Saturday, March 3, 2018

Ethical Erosion (the "American Way")

Free Market (shareholder) Capitalism reinforced by standard industry practices creates a hyper complex tapestry of decision making which so thoroughly disconnects every player at every level of interaction that no one individual ultimately finds themselves responsible for the ethical lapses each one is fully aware are happening along the way. We have diffused ethics so fully into this cloud of complexity that it disappears into the chaos of the system never having to be felt by the individuals feeding the system on any level.

The consumer doesn't have a say in the ethical practices of the company beyond boycott, but due to standard industry practice, not only does one have to boycott one specific company, to have any measurable effect, that individual would have to stop purchasing that product from all companies. And some companies can't feasibly be boycotted at all, due to the fact they produce parts or ingredients which are used in products purchased by consumers, requiring the individual to go to great lengths or abandon such things as "pre-packaged food" or "cell-phones" as a whole just to hope to have an impact, and then not only would one have to do so, they would need millions more, across the country, to also abandon the same product/products/practices to even have the slightest effect. . . And when that product is something that is essential for individual success (cell phone for example) the desire to boycott is easily overwhelmed by one's desire to stay employed and successful, or even just not unemployed.

The entry level employee has the trouble that they don't want to rock the boat too much, their livelihood and survival is often on the line, and whistle-blowing often comes with a lot more baggage than an entry level employee is willing to take up. Ethics violations at this level will often take large amounts of documentation to support, as well as an employee being in a position to suffer the loss of their job in order to bring the issue to light, and even then the possibility that the company might suffer in any meaningful manner would all depend on what the individual could prove, and how widespread the practice is, which is hard for an individual stuck in one location to really nail down, at worst the individual may result in a localized practice getting caught, a small fine and an employee out of a job. So it would need to be a pretty large or obviously bad problem to necessitate this kind of response, if the individual even realizes the scope or scale of the problem. Sometimes, disposing of one thing improperly doesn't seem so bad now and again, but when it turns out the whole company is dumping the same thing in the same river from one location, the urgency may not be apparent to the worker who doesn't actively see it, and so the compulsion to stand up and do what is right is once again abrogated. However, since many ethical lapses are not explicitly illegal, and won't likely be seen on the entry level on any scale, the likelihood something will be done is very small.

Mid-Level employees are in a position to see more of what is going on, but also in no position to do too much about it, without going to great lengths to confront the issue. You also have to think about the added pressure that comes with knowing how replaceable you are, if you stand up for employees and the people above you don't see eye to eye, then you can easily be replaced by someone who will see eye to eye, it is, after all, your job as a mid level employee to implement the will of the executives, and if this unethical practice is legal, then you'd be potentially losing your job over nothing, because unless all of mid-level management is going to stand with you, you're not likely to change anything with your opposition to a decision by people above you.

Executives, like the Mid-Level employee run into the fact that standard business practices ensure that they are entirely replaceable, and they can, and will, be replaced by someone who will implement these practices, effectively allowing the executive to make the argument that the decision was out of their hands, meaning they can effectively deny any ethical responsibility, due to the fact that, one way or another, this was going to happen, so even if they were against it, what could they have done?

It wouldn't be fair to go through all of this without mentioning one of the most severe ethical lapses carried out across companies every day without anyone seeming to openly acknowledge it, and that is the "do what you have to do, just get it done" idea. This particularly insidious approach enables an individual in power to give an order to those under their command to complete an objective or project "by any means possible." often under the implied threat there will be consequences. In doing this, the person in charge is giving an indirect order to commit ethically questionable or illegal actions, without actually taking any responsibility for the potential consequences that might arise. The order then passes down the chain of command, often leaving much lower level employees with the decision to violate their own ethics, or even the law, or keep having a job, and when it comes to survival, most people will take survival over ethics. Through this method of shirking responsibility, the one giving the orders absolves themselves by making certain the actual damage is done by someone beneath them. When the time comes to face actual charges, the company itself remains in the clear, because all the harm can be laid at the feet of lower level employees who do not represent the company or its practices, and any personal ethical dilemma that arises is easily shrugged off as a necessary casualty, which is easily made up for by all the "good" the company does in other places.

Now as for policy makers, and authorities, the fact that we've legalized bribery for elected officials, there really isn't too much any of these people could hope will change through whistle blowing or legislation so long as the current structure exists. Throw in the fact that even the well meaning elected officials will often make decisions for the better, knowing damn well that it is harmful, under the hope that they might still be able to do some good elsewhere.

To sum it up, capitalism has created a systemic web of denial which has so thoroughly removed any individual from having to take any responsibility for anything that the concept of ethics, at this point might as well not exist. We have replaced our morality. . . With fucking, stuff, and as long as the system keeps making the stuff, we'll keep looking the other way because we know, at the end of the day, that even though the entire system is unethical from top to bottom, there's nothing anyone can do about it, so why should we even bother? No one's really to blame, and nothing can really be done, so let's all just ignore it!

To add to all of this, I don't think anyone has a damn clue how to untangle this giant rubber band ball of bullshit and start bringing back a system which exists to serve the people it was created to serve.

So we carry this thing on our backs, and we see it's evil, and we know it's evil, but it gives us the granola bars and gator-aid we need to get to the top of that mountain we want to bury ourselves on, because unswerving loyalty to a system or entity which couldn't give a flying shit about your existence, is pretty much one of the defining characteristics of human beings. Hell, capitalism is more important to 99% of Christians than their own God FFS!

My point is, we can't live in a world of ethics and morality, and not the illusion of these behaviors, where principles and integrity are key aspects of who we are as a people, while the economic system that is central to our existence continues to reinforce behaviors which are counter to this idea. We need to have a big talk about Free Market (shareholder) Capitalism, cause lately it's been spreading its cheeks and shitting all over the rest of us, and the only reason anyone is tolerating it is because. . . I guess some of us really like to eat shit, and the rest of us will eat it until something better comes along?