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The next time as an animal

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Message Joan Marques
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Sometimes I think the biggest challenge in life is to keep oneself relatively unscathed in the human community. Over the years I have come to realize that, in fact, the human psyche is similarly damaged everywhere we go: we categorize our own breed (fellow humans in this case) into clusters, in order to create powerhouses that can exert control. In cases of color- or ethnic diversity- the lightest ones get the highest prestige. If there is no physical diversity, we invent a system of castes or ranks that determines how we should treat our brothers and sisters in other layers.

In the past it could all happen openly: this was the time that slavery and oppression of certain groups were supported by laws. Today those laws have been abolished, but the human psyche has not changed. Our mental problems endure. The abolition of formal suppression systems and the establishment of equity laws have only caused the contemporary human to become a bigger hypocrite than ever before. So, in fact one might wonder whether matters have really improved! Why? Because we have now devised alternative ways to ensure that some people still - like before -- do all the hard work, while others -- also like before -- reap all the benefits.

The only difference is that modern strategies are so ingenious that they are not immediately discernible. Yet, to the vigilant eye, the examples are visible everywhere:

  • in global perspective we are facing the age-old problem of industrialized nations versus "the rest of the world", where, under the charming, heavily idealized motto of globalization, a gruesome rape occurs. Rich countries take ruthless advantage of their poorer global brethren, and flood their markets with mass-produced junk, which leaves the smaller, lesser developed nations incapable to compete. Result: the lesser developed parties have to close their small-scaled local factories, swallow their pride, and hold up their hands for big, unscrupulous bosses.
  • In the corporate sector we see the same thing happen with mammoth companies such as Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola, which shrewdly take advantage of the cheap labor in developing nations, but do this as if they were Santa Claus: they pay a tiny-tat more than the local industries, and sprinkle some idealistic sand in the eyes of the hungry masses. Imaginably, their sweatshops and local production units are perceived as the best workplaces in such countries, and all inhabitants think that this is the best that could happen! Meanwhile, however, the multiple billions of dollars that these operations make end up in bank accounts of a minute group of super-affluent employers in well-to-do countries, with   hundred-room homes, private fleets of 20 or 30 vehicles, private yachts and jets ,and so on.


  • Then, finally, we have the individual level, where you can see it clearest: a stellar performing employee who happens to be an outsider, gets heavily praised, and receives a packet of external rewards, such as a nice office and a prestigious title. Meanwhile the salaries remain a dark secret, supported by a ridiculously outdated ethical system, so that there is no transparency. Hence, nobody knows exactly how far he or she is over- or undervalued. However, if you remain observant, you soon realize that there are numerous valuation systems in place that allow poorly producing people to still be appreciated higher, simply because they meet the artificial -- often physical -- standards created by society, while those who were born under a different star have to be satisfied with less.

So, what to about this appalling reality? Move out and start elsewhere? Well, I wrote earlier that human psyche throughout the world is damaged, no? So, the next time I'll just return as an animal. It seems that there is less artificially fabricated folly occurring among those species.

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Joan Marques is the author of "Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day" (Personhood Press, 2010), and co-editor of "The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives in Research and Practice" (Skylight Paths, 2009), an (more...)
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