that nihilism defines the content of his or her core beliefs -- calamity represents truth. At the other end of the spectrum, sweet human sentiments (as demonstrated in, say, The Sound of Music), comically induce puke.
Kindness and hope have no place in such a world, because such love emotions, which need a figurative framework of lots of warm hugs to seed and flourish, are rejected on mere principle -- and so, like the scientist who requires proof, nihilists won’t accept that which can’t be readily demonstrated. Still, the rejection is theirs.
It’s safe to say that practicing nihilists have never had a spiritual awakening, too. Even for those sympathetic to the concept, there’s a struggle there to shut down their own inner “noise,” which is the intellect on overdrive -- and to open internal pathways that would allow for the entrance of a different “perspective.”
Wisdom has its roots in our emotions, not in our intellects. But that’s a hard sell. Even classical philosophy rejects such an obvious, never mind tenable (and valid) conclusion.
Aristotle, for one, despite his countless achievements, never exhibited any ability to get past his noise-maker while conducting discernments.
* * * * *
Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, defines nihilism thusly:
“Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no object moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another. Nihilists who argue that there is no objective morality may claim that existence has no intrinsic higher meaning or goal. They may also claim that there is no reasonable proof or argument for the existence of a higher ruler or creator, or posit that even if higher rulers or creators exist, humanity has no moral obligation to worship them.
“The term nihilism is sometimes used … to denote a general mood of despair at the pointlessness of existence.”
And so on.
Most school teachers probably don’t even know the meaning of the word, much less what it strongly asserts about the nature of our reality. But mindlessly “teach” nihilism, they do. Why? How? They parrot the tone of the popular culture.
And you thought our kids pay no attention in school? Actually, our misguided kids are the ones who are teaching us. The American pop culture rules.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population -- never mind just us blustery Americans -- are parrots.
There’s no moral high ground for you, Italy, France, Germany and Australia. No.
Not on this count -- not on this count… Rhaahh.
The Real World for the nihilist is the one where life lashes out at all of us, every damned single day -- where hope is a deluded pipedream, and (bleep) happens.
It’s also the world without (oh-so-deluded) Pixar Studios.
Bleep happens – bleep happens… Rhaahh.
And, so: what’s the kind of world view, might one suspect, that’s most likely to be embraced by greedmongers, of all stripes?
Nihilism, you say? Good for you!
* * * * *
To bring it all together to this point: greedmongers embrace an often unconscious but determined world view that embraces “nihilisms” … and, as well, have addicted personas that, if refusing to seek help (for their emotional imbalances), should be thrown behind bars or, better yet -- nuked the bleep-out-of (illusory) existence.
Oh, what -- was that stated too harshly?
* * * * *
Back to rant:
Here’s my plan -- one that’s unique, and very probably a tad overstated:
Let’s declare war on our own oil companies.
Lord knows, they have enough money to build up their own armies and navies. They might even welcome such a battle, crowing in the conviction they can win it.
They do, after all, already have control over most of America’s gasoline and oil.
Unfortunately, we’ve got the overwhelming number of bombers and missile silos.
We’ve got the nukes, too, already fueled, and ready to be dispatched at the touch of a button.
A simple button -- as in, Say 'ello to my leet’l friend!: …push.
C’mon, oil companies -- take us on. Do it. Please.
We will so-o win.
End of rant.
* * * * *
There will be hard times in 2009, absolutely -- although hardly as dire (or likely) as the scenario just word-painted, above.
I don’t like America’s oil companies or Wall Street firms that mimic their behavior. But, honestly, who cares what I like? (I do thank you all, as always, for reading!)
What we’re talking about here, in the end, is how we, as a national and global community, are likely to react to our litany of problems … and there’s as yet a lot of gray area to be explored by all of us in this process.
Process? Absolutely. It’s one that has lead subjects, sub-topics, and tributaries -- like taking on our corporations and defusing them of their preening arrogance.
And, ironically, reeling in Big Oil is likely to prove to be one of the easiest of our undertakings in the year ahead, which will feature the probable collapse of our economic system; perhaps declaring bankruptcy on the federal level; and for the first time, in meaningful terms: coming face-to-face with deadly climate change.
In the end, it’s still going to come down to this: we’re all in this together -- like it or lump it. What’s been expressed here were harsh words, to be sure, but they were not actual threats -- merely hearty prose punches. Are all of you still breathing? Yes, you are. And you’ll still breathe tomorrow, and The Day After Tomorrow.
The sooner we can all find tenable common ground, the sooner The Great Leveling, already passing through the first of its estimated four-to-six years total length, will be mitigated -- and a door slowly will be inched open allowing for real Humility to finally enter.
That’s going to happen inevitably. It’s already in the ontological pipeline.
Think humility, humility -- humility.
How much kicking and screaming will be featured will be left entirely up to us.
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Tags: Philosophy , Psychology , Politics , Nihilism , Big Oil , Wall Street , The Great Leveling , Greed , Addiction
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.