Sunday, February 10, 2013
Because of the nature of my life’s work, I have had an abiding interest in formal organizations, how they are created and how they operate. They have been with us for centuries and have created massively successful legends of success, examples of dismal failures and abuses of power that have brought suffering and human misery to new levels. But, I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, they have been the engines that have taken the world to new heights and have created the modern-day marvels which we have come to depend on for the myriad essentials we take for granted.
Formal organizations have been the bane of our existence and the emancipation of our limitations. They are a product of man’s ability to create and amass profits that have pushed the bounds of human existence forward. But they have, also, limited and enslaved the potential of human beings because of their insatiable greed and their willingness to bend the rules of fair play in order to amass the material, financial, social and political power they covet. Their ability to grow and prosper knows no limits. The other side of the coin is that they have the ability to prey upon and consume the lives of those who labor in their service.
When we look at them in their entirety, we cannot live without them, but we, also, cannot live with them. The peaks and valleys of our evolution clearly demonstrate that to be the case. They must be an integral part of and regulated by the societies in which they operate or they exist at our peril. Ambition and innovation are the essentials of the diet on which they feed. Taken to excess, those are the very ingredients that feed their gluttonous appetites when they cease to enable and further the boundaries of modern-day societies. When their appetites begin to feed on their own growing quest for more, more and more they become a threat to the order that is the foundation of civilized societies. They have to abide by the common good in order to responsibly serve ownership and, at the same time, serve the needs of those they exist to serve. When a state of homeostasis no longer prevails, their power becomes less a virtue and more a threat to the broader social context in which they operate. When society is no longer able to set limits on their ambitions and to control their conduct, they begin to morph into entities that pose a clear and present danger. That is when the human benefactors of their engines of power and influence are no longer served by their might, but become the stuff that feeds their appetites and the attendant greed that follows. When they cease to provide goods and services for society in order to thrive and prosper, and begin to consume the goods and services of society in order to feed the appetites of investors, you know we are in trouble. When the needs of society become subordinate to the ambitions of the organization, it becomes apparent that the beast is growing at the expense of the populace. As a wise man once cautioned; “All things in moderation,” which has become an enigma to the corporate world and governing bodies of today.
The indications of a growing degenerative disease in the corporate beast usually become apparent by a need for greater power and influence within the arenas in which they operate. There is a need for greater leeway in the amassing of material resources. Their activities become more reliant on secrecy. Their agenda ceases to be outwardly focused and increasingly focused inward. They become more preoccupied with their own growth, survival and relevance than they do to those of the constituencies they were created to serve. They eventually sow the seeds of their own demise by becoming less transparent and become separated from the broader fabric of society and from those they profess to serve. It is only a matter of time before a form of organizational “ethnocentrism” sets in and they exist entirely for their own self-interests and survival. Power overtakes purpose and flourishes for its own sake. They begin to manifest an aura of privilege, expecting and buying special treatment from the institutions of society.
I see this evolution occurring in the world today. The norms by which social intercourse was judged and measured have become fluid and defined in situational terms. Absolute standards are no longer measures of the generally accepted norms by which a society lives and functions. Compasses of moral and ethical behavior are no longer regarded the yardsticks by which we measure our conduct and behavior. Rather, it is whatever the traffic will bear. Licentiousness is generally accepted and we, the people, are no longer shocked by anything. The standards to which formal organizations used to subscribe are defined, more and more, by what is in the best interests of the organization, their clientele be damned. The very fabric of society begins to unravel. The measures of conduct generally accepted as the measures of a healthy society begin to evaporate. I see that all around us today. Ethics morphs into “ethonomics,” which surrounds and engulfs us. One need only look at the excesses of Wall Street, Corporate America, and Government in all its forms. They have reached the pinnacle whereby they are totally self-serving. What was once regarded as blatant criminal conduct is dismissed by labels such as “too big to fail,” and all the other labels that they use to convey their privilege at the expense of the body politic. Our government is, essentially, a government of only two parties. How that came to be, I have no idea. But, it can be safely said that our very existence is owned and controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties. The system has effectively marginalized and excluded any other political parties from participating in the democratic process – and we passively accept that as the norm, but to the great peril of all this democracy stands for. By whose divine hand was it determined that the Green Party, the Justice Party, the Independent Party, the Libertarian Party, etc. had no legitimate role to play in our society? Who established the “party monopoly” to which we defer and accept? There is no question but that we are much the poorer for what has evolved and what has occurred. But, enter the most enabling phenomenon of societal decay – complacency, which has reached epidemic proportions and to which we have so readily acquiesced.
“When formal organizations are no longer responsive to their constituencies and no longer defer to their advice and counsel, they become insulated and isolated, left to their own excesses. Societal chaos, immorality and corruption flourish and, ultimately, reign supreme”
I would submit that is what we have become. Just look around you.
By what measures are we to determine whether we are behaving in honest, moral and virtuous terms? How do we decide when the needs of the majority are being trampled on by the motives of the powerful and influential? How are we to know that we are accepting conduct that is the complete antithesis of what we have every right to expect? How are we to know that we are being manipulated for the sinister motives of those we look to for guidance?
It goes without saying that our entire system of finance, commerce, government and other important social institutions is totally corrupt and compromised. Wall Street is “too big to fail.” Commerce is dominated and defined by big business and corporate capitalists. Government is defined by the corrupt influences of power, influence and massively huge sums of money. Privilege reigns supreme and the average lives at the bottom of the food chain readily accept it as their lot in life. The image makers of Madison Avenue and Hollywood have sold us a bill of goods and we bought into it! Billionaires and millionaires have convinced us that they have an inherent right to greater wealth, privilege and opportunities than do the rest of us. They live by a different code of morality and taxation, not to be questioned but supported!
Frankly, I believe that every formal organization that serves a public constituency or is elected to office should be required, by law, to have access to bodies that serve without compensation, to advise and temper the decisions of those organizations, with full transparency. Where do you think the “Barons of Wall Street” would be today if they had to abide by such a form of public accountability? I would hazard a guess that we would not be suffering the pillage and plunder they have visited upon every aspect of our economic lives, and we would have a healthier and fairer society than what we are trying to deal with today.
I find it utterly incredulous that any sane person would seriously believe that ours is “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” It is, at best, just another gargantuan example of a theater of the absurd. Sure, we elect them to office, but once elected, they enter an inner sanctum that is shrouded in mystery and that is a completely independent and autonomous from the people. It assumes a life of its own that is totally self-serving. They summarily ignore what the electorate has told them they want. They don’t demure to our mandates; they simply create their own. Rather, they tell us what is best for us and write the rules for how they are going to translate our mandates into action solely determined by their infinite wisdom, their personal agendas and blatant arrogance. They become a self-serving club of exclusivity and privilege. We become the spectators who simply look on them from the sidelines and passively defer to all their indulgences for constituents we can’t even see. They become the pawns of wealth, power and privilege. We are relegated to little more than a band of sheep waiting to be led to the slaughter.
Where, I ask you, is democracy in all this? We have absolutely no control over the beast we have created. Worse yet, we simply acquiesce to the monster and give it free reign to do whatever it wants. We keep feeding them, hoping they will eat us last. Moreover, the free and unfettered press advocated by the Founding Fathers long ago became a pawn of power and privilege. Its independence has become manifest as corporate ownership and control. Instead of serving as the watchdog on government, it has become its biggest champion and advocate. The most glaring example of how twisted they become is how Harry Reid deliberately failed to rectify the rules for filibuster that is crippling the Senate, and simply caved in to the opposition. Instead of being drummed out of the corps, he remains one of the great sages of the United States Senate. Go figure!
The parliamentary system of government makes what we have look like a joke. The openness and transparency of that system goes a long way toward keeping the bastards honest. We could learn a lesson from their example. I rather suspect that the cost of supporting a monarchy would prove to be a hell of a lot cheaper to the taxpayers than what it takes for us to support the massively huge system of corruption that passes for our government. But, I suppose the “feel good” we derive from the brass bands, the waving flags and the faux patriotism we experience mesmerizes us to the reality with which we live.
Where would we be in our relationship with and expectations from religious institutions that were, ostensibly, created to serve the faithful if that same principle were to be followed by them? We once looked to religious institutions for the moral compass to guide us in our daily lives. Now, they have become so compromised and so insulated from the rest of us, we no longer look to them or defer to them for the moral guidance all civilized societies require. They are in the business of amassing influence, power and wealth to feed those who pretend to serve our spiritual needs. Look at the cadre of evangelists that prey on their desire for a better life, telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Look at the Reverend Osteen and how he fills football stadia to capacity in order for the assembled to hear his divinely inspired message that God wants all of us to be rich. Look at the Evangelicals who have taken over vast parts of our social and political establishments, peddling tommyrot, prejudice and venom that only a fool would buy into. Where is the moral compass in all this?
The most egregious of all is, of course, the modern-day Roman Catholic Church. A worldwide institution that used to minister to people all over the globe has now become an institution under siege because of its glaring departure from the tenets upon which it was founded, that it is hollow and devoid of any real ecclesiastical roots. It is a church that was founded on principles that were generally accepted as beyond the ability of normal human beings. Yet, they still persist in covering up their abhorrent behavior and pretending that that they are the keepers of the flocks and guardians of the faith. One need only look at the empty parishes on Sundays and Holy Days to realize just how far into the mire of human decadence they have descended.
Any reasonably logical mind knows that the forces of reproduction are, if not the most, one of the most intense drives we are imbued with as mortal humans. Celibacy is a fraud, resulting from the twisted minds of “princes of a church long vanished.” It is reality denied. It never has and never will work. If the Church is to recover and become the great bastion of moral guidance it aspired to be, it is time to bring an end to pedophilia and other clandestine forms of deviant sexual behavior. It is time to pitch out celibacy and accept the fact that the Church can only be served by a married and committed clergy living normal well-adjusted lives. Moreover, the wisdom of Pope John Paul I should be revisited and more attention paid to his admonition that “Christ’s Church should be a poor church.” I cannot believe that Christ’s Church would summarily ignore the fact that He walked the face of the earth a poor man, clad in camel hair robes and open sandals, and, instead, favor the lavish modes of dress, opulent residences and the trappings of privilege, power and luxury that can only be vicariously enjoyed by those who have given their life savings to His Church. That is the ultimate affront to those who have suffered the agonies of the damned as they have borne witness to the demise of the church that has been the rock of salvation for so many.
I am, and will remain a Roman Catholic, a conscious choice on my part. The responsibility for dealing with it and all its imperfections is inherent in that choice. But I make no bones about the fact that I think it can and should be more relevant to the times and be accountable, in some form, to the laity for its guidance and accountability. Can you imagine the Church with an uncompensated advisory body (akin to a Board of Regents) to the Pope and to the College of Cardinals as a vital part of the decision-making process that has been the exclusive purview of a small, elite and powerful group of self-styled representatives of God? Celibacy could and should be applied to those who serve in monastic orders, but that is the only legitimate place for that requirement that I can see. For all others, throw open the windows, join the secular world and become full participants in our common journey to salvation!
We, as a nation and a society are adrift on an ocean of confusion, complacency, and apathy that is costing us dearly. For us to have any stability requires that we subscribe to standards of conduct that will guide us in our daily lives. Standards are, by definition, absolutes. There is no room for being “a little bit pregnant.” They are the guiding principles that may be beyond our reach, but the ideals to which we should always aspire. Honesty, integrity, decency and a genuine concern for others should always be in our lexicon of what life is all about. They are, also, the ideals our leaders should hold before us and before themselves to keep us on the right path. We cannot treat them in a cavalier manner, important some of the time but, not so important at others.
Some of the more pressing issues that come to mind are:
1. Get money out of politics.
2. Prohibit lobbying and the culling of political favors with money and influence.
3. Get politics out of the judiciary.
4. Transparency must be the order of the day, not the exception.
5. In all cases, it must be the will of the people that prevails, not the ambitions and avarice of those elected to serve the people.
6. Equality for all must be our standard, not privilege for the few at the expense of the majority.
7. Adulation of materialism and celebrities must give way to a common respect for mankind, this fragile planet and all we depend on for our very survival.
The list could be expanded and amplified by minds far better than mine, but it is a start.
I sincerely and fervently believe the time has come for us, the people, to get serious, to become committed and involved and genuinely work to change the complexion of this country. We instinctively and objectively know where the problems lie. Let us put our shoulders to the wheel, stop talking and begin to do what is required in order to make this country all that we profess and seek to be.
To hearken back to an old cliché “Time is of the essence” It is no longer simply a choice.
aka The Sagebrush Philosopher
February 10, 2013