I’m thinking about how we blithely accept cruelty and christen it “just business.” It’s legal, and even encouraged. Was a time when you wouldn’t dare trade with a stranger because he might cheat you. To make a deal implied a relationship. To get away with something unseemly you had to be able to look someone in the eye and take advantage of her or him anyway. Oh, we’ve sanitized it alright. Most workers never meet the CEO. His hand doesn’t even deign to sign the paycheck. The workers are forced to trust nevertheless. Don’t worry, it’s just business. Or is it?
The system, of course, favors those with the loudest voices, and those voices speak the language of Mammon. We don’t dare upset the order, believing we will get ours some day. Delusion is so sweet. On the cover of Wired magazine is a little girl. The caption reads, “Genius is everywhere—but we’re wasting it… Seventh grader Paloma Noyola Bueno lives next to a garbage dump in Mexico. Last year she had the top math score in the country.” Careful, Wired, you’re beginning to sound socialist. Bueno was on the cover of a major magazine because she was discovered. Those who remain hidden far outnumber those who claim far more than their share of capital. You don’t make it to the top unless you crawl over the other caterpillars. When you reach the top, as Trina Paulus sagely warned, you find there’s nothing there. Just human detritus beneath your feet.
Business has come to mean “cold and impersonal.” Keep the human element out of it. In fact, the term “just business” is a very effective shield against all kinds of unethical behavior. And it is the model on which we shape our society. Is it any wonder that the economy takes such precipitous tumbles? Funnily enough, those who support “business ethics” such as these most vehemently also claim the title “conservative Christian.” Unless Christianity has thrown its moral compass into the sea, there’s no legitimate way to claim the latter half of that moniker. We praise and wonder at our Einsteins. How many of them died in the gas chambers and ovens of the Nazi regime? How many of them have starved in Africa? How many never rose above the crippling poverty of Mexico? Perhaps it is time we as a society demanded a stop to the wastage. “Waste not, want not,” should be our mantra. And if those at the top can’t show what they’ve done to help their fellow human resources, perhaps they should live next to the garbage dump. Don’t take it personally, one percenters, it’s just good business.