Corporations Are People Too

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Companies identify business opportunities somewhere. They could be foreign or Canadian, doesn’t matter-they see an opportunity somewhere, say the opportunity to make money by building a paper mill in Red Rock ON. So construction begins, the company hollers for workers to build and run the mill. They pay well, well beyond what folks desperate to make a living would accept. Because they want to get up and running and start the profits rolling in asap—they are willing to share more of the profits. In Red Rock’s case, German POWs helped build and staff the mill.

Money is made for years; communities spring up and flourish all round. But eventually dwindling supply and aging technology renders the operation too inefficient to keep up with the competition. In the Red Rock mill’s case, the cost of electricity skyrocketed, the mill had to haul trees from further and further away (very costly), and there was oversupply because Finland, China and Argentina know how to make paper too. The investors who so gamely supported the mill’s construction and operation now see their profits evaporate and try to mitigate their losses. The mill is shut down; the investors cut and run—naturally.

But the communities remain. Some of the town folks up and leave, but many are too old, too anchored, too low on savings to be able to uproot. The communities supplicate their governments for something to replace the dollars produced by the mill.

At the end of the day, the investors have moved on; so too the community’s more mobile members. But the infrastructure and the mill site residue remain, along with the folks for whom Red Rock is just home. The remote investor will not be thinking about things like that—naturally.

Would it make a difference were investors to live in the same community as the businesses they are invested in? That would depend upon the investor; however in times gone by, I’ll warrant there were more employer-investors perceiving value in valuing their employees than there are today, the corporate-speak notwithstanding. In these days, most folks talk the talk but don’t walk the walk—in the modern world of appearance trumping reality and corporate branding, ‘talk’ is, apparently, all that is necessary—once the customer (or voter) lays their money down, why they have customer ‘service’ to handle you after that. Business folks know how to say all of the right things—in particular, how they value the contributions of their employees, but too many of them keep their hands under the table while they play at doing end -runs around employee safety and wellness legislation. At the same time, they make more and more demands upon their employees’ time and energy as they pay them less—citing ‘international competitiveness’ as the gun held to the employer’s head on wages and benefits. That is where the investor does the greatest damage—in focusing on profits to the exclusion of everything else. So long as their money makes money, they’re happy—naturally.

Imagine if investors were to live in the community, right alongside their employees—and are not allowed to live anywhere else. Now, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether…

Would the investor folks be as pleased if their sons and daughters, husbands and wives—partners—worked in the places they were investing in; knowing the human cost of ‘international competitiveness’ and watching it take its toll upon their loved-ones? Might they be more interested, given the circumstances, in how their company treats its employees?

Knowing one another, living together—all  seeing the community as their home—would they not try, each in their way, to further promote and maintain the vitality, the quality of life, la joie de vivre of their community? The investors would feel obliged to put some of their windfall back, invest in the community—in the form of identifying economic opportunities and moving on them—and maybe put off buying that wee little island getaway…at least until things got better at home.

If things got really bad for the business and the community’s share of the business tax revenues were reduced to the point where the delivery of essential services was no longer tenable financially, the community per se would organize to ensure that homes had electric power, remained heated, and that the folks had food, clothing, shelter…I have seen it whenever there was a house fire or someone was lost on the lake or in the bush—Red Rock spontaneously becomes one family.

Schools and hospital and support services for seniors and kids would remain viable because the professional folks providing these services  also live in the community. I expect they would be moved to provide those services during the down times at a rate folks could afford to pay, rather than withhold services altogether. This community includes employee-investors but is not ruled by them. It is democratic and ruled by law. Any system of jurisprudence that permits citizens to live in poverty  and does not identify poverty as a crime is not democratic and isn’t even social—it is special interests gaming the rules and passing their initiatives off as democratic action, with the tired caveat that, ‘we still have so much more to do…’  Mark me, 25 years from now, if we’re still here, our politicians will be telling us the same things about the same issues—only most folks will be further in the hole than they are now…

Humans are the most capable of all species of comprehending and changing the world they live in. This recommends us for the role of steward. One operative of stewardship is: when there is not enough to go around no one would insist on getting their due but rather would insist on those lacking getting their minimum.

In the stewardship scenario,  the continuity of family life is not disrupted. Resources are not hoarded but shared during the rough times—directed from where they exist in abundance to where they are scarce. The notion of the ‘ghost community’ – à la the erstwhile logging towns north of Lake Superior, is become a ghost; replaced with continuity, viability, continuity.

All of this lay within the community’s reach when the investor lives in the community. All of this is also natural.

Instead, jurisprudence has accorded corporations the standing of a ‘person’ in our communities—this being the result of an American court reporter’s transcription ‘error’ of the presiding judge’s decision in a court case from the later 1800’s. No one appeared to think it prudent to correct the typo, not even the judge (hello?). Subsequently, corporations were accorded the same rights as you and I under the law—only corporations possess tonnes more money for to pay lawyers and to lobby for laws and policies more favourable to their generating profits.

When the ‘person’ who is a corporation ‘dies,’ they are not only ‘gone,’ the community is left without its parent-provider. The house inevitably falls into disrepair, the kids get into trouble because their afterschool activities have been cancelled and there is nothing engaging them, nothing for them to do; parents’ worries deepen as they feel their lives and community fall further and further away from the place they are all struggling to get to.

But the investors are in fact still living; and their corporate person-entity is very much alive somewhere else in its new home. For now, the welcoming country will experience ‘growth’; earning a share of the money; its citizens enjoying new found material prosperity(even as they poison their environment—but don’t worry about stuff like that 😊). BUT, sadly, the corporate tenant will one day move again, to a new home, the moment the old one begins needing resources to be put back in.

That’s the corporate model…

That’s the form the world has taken. The international corporate model is the business analog of nation-state imperialism. If we are not at war to take for ourselves what belongs to someone else, we are attempting to neutralize the competition and buy them out by bullshitting them into it. We will buy nations’ ‘collaboration.’ Since nations’ are not stupid, we are actually making deals with a subgroup of folks in these nations whose authority and power derives from their unscrupulousness: they are prepared to reap the benefits but confer the cost of the corporate presence upon their own citizens—upon folks who are simply trying to raise families—and to live life happily. That’s all.

The world has changed remarkably over the last 30 years. Unbridled ego has been humankind’s modus operandi since the beginning. The world is become too small for us to engage our egos to the extent we were allowed heretofore. The world is too small and we are too many. It often used to be as if we had no neighbours. They never got in our way. When they did, on occasion, we moved them out of the way (at least, when we were Attila 😊). We’d never seek to make our backyards bigger at our neighbour’s expense…

The investor needs to live in the community with the folks who live and work there. That is the only way natural progress can be assured. What is natural to all living things is the motive to survive and thrive. ‘Surthrival’ is accomplished only through collaboration, unity and resolution of purpose.

 Today’s ‘business’ mindset is nothing more than ‘make hay whenever and wherever the sun shines.’ That is why we are now fretting over the arms sales to Saudi Arabia. That is why there’s a big hole in the ground and huge waste piles where the Red Rock mill used to be. That mindset is more closely related to the socioeconomic model imagined by Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, albeit they dispensed with the decorum of corporate branding as they expanded their markets😊.

The mindset that is truly ‘business mindful,’ seeks opportunity within a framework of social responsibility (to wit: stewards of the community and environs). That is NATURAL. That is SUSTAINABLE.

That is STEWARDSHIP and is humankind’s destiny. It is what our species’ evolutionary status recommends us for. It is what our spirit and the spirit of creation and the creator are all crying out for.