Recently a few of my friends and I watched Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. It was framed through the context of Moore’s critical eye on the government and its tendency to pander to large corporations; Moore has every reason to be critical. Corporations, once the site of unionized workers and varying degrees of economic stability, worked to provide a whole lot to very few. This, unfortunately, has become a dominant thought in many of the corporations that essentially run this country. The conduit for it all? Our economic structure—capitalism.
In reading the article on servant-leadership, I saw the companies that have outlined servant-leadership in their mission. These companies, in the grand scheme of American companies, are anomalies. I think of my brother’s line of work and wonder how to convince folks in his work to embrace servant-leadership or find the love in the working together as outlined in Wheatley’s article “Love and Fear in Organizations.” He works in the financial industry for a corporation that works with on bankruptcy buy-outs and mergers and acquisitions. His industry has a primary motivation—money. In times of economic hardship like those in which we find ourselves now, money becomes even more central to these firms. Bonuses are used as incentive leverage. The idea is to keep moving up in the rank because of the financial opportunities available. Your colleagues are your competition. This, from what I understand, is the dominant thought in this big business society under capitalism. It has become a thought that spread beyond the confines of Wall Street and into the schools of small farm towns. We are a society conditioned for competition.
Knowing this, it is possible that humans change. I have to believe that. I have to believe that there comes a time when people cannot stand the competition and reject it. It is a matter of how one comes to realize that money is not the conduit to happiness. I believe that is hard for folks in our society to understand. But it is possible. I think of those anomaly companies I hear about on the radio or on the news—the companies that want to make work fun and egalitarian. Jobs at those firms are hard to come by; the fever’s catching on. I’d love to see an insider look at those firms now, in tight financial times. Do they look the same? Are folks still happy even if they had to take a pay cut?
We, as Americans, have a sickness. We vote on others’ identities on the basis of financial considerations. We do things just for a tax cut; we’ll even hire someone to help us find any way to not part with our money. We hire people to help us get more. We bought into the false consciousness that our material worth correlates with personal worth. It is a tough one to undo. But we can.