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Profit – A Greater and More Destructive Addiction than Heroin

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A neighbour of mine works in the call centre for a well known insurance company. The Principle was keen for staff to do their bit in the community and encouraged them to support charitable activities, such as donating blood during office hours.

When he sold out to a large corporation this practice was discontinued by the new owners. On Remembrance Day members of the switchboard were told to ignore the two minutes silence as it would cost too much in lost revenue. The staff ignored the instruction and I believe the matter was not mentioned again.

My youngest son is exuding the early symptoms of a stomach ulcer at the age of 24. He used to work for a company that does a lot of its account work over the telephone, with the accompanying daily pressure to attain targets. To ignore health symptoms of this nature in the unremitting pressure to achieve profits is akin to a state of addictive denial, which results in irresponsible actions of the type experienced by my son.

I cite these examples out of many to illustrate my belief that modern business is displaying all of the symptoms of addiction. If you accept that addiction is a human condition and business is run by humans, I believe profit is an addictive side effect of money. After all, the poppy is a beautiful flower but has less attractive derivatives in opium and heroin. Grain and grape are harmless foods until distilled.

The symptoms of addiction I allude to include:

a) Irrational behaviour - A total focus on profit, to the exclusion of all else

b) Obsessive behaviour - Justifying all actions without regard for human dignity.

c) Attainment of the “profit high” at all costs, irrespective of the impact upon others (Staff, Suppliers, the Environment)

d) Denial -That a) b) and c) above, are not the case

In the pursuit of profit a couple of hundred years ago Britain became “Great” on the back of the slave trade. Is it the tantalising myth of “something for nothing” that profit proffers which produces scant regard for the human misery its attainment often causes? And why is it that often it induces us to fall seriously short of the higher ideals we try to operate and pursue in most other areas of our lives?

We may possibly find justification for our actions because we are hunter/gatherers and need to fulfil this basic human drive. I have no problem with this and the excitement it brings. I enjoyed that excitement for many years and it does seem to fill a requirement within us to experience achievement.

However, the excitement that came from hunting for food was tempered by the fact that if we took too much it did not benefit us proportionately, because it rotted back into the ground when not eaten. We can hoard profit and this subtle difference is something we have not devoted any time to in better understanding how we operate as a species with this aspect of our activity.

Perhaps the challenge is to understand better our reactions to profit and try to evolve to a point where we are its master and not the opposite, which has been the case throughout history. To this end, in subtly changing our belief in the emphasis of financial disciplines by introducing other equally important rewards, might we achieve a more diversely satisfying method of exciting and stimulating our instincts, with broader benefits to society?

I know, corporations and business in general do a lot for charity and fulfill an important need. However, the manner in which this activity is conducted does not seem to temper the aggressive approach to profits that modern business has adopted. In part this is down to the sheer size of modern business, which means it becomes increasingly detached from the community in a way that could never happen when small businesses dominated the high street.

In an environment where a bank that makes hundreds of millions of pounds of profit then declares like Bill Gates, that it is putting a fair percentage back, creates a different outlook to its activities.

An action of this type generates a closer connection with the communities that support it, rather than the increasing separateness from customers that modern business practices induces through of shareholder priority.

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At a time when this planet and its inhabitants do not appear to be working in synergy, causing serious imbalances and Global Warming, I offer a personal view of our current plight in a combination of personal experiences, science, religion and (more...)
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