Benevolent Consumerism

A New Operating System for Global Commerce

Millions of workers losing their jobs. Millions of families losing their homes. Millions of people losing millions of investment dollars. Not thousands, millions. And this is just in the USA.

We are, all of us, too aware of what is going on, but do we really know why this is going on – beyond the stories of malfeasance and deception?

Taking a Zen-like philosophic snapshot of the current situation, it would be appropriate to say, “Where we are is the sum total of the efforts taken to get us here.”

But what is it about these efforts that got us to such a situation of massive loss – on a scale never before experienced?

The characteristic of this economic tsunami that is most remarkable is that its origin can be clearly identified: Elaborate financial schemes that a whole lot of people believed were safe, but turned out not to be.

Well and good. But the story goes deeper. What actually caused these financial schemes to falter and collapse? What drove them over the cliff?

Here’s an answer: The unseemly qualities of human nature: greed, hubris and their natural consequence.

Pulling the curtain back on the current state of the economic situation, there is a prevailing attitude that fueled the activities surrounding these schemes – from mortgage brokers to the Bernie Madoffs, to AIG. That attitude is, “I’ve got to get my share.” Of course, there is a companion to this attitude that makes it all the more powerful; “As long as I get my share, that’s all that counts.”

And as that share grows in size, all these “I’s” start to feel as though they are the strongest and the best – the ones at the top of the heap, the ones at the pinnacle of success.

When that pinnacle starts to feel a bit wobbly, when the “shares” look like they’re diminishing, “the survival of the fittest” mode kicks in and the “I’s” begin to do all they can to maintain their share and status.

Greed + hubris = selfishnessN

The attitude becomes not just, “Us vs. Them,” but a much more refined, “Me vs. Everyone Else.”

What’s most troubling about this attitude is that it is not just a feature of Human Nature but one of corporate nature, as well.

When a corporation* lays off workers, what explanation is given? “We must cut costs so the corporation can survive.”

What this really says it, the financial well-being o f the corporation trumps that of the workers. This attitude places workers subordinate to the Corporation. The Corporation must survive at all costs.

And yet, this is a perfect instance of the tail wagging the dog. A corporation is nothing more than a group of individuals joining together for a common purpose. The term “corporation” derives from corpus, Latin for “Body of People.”

Hence, without people, the Corporation would cease to exist – especially when it is realized that corporations rely on commerce to survive and for commerce to function, people need money and to get money, people must work, so to work, they get jobs at Corporations….

But as the world operates at this time, people are expendable, Corporations aren’t.

Even when Corporations make massive missteps that cause economic collapse, they are seen as the entity requiring massive influxes of money to stay viable while the people who make up the Corporation are let go and allowed to “fend for themselves” with minimal assistance at best.

The facilitators of commerce are more important than those who make commerce possible. Corporations are more important than people.

This is just plain wrong.

How did our value system get so distorted and skewed?

The answer is familiar: Greed + Hubris = SelfishnessN

Since a Corporation – though granted legal rights as though it were a person – is not flesh and blood. It cannot function without people. It does not have its own will. It does not have its own sense of purpose. It merely derives these things from those who run it.

This means, people who are susceptible to the weaknesses in Human Nature such as greed, hubris and selfishness are the ones most likely to be at the top running the Corporation. Because they are at the top, they are making the most money, have the most power and influence and perceive themselves as the fittest and therefore, the ones that must survive.

Why is it that corporate execs shed the lower level workers first? Because the upper ranks must survive. And when the upper ranks do leave, with what do they leave?

Golden parachutes.

They don’t walk away with empty lunch boxes.

What has been created – and what is being exhibited blatantly in these harsh economic times is harsh economic reality: America is now a country of haves and have nots.

Corporations and those closest to them are the haves. All others are the have nots.

This needs to be seen very clearly. In fact, it is vital that this is seen very clearly.

Why?

Because it is very clearly un-American.

Our constitution states, “All men are created equal.” America was built on this ideal. It is what distinguishes us from all other countries. It is the very foundation of our collective sense of self-worth.

All men are created equal.

We are all different, but in that difference, we are equal. Therefore, having and supporting a system of commerce that nurtures and protects a favored class is patently un-American.

Allowing Corporations to survive and thrive at the expense of workers is not an expression of equality.

Allowing executives golden parachutes while offering minimal to no compensation to workers is not an expression equality.

Allowing such practices to continue unchecked and unquestioned only serves to reinforce expressions of inequality.

And this is just plain un-American and in the context that is America, it is just plain wrong.

Where we are now, as a country and a people, is the sum total of our efforts to get us to this point. Those efforts have gone awry. We have lost our Vision. We are losing our identity.

If we are to remain the one land wherein it is believed, “All men are created equal,” we must act accordingly and we must guard this belief jealously and protect it – or we will lose it.

And when we lose it, it will be a loss much more profound than the loss of jobs homes or investments.

It will mean the loss of our national identity, the ultimate corruption of our national soul, the destruction of the American Essence.

How, then, do we protect our Souls and our Essence? Do we rise up and wage war on Corporations?

No. We must rise up against the attitude that has driven Corporations and commerce to lose sight of our equality. We must fight the pitfalls of our Human Nauter. We must fight against the power of Greed, Hubris and Selfishness.

Atmosphere of change. Need to change. Perspective/perception of how the world really works -- we need to part with the established world view that has been adapted and stretched and, frankly, is more a kin to trying to stuff Dolly Pardon’s breasts into a size 32A brassier.

What we currently have is a mish-mash of ethics/morals that attempt to be applied to a business that, quite frankly, are all rooted in the ethics and morality deeply and substantially rooted in an agrarian-based world of villages wherein sustenance of individuals was first, the neighborhood second and the outside world a distant third.

But that model is difficult to stretch to fit in today’s world of global interconnectivity. When I wanted to find a connection cord for the radio in my Smart car so I could hook up my iPod, I searched the internet and found exactly what I needed – in Italy, from a small business person! In fact, it seemed more like some guy running an internet business out of his garage or spare room.

The point is, in the world of the 21st Century, it is just as easy to get a needed item from halfway around the world as it is from around the corner. And here’s the startling result of this interconnectivity – what happens around the corner impacts someone half-way around the world… and more!

Take the current global economic crisis. One guy had an idea that he took to a big company. The big company embraced the idea. The big company just happens to be so influential that the idea catches on fire and spreads – like wild fire – through all industries related to the original big company.

But what happens when one plays with fire? That’s right. One gets burned. And as this story goes, it wasn’t just one that got burned. Hundreds of thousand got burned, along with houses, buildings, corporations. It took about 20 years to exact a final toll, but that’s also the nature of some fires – they’re a slow burn. And yet, any fire holds within itself the power of complete destruction…given the proper fuel.

AIG had the fire. The proper fuel was provided by greed. And thusly, a new page of history has been written.

The result of this fire is that a whole lot of things have changed. Financial institutions have reconfigured themselves. Some have disappeared. Life savings have disappeared, along with trillions of dollars of equity – world wide. And some stalwart names in business have crumbled, including America’s venerable automobile industry. Where there were three, there is now, what, one and a half?

A lot of lessons are here to be gleaned from this experience and not the least of them needs to be this simple one: We are all interconnected now. I’m not just talking about those of us in a local neighborhood. Act locally, impact globally. International finance and commerce has tied the world together. There are common strands that now run through all occupants of this planet. Tug the strand in Munich, someone twitches in Los Angeles. We are all interconnected. And that’s not going to change.

We need to accept this fact, embrace it. But before we can do that, we really do need to set aside our old way of looking at, moralizing and rationalizing business.

The old viewpoint is not big enough any longer. It needs to be thrown into the bankruptcy heap along with the other institutions that have fallen to the wayside.

It’s time for the new. And, so, what is to be our new foundation for looking at, moralizing and rationalizing business?

Two words: Benevolent Consumerism.

Everyone on the planet is a consumer. Consumerism is the fuel that powers capitalism. Capitalism is merely a process through which a business entity – be it an individual or multi-national business – chooses to operate. As such, it is not the only business mode of operation available. Non-profit is another mode. Nationalized, another.

The point here is, regardless of how a business is operated, it needs consumers in order to maintain itself – to survive.

In fact, this concept can be stretched to the point of saying to be human is to be a consumer. We need to eat. We need shelter. We need clothes. To gain these necessities, as well as the finer things in 21st Century life, we must be consumers.

Indeed, what is the real, functional problem with the current economy? People are unable to be consumers at their previous level. What would be the silver bullet out of this doldrums – facilitate consumer’s ability to continue consuming.

And here we come to the key tenant of our new world viewpoint: “The prime directive of Benevolent Consumerism is to facilitate the power of the citizenry to consume.”

This directive is to become the overarching goal that guides all action of business and government. It is the one thought they must always keep in mind. “Are we facilitating and empowering consumers?” If the answer is “yes”, -- bingo! A no answer takes everyone back to the drawing board.

Now before anyone gets alarmed that Benevolent Consumerism concerns itself with business/commerce and government and not religion, consider this – that’s the point!

Benevolent Consumerism is intended to address systemic mechanics at its purest. Religion addresses how the mechanics are interpreted, not whether or not they exist.

Benevolent Consumerism seeks to address how things operate not the why and not the meaning the operating has for the soul or a person’s identity.

Here’s the good news – there is room for all viewpoints of Faith within the paradigm of Benevolent Consumerism.

To fully grasp this point, think of Benevolent Consumerism as a giant electrical strip. A power strip doesn’t care what is plugged into it – a computer, a shaver, a mixer – it simply empowers them all.

That’s how Benevolent Consumerism works. It doesn’t matter what Faith you have. It doesn’t care where you live. It doesn’t care about ethnicity. It doesn’t care what nationality. But if you plug into it, you will be empowered.

Why?

Because people are the foundation of Benevolent Consumerism. It is all about people. It is all about us. We are what matters.

For the 21st Century world to work, for it to move ahead with relative smoothness, people must consume. This puts individuals at the top of the pyramid of progress.

In doing this, Benevolent Consumerism takes a look at individuals in a whole new light. We are not merely people. Each individual is a Revenue Producing Unit, or RPU.

In the Benevolent Consumerism world view, RPUs either consume – thereby providing revenue for a business entity – or they make it possible for an entity to make revenue due to their efforts. Please note that the size of the business entity is of no matter. It can be the RPU itself or a huge corporation. The point is, in the adult working world, what one does allows others to make money. Our labors keep “the machine” operating. For centuries, we’ve just referred to the process as “the machine,” as “the way it is.”

The time has come to erase the nebulous anonymity of “the Machine.” We need to see things clearly so that we may interact with them consciously. Bottom line, the system is run on consumerism and the best, most efficient way for the system to operate is a Benevolent Consumerism.

Looking at the citizenry – at people – as RPUs is not a means of de-humanization. Actually it is quite the opposite. To identify people as RPUs is to elevate them to the highest position of value. Remember, in the world of Benevolent Consumerism, people are Number One, because it is our activity as consumers that keeps everything running.

We spend, businesses provide, other businesses produce, “we” get paid so we may continue spending. Spend more, more gets made, we get paid – either more or more of us get paid.

With individuals – RPUs – as the centerpiece of the system, it becomes in the System’s best interest to maximize the revenue producing ability of each RPU. A homeless RPU is one that is not fully able to function. A sick RPU is not able to fully function. An under- or ill-educated RPU is not able to fully function.

Let’s step back a moment and look at these situations as they are under the current system and what they would be like under Benevolent Consumerism.

A homeless, out-of-work, person under today’s viewpoint is someone who has fallen through the cracks. He or she is not contributing to society. He/she is an outcast. And, quite frankly, the current societal system does not know what to do with him/her. Isn’t this situation referred to overall as “The Homeless Problem?”

We need to understand things as they really are. The homeless are a problem in today’s system view because the system has no way of dealing with them. They don’t fit in.

In the view of Benevolent Consumerism, these people are “improperly functioning RPUs” and, so, because each and every RPU is critical to the maximized efficiency of “the New System,” Benevolent Consumerism will extend resources to help enable the RPU to more efficiently function.

In today’s way of doing things, the homeless are a drain on resources because they don’t give back. Under Benevolent Consumerism, such resource will be encouraged to function as an RPU in whatever capacity possible. No one will fall between the cracks because there will be no crack. Nothing is more important in Benevolent Consumerism than the RPU.

What about the sick? It costs society more to treat the sick than to keep them healthy. The problem is, in today’s system, there are factions that make a lot of money off sick people. This may come as a shock presented so bluntly, but it is a fact of the current system under which our society operates.

And this is a good time to point our the major flaw in today’s system of business enterprise. Because it is rooted in old mores and world views, the current business system is very fractionalized and frankly, selfish. What is important is the survival of the business. The fiefdom must be maintained. Hence the plethora of special interest groups either supporting or reacting to a business entity bent on surviving at any cost. And let’s not even start with Lobbyists.

What we currently have in business is a bunch of entities striving to carve themselves an ever increasing piece of the consumer pie.

Some of these entities provide for the good. Others are questionable. And still others take blatant advantage.

Let’s be perfectly honest about today’s business climate. Does it make rational sense to allow a business that sells a product that has been proven to kill hundreds of thousands of people every year?

Such a business model is completely anathema to Benevolent Consumerism. The cigarette industry is killing RPUs? That’s an attack on our very way of life! **POOF!** It’s gone!!

Back to the healthcare issue. There will always be a need for medical services. Disease and accidents happen.

But within the Benevolent Consumerism worldview, RPUs are the prime focus – so the prime focus of business energy, effort and imagination will be to keep RPUs functioning at their highest potential for the longest period of time. Wellness would be a fundamental focus of the Benevolent Consumerism Society.

The same viewpoint would have a profound impact on education. The best way to maximize RPU efficiency and effectiveness is to ensure it is properly educated.

Not everyone can be a brain surgeon, but not everyone who can be a brain surgeon is able to be one in today’s system – and we all suffer for it.

How much lost potential do have in today’s world?

Why do we have such a situation?

Because our society is not built on the need or desire to maximize the potential of the individual. We run on the “Survival of the Fittest” and the surviving fittest in today’s world are not necessarily the strongest or the smartest. They are often the most cunning, sly and unscrupulous because they know how to play the game to feed greed and hubris.

As the current economic situation has revealed, many of those “at the top” got there through deceit and immoral behavior powered by selfish greed.

People to be admired and envied?

Hardly.

Benevolent Consumerism is not about “survival of the fittest.” Quite the opposite. It is all about maximizing the RPU – each RPU – so that society can more efficiently and effectively function and grow for the benefit, not just of the fittest, but of all people, because all have been afforded the tools and opportunity to succeed, to give back, to fully function as an RPU, to maximum capability.

Benevolent consumerism, with the emphasis on benevolent, that’s the best way for our society – and our world – to survive and flourish in the 21st century…and beyond.

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