Business in Denial

‘We’re just providing what the market, what people, demand.’  ‘The customer is squarely in the driver’s seat.’  Yeah right.  Gosh, shucks, don’t-look-at-me.

One, I doubt that’s true.  I mean, if people really wanted your product, you wouldn’t (have to) spend millions on advertising, advertising to persuade them to buy it.  Supply isn’t (just) following demand; demand is (also) following supply.  Your supply.  You’re in the driver’s seat.

Two, even if it is true, that people do want it, I find it hard to believe that someone with enough whatever to get into positions of power, decision-making positions, would be so meekly obedient to the desires, the demands, of the common people.

Or so helpless: ‘demands’ is such loaded language, implying that resistance, your resistance, is futile, implying that you are without power here.

Or so spineless – as if you have no mind, no desire, no will of your own.

Please, have the guts, the maturity, to take responsibility for your actions.  You have a choice.  You produce/provide what you do because you choose to, because you want to.  If you are acceding to market demands – and I have no doubt that you are – it’s because it’s profitable, it’s because (you think) it’s in your best interests.  You ‘want to make it easy for the customer to do business with [you]’ because business with you is business for you.  Customers are a means to your end of profit.  Otherwise you’d be as interested in poverty management as you are in wealth management.

‘Our shareholders demand high returns.’  Another pass-the-buck denial of responsibility.  One, again, I doubt that’s strictly true.  Did you ask them all?  And was their response fully informed?  Were they aware that their high returns come at the expense of others? (Others’ low wages, loss of employment; others’ high prices, loss of choice through monopoly; environmental degradation; etc.)

And two, even if they do, again, do you have to obey them?  Of course not.  Unless – and here’s the all important hidden (by you, from you) assumption – unless you want the value of your company to be ‘high’ so people will give you money.  There’s that self-interest again.

‘Return on equity is an important measure of our success.’  Not the amount of good one does, not the amount of happiness one creates, no, these things don’t matter; success isn’t even justice, isn’t getting back what one puts out, no, success is how much more one gets back than one puts out.  Self-interest.  Literally, interestFor the self.  It’s egoism, pure and simple.  And childish and dangerous.  I don’t think ‘society as a whole’ is in the vocabulary.  The total inability to recognize, let alone deal with, the moral dimension – i.e., the consideration of others – is frightening.

And the ego knows no satisfaction.  ‘From start-up to growth.’  The life cycle of a business seems to stop there.  At growth.  And more growth.  And more growth.  Excuse me?  What about stasis?  What about decline?  They are part of the entire life cycle.  Only a cancer grows and grows and grows.

 

Visionary?

Reading about Nipissing University’s Students in Free Enterprise (NUSIFE), which is a group of students who undertake projects “intended to increase the public’s awareness of entrepreneurship and business-related subjects,” it occurs to me to wonder why such an endeavour is undertaken only by business students.

Consider the projects listed below – and imagine…

– “Global Crusaders” educated high school students about minimum wages and exchange rates in five different countries – why not educate them about gender issues in five different countries?

– “Team Builders” led team-building exercises during a weekend program at the YMCA – my guess is that sociology students’ take on team-building would be quite different than that of business students…

– “Junior Tycoons” were high school students presented with a basic business plan – why not present “Junior Diplomats” with a recess plan based on insights from political science, history, and psychology?

– “Budgeting for Mental Health Patients” – how about “Philosophy for Mental Health Patients”?

– “My First Bank Account” – whatever happened to “My First Library Card”?

– “Nipissing East Community Opportunities” received a marketing plan – they could have used an environmental assessment plan…

– “Show Me the Money” was about financial planning guidelines on the web – how about “Show Me the Stars”, astronomy on the web?

– “A Feasibility Study” was presented to graphic arts students – how about presenting them with an ethics study?

Such projects, both by training students to apply their knowledge outside academia and by increasing the visibility of business in the outside world, probably contribute to the strangle-hold business – business activities and business interests – has on the world; therefore, suggesting that such endeavours be undertaken by humanities and science students as well is more than an exercise in imagination – it’s an identification of responsibility.

This particular infiltration of business is so developed that there are actually competitions among universities for their SIFE teams.  Yes, there are poetry and drama competitions too, but poems and plays don’t reach out and engage the community in the same way; they just present to, perform for, the community (except for those cool workplace theatre guerrilla groups).  Perhaps science does a little better – there are, of course, the annual science fairs, but from time to time I also see students out in the field with their lab kits.

This lack of engagement is rampant throughout the humanities curriculum.  We teach our English students how to appreciate and write poetry, but not how to find a literary agent; how to appreciate and write drama, but not how to produce a play.  Philosophy students are great at clarifying concepts and values, identifying hidden assumptions, testing for consistency and coherence; psychology students know all about how our minds and emotions work; sociology students know about people in groups, small and large, in cultures and subcultures and countercultures; history students know what hasn’t worked.  Along with our students of gender studies and native studies and our other social science students, humanities students (the humanities focus on humanity – and who, what, are we talking about when all is said and done?), and of course our science students (what is humanity but one bunch of carbon-based organisms among many), would be great consultants if they had any consulting skills.[1]  But we don’t teach them how to write a proposal, how to contract for business, or how to manage a project.

Until we do these things, our humanities and science students will be dependent on business students as go-betweens and as enablers.  And since business students, by definition apparently, have profit as their motivator, their purpose, and their goal, there is bound to be a certain amount of unfulfilled potential.  Business students are not likely to set up Sociologists, Inc. or History Is Us.  Nor are they even likely to engage the services of non-business students as consultants.

OPAS is another example of the deficiency I’m trying to expose.  It’s a partnership between Ontario universities and Canadian companies, named “The Office for Partnerships for Advanced Skills” with a mandate to “foster more effective relations between universities and companies who hire and maintain a highly skilled workforce” and “respond to requests and develop initiatives that promote increased use of university-based resources including advanced skills development.”  One might be forgiven, therefore, for thinking it was pretty inclusive.  This seems indicated even by the Special Events & Programs (which includes “the Visionary Seminar Series, Industry Sector Symposia, Internship & Reciprocal Exchange Programs and the development of a National Network”) and by the Skills Development statement (which says “In knowledge industries, skills requirements advance and change, creating new needs. OPAS responds to these changing skills needs with solutions designed and delivered by leading university programs across Ontario”).

However, a close look reveals that there isn’t a whole lot of room for humanities and social science; there’s something for science and engineering (an auto parts symposium is listed, as well as a biotech sector symposium), but it seems that the university programs they’re talking about partnering with are pretty much the BBA and MBA.  Their website welcome page confirms this: “In today’s knowledge-based economy, business organizations are faced with the need to address constant changes in operating practices, human capital requirements, and technology.”  That page is pure business buzz (“human capital”?!).  (And there you do see the specification – “business organizations….”)

Indeed, had I visited the OPAS website first, I wouldn’t have been so surprised to discover that the keynote speaker (the only speaker) at the “Visionary 2000” seminar was the CEO of the Royal Bank (how much more focussed on business, profit, money, can you get?).  And the very fact that his talk, nothing more than a Royal Bank promo, was billed as visionary indicates just how much we need to correct this deficiency.

 

[1] Marc Renaud, president of SSHRC, says “many of the key questions confronting our society fall within the realm of the social sciences and the humanities and our disciplines represent a goldmine of knowledge that can help.  We need to make sure that people outside the research community know about this goldmine, so that it can be put to broader use” (quoted by David Bentley in “Humanities for humanity’s sake” University Affairs).

Blood & Oil

[since I’m at it — posting about tv that happened oh, a year ago…see June 1 post]

About a year ago, the weather reports became dramatic.  Forecasters started talking about “extreme weather events” with voices and gestures that rivalled sports game commentary, making droughts, wildfires, floods, tornados, and high temperatures all so—exciting.  My god, I realized one day with horror, they’re making the evidence of our imminent death into entertainment.

There was no mention of short-term, let alone long-term, implications for things like, oh, food and water…  There was no mention of why our weather is changing.  No mention of who’s to blame.  (The oil industry for providing the supply, and not telling people about the consequences of use.  The media for agreeing to censorship on that point [whenever any public interest group tries to put out an advertisement informing us, the media refuses to sell them airtime].  And most Americans and Canadians for allowing their worldview to be formed by forementioned censored media.)

I imagined the world actually ending as people continued mainlining television, utterly oblivious.  And that was bad enough.

Then I saw the trailers for the new tv series, Blood & Oil.  Oh    my    god.

They’re making oil sexy.  They’ve got Don Johnson, they’ve got two bare-backed supermodel female bodies, they’ve got a phallic fire-gushing oil rig.  They’re making it exciting (at least to the male brain), what with the sex, the fire, and the blood.

Why?  Why have the oil companies commissioned a tv series that makes oil sexy and exciting?

Do they think too many of us are limiting our fossil fuel use?  Carpooling?  Reducing air travel?  Turning down the heat during these colder winters? Not turning on the air conditioning during these hotter summers?  (Like residential resource use comes anywhere close to the unbridled industrial use…)  (Just for example, it takes 4.3 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil from tar sands mining, and once the water’s used, it’s radioactive, toxic, pretty much useless.)

This is decade zero.  We’re halfway through.  Decade zero.  And we’ve already pretty much eliminated the possibility of staying under two degrees.  Given what we’ve already done, we’re certain to reach 1.5 degrees.  Certain.  Cause and effect.  It’s a done deal.  (To stay under two degrees, we need to limit our carbon dioxide concentration to 450ppm.  We hit 400 ppm in 2013.  And we’re adding 2-3 ppm every year.  Do the math.)

So what’s the point, now, of encouraging us to maintain, even to increase our use of fossil fuels?

Are they trying to distract us, play a little pretty music on our way to the gas chambers?  (No, that’s the least plausible explanation.  They clearly don’t care about us.  And there is no need for oil in that pretty little music.)

Do they really not know they’ve already guaranteed the end of the world as we know it?  (According to Naomi Klein’s research, if we don’t get our emissions under control by 2017, “our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock-in’ extremely dangerous warming” [This Changes Everything, p.23].)  (And “under control” means leaving 80% of the claimed oil where it is.  Underground.)

Are they trying to hasten our death?  Move the predicted date of extinction from 2100 (we’ll be at five degrees by then) to 2050? (Watch the insurance companies.  Watch what riders, exclusions, they start attaching to our policies.  Refusing to insure for damages and injuries resulting from nuclear accidents will be the least of it.)

Are they trying to rush the return on their investment so they can buy one more company before we all die?  Guarantee their ticket to ride on the shuttle to the new world—on Mars?

Have they forgotten that the free trade agreements they paid our governments to sign guarantee that their profits trump the planet?   (Never mind that the $775 billion in subsidies that they’ve received from taxpayers make their profits ours.)

Or are they trying to minimize the likelihood that someone, someone, will eventually go all vigilante for justice and target them with a semi-automatic.

Or did Hollywood come up with the idea all on its own?  Could they really not know what they’re doing?  (Just like they don’t know they have single-handedly desensitized millions of people to violence, to harm, injury, pain, death.)  (Ah.)

Given the facts, Blood & Oil is the equivalent of making heroin or the plague exciting.  And making vomit and pus sexy.

Climate Change Disaster Movies

Have you noticed the increase in climate change disaster movies?

Right, yeah, let’s get everyone comfortable with the idea.

The idea that survival is possible.

And, after, if only heroism.

This weather brought to you by…

“A deep freeze continues to sweep through Europe, mudslides and avalanches caused by heavy rains and snowmelt in Oregon and Washington have prompted evacuation notices, prolonged drought continues to devastate much of the American Midwest, Texas, and Mexico, with many areas now being without rain for over 200 days, and flash fires continue to rage throughout those areas, a heat wave in Australia continues unabated with temperatures well over 100 degrees, there are tornado alerts for regions throughout Tennessee and Oklahoma, Hurricane Gordon has touched down in Florida, swift on the heels of Hurricane Florence, flash floods are rampant in southern parts of Africa, and torrential rains have Brazil still in a state of emergency.”

This weather brought to you by everyone who’s driven a gas-guzzling minivan, pick-up, or SUV in the last thirty years, everyone who still makes unnecessary trips, and everyone who still lets their vehicle idle while they’re somewhere else doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.

Have you noticed the way the weather is being reported lately?

Have you noticed the way the weather is being reported lately?  Climate change, specifically global warming, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in severe storms and the decrease in polar ice…they’re making it entertaining.  Entertaining, for gawdsake.

Commentators refer to “extreme storms” — making them sound all exciting and daring, like “extreme sports”.

Another opens with “this week’s wildest weather” as if we’re on a fun safari.

And there’s a video called “Force of Nature – Uncut”.  Again, exciting entertainment.

“Will any records be broken?” the commentator asks, the phrasing suggesting that, like athletic competitions, breaking a record will be a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Needs and Wants

I don’t like living in a global community.  When everything is so interconnected, everything I do (or don’t do) is bound to be at someone else’s expense.  Mere self-interest seems impossible; selfishness is inevitable.

For example, Read the rest of this entry »

“Oh Canada” Revision

I’m all for sex-neutral language.

In fact, I think we should completely revamp English to eliminate all sex-specific terms (except ‘male’ and ‘female’, to be used only in relevant contexts, most likely only in medical contexts).  As is, the language encourages, obsessively, sex-differentiation when sex is, or should be, irrelevant.  As is, it supports the patriarchy, a blatantly ridiculous and unfair system.

That said, I’m quite happy to be excluded from a group supposed to be ‘commanded’ (a few steps beyond ‘inspired’, yeah?) by Canada to patriot love (true patriot love, no less).

Because, to be honest, Canada does not inspire me to patriot love.  Why not?  See “Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

 

 

Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be: Read the rest of this entry »