Though it is concerning to me that there is such an enormous amount of wealth and power concentrated at the top of the structure of corporacracy in which we live, I realize that this is a condition that will not change without a significant effort to curb it. Indeed, injustices have persisted for thousands of years, and though I have seen a great many neutralized during my time on this Earth, I am aware that a concentration of power is a constant, and that more than this fact, it is how it is wielded that shapes our fate. What makes my blood boil, my mouth unconsciously stretch into a demand for “CHANGE! IMMEDIATE CHANGE!”, is the extreme misuse of this power and the complete apathy of those at the top of this structure when it comes to ensuring the safety of their customers or constituents, and the amount of power that they hold in their hands to make either good or deeply evil decisions.
When I was confronted with two deeply troubling instances of corporate responsibility this morning, I was immediately reminded of a similar example many decades ago that is highlighted in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, which demanded a broad automobile safety overhaul. Before I tell you about the present day instances, I’d like to say a few things about the issues of corporate responsibility that Nader brings up, which I believe are still very telling and relevant.
The specific chapter in this book that I would like to discuss in relation to corporate responsibility is the first one, entitled “The Sporty Corvair”. In this chapter, Nader outlines the tragic design flaws of this popular Chevrolet automobile. In short, the car’s suspension made it very susceptible to flipping over at high speeds, especially when the tires were not inflated to the correct pressure and there was more than one person in the car. That is not the troubling part. Dangerous products are invented every day and millions of people also work every day to make them safe and to keep them away from people until they are. The troubling part is that GM knew about the various problems of the car and later admitted to a delayed recall of the model. Why? Because someone calculated that to pay off those who sought compensation for their injuries or the death of a loved one via the legal route would be cheaper than it would be to go through the effort of getting the sporty little deathtraps off the road.
The President is forced to make calculations with human lives. Generals, in the heat of battle, are expected to do the same. It is unfathomable to me that CEO’s make these calculations weighing human life and profit and are not brought to justice. Yes, Wallstreet gambled with all of our money and lost it, but people like this, in such untouchable positions of power, are gambling with our lives. It would be like sitting down at a poker table and being asked to ante a vital organ while the dealer bets chips.
This brings me to a current instance of disconcerting and disgusting corporate irresponsibility. In the news today a pharmaceutical company was caught covering up information that pointed to the fact that their drug was causing a fatal disease in patients. This article depicts the disgusting actions of the company that knowingly suppressed information and continued to produce a drug that they knew was harming patients. This is a tragic example of serial irresponsibility and greed based, morally starved decisions.
The high level executives of this company not only took steps to bury and confound the studies that determined this, they openly mocked the patients in email correspondences. The implications of their lighthearted attitude towards the situation is especially bothersome. All benefit of the doubt that these men could have claimed goes out the window with their admission of not only knowing the consequences of their actions, but not caring about it enough even to treat the deaths of their customers as a serious matter. They have dehumanized their customers—sick people—to the point that a fatal disease caused directly by their product is reduced to an intentionally lighthearted quip about these dying people having trouble speaking because of the pain in their mouth. These swollen, faceless corporations are stealing life energy to convert it into dollars to line their pockets. There is a complete lack of responsibility and accountability within these enormous corporations. (or “people” as the Supreme Court likes to call them)
Insurance companies are no better. Today, a guest on The Ed Shultz show, brought up an instance in which a woman was denied coverage for a life saving bone marrow transplant by her insurance company, and subsequently died. As more information surfaced, it came to light that they had calculated (that chilling word again) that it would be cheaper to simply draw out the legal proceedings until her eligibility expired than it would be to pay for the lifesaving $50,000 procedure. They let a woman die to save $50k when they had $1.2 million dollars in reserve specifically for the type of bone marrow transplant that she needed.
These three examples all amount to one fundamental truth. People given the power to help themselves at the expense of others will. Recent studies also suggest that those with more power are more likely to act unethically or dishonestly.
Until the people within corporations are held accountable for their wrongdoing at the expense of other individuals, this broken democracy of ours has no hope. All of the people gambling with our environment and with our future are doing so with an impunity that confuses and disgusts me. It is time to recognize the disproportionate power dynamic in our nation and our world as a result of corporacracy- only once we realize there is a problem can we begin to build a solution together.