The shift in the emphasis of power from the religious to the corporate sector has dramatically narrowed our perspective on life, challenging our best interests as a species.
This shift has also reduced government’s ability to police and control the effects of our corporate activity upon society as a whole.
Business has always been the single most effective means by which we have evolved as a species, continually taking us into new locations, leading our development of relationships around the globe in the search for new sources of profit, and improving our material quality of life – up to a point.
During this development we have evolved a “sweet shop society” which allows us to pander to every whim, like a child alone with a credit card in a candy store. The driving force behind this is the marketing precept that business researches what people want and then fulfils their desires at a profit – whether it nurtures them or not.
The advent of globalisation has seen the mushrooming in size of corporations, as they amalgamate and race for global dominance. We are creating operations that are turning profit into an insatiable beast, allowing the consumer to binge on a diet of credit and material possessions which is now beginning to worry even the most cavalier of bankers.
In no way do I wish to criticize the business community. It is only fulfilling its remit to trade at a profit. What I do want to do is examine profit and its affect upon society and the human condition.
The profit incentive dramatically affects our quality of life, individually and collectively, although this is not something that can be measured by slide rule or balance sheet.
Hardship has always acted as the “glue” which has bonded society in the common task of survival. When hardship is replaced by plenty we become intensely competitive, as greed urges us to see how we can profit from each other rather than support each other.
To try and get to the bottom of the financial whirlwind we now seem to be in I looked to my favourite “micro society” the school, to see what single element most affects its atmosphere and culture.
In the schools that my kids attended, without fail it was the head teacher who set the climate that directly influenced the attitude of all its members – pupils, parents and staff alike.
In each instance the positive environment established by the head, in their desire to see the overall development of each child, resulted in a steady stream of confident and positive children, even though not all attained high academic achievement.
The increasingly stressful atmosphere experienced by today’s society is, I would suggest, brought about because of the presence of shareholders who represent society’s “headmasters”.
As a body, essentially they contribute only money, although some also contribute expertise as well. However the bottom line for any company with shareholders is to deliver profits – first and foremost!
If the profits are not forthcoming then the shareholders take their money somewhere else, and this threat is where the pressure and stress now inherent in our society begins.
The shareholder is only concerned for the return and safety of the investment made – the money.
From this initial demand to deliver a return on that investment, the pressure is passed on to the directors of the company, who pass it down to management, and then on to the company’s suppliers and its own staff. Finally the customer is put under pressure to “perform” by buying more.