Psychopaths at the door

What do you do when  you find yourself in a room full of psychopaths – all bigger and stronger than you? Running away is not an option – they are all over the neighbourhood. You might feel like an Ip Man or Jason Bourne character, but you aren’t, and you are faced by ruthless beings.

Maybe you can get together with your family and friends – community is a powerful source of strength. Perhaps you can create a network of communities, for the reach of the psychopaths is global.

But, wait a minute, perhaps the law will help. Surely you can turn to the police and the justice department? Isn’t this what we created government for?

The problem is, these psychopaths are our global corporations and they write the laws. They have been born as legal entities, with the rights of a person under the law. They are effectively immortal, there is no limit to how long they might live.

It is funny to remember that business emerged as a family activity, something we did together. Our busy-ness was a product of the company we kept. Company used to refer to a group of people – now it means business.

The problem is that businesses are legally mandated to pursue their own self-interest above anything else – they have no mandate for social responsibility or ethical considerations. A CEO who  put ethics before profit  would be fired and possibly sued by shareholders. His sole duty is to make a profit.

Joel Bakan presciently described in 2004 the reasons why the present BP oil spill was inevitable. He says: “(BP) is a company that has taken the lead in enivro-marketing. It’s a company where the CEO has embraced the Kyoto Accord, unlike other petrochemical companies, considers himself to be an environmentalist, and they have many wonderful programs in place. But at the same time, when it comes to the question of whether they will drill in the environmentally sensitive National Wildlife Refuge in the Arctic, John Browne, the CEO, is not willing to say “No, we won’t drill.” Basically, if he refrains from drilling out of his environmental convictions, when drilling would be a benefit to the company and its shareholders, he’d be acting illegally. His shareholders could sue him for that. He doesn’t have that authority.”

Thus you have powerful institutions, single-mindedly pursuing their own self interest, without regard for harmful consequences, and ruthlessly driven to extract profit from human and environmental resources. They deploy the full weight of the law in defence of their rights as ‘persons’.

How do we resist these behemoths? Step forward Government – take centre stage. A key role for government today is to protect us as individuals from these enormous, primitive, undeveloped ‘persons’ we call corporations. Like selfish teenagers they need rules, boundaries, opportunities to learn and grow as beings – before they get to vote and do real damage.

But like stupid, doting parents, our governments have been corrupted by these zombie teenagers. Governments as institutions have become mirror images of the corporations. They too have become remote from the very people they were formed to serve. They have embraced the language and attitudes of the global corporations, trying to remake themselves in the corporate image. People like Blair, Cheney and Paulson, glide between government office and the corporate boardroom.

In a bitter, karmic, irony, having neglected our individual capacity for human communication, we now see that neglect reflected back to us in the failure of our corporate off-spring to communicate and develop.

What we have formed, now forms us. We created soulless, greedy self-centred psychopaths and now find that for career success we must take on their corporate values. When we enter the office we check our personal values at the door and become ‘professional’ – we make decisions that might destroy the lives of others and say it is just business, nothing personal, company policy. That is not good enough.

Our institutions have failed us, we should no longer feed them or put up with their fascism. They must shape up or get out of the way – we need to help ourselves.

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