Psychopath society – a little Kapitalismuskritik for the weekend

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Quick, name an every day activity that is not somehow connected with any corporation!

Eating?

Naww, come on, you can do better than that!

Walking?

You kind of need shoes for that, right? Never mind. The only thing I could come up with was breathing (if you’re not an asthmatic). From sleeping to drinking water from the tap to using the toilet- e v e r y t h i n g we do is somehow connected to corporations that somehow, somewhere produce the things that are so engrained in our daily lives that we barely notice them as “products”. So, now that we cleared that up, lets talk a little more about the nature of those corporations.

The modern corporation emerged in early 19th century America, when a court ruled over the private ownership of Dartmouth College by stating that it should further on act as a “fictitious legal person, an artificial legal entity”. So, if the corporation was ruled to have the legal identity of a person what kind of personality would that person have?

I’m not the first one to claim that the modern corporation has the disordered personality of a freaking psychopath.

Judge for yourself! Here are the official criteria:

–       callous unconcern for the feelings of others

–       incapacity to maintain enduring relationships

–       deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit

–        incapacity to experience guilt

–        failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours

Psychopaths make up about 20% of the worldwide prison population, so they’re evidently considered a threat to society. Accordingly, the priority of the psychological treatment of psychopathy is to instil a functioning conscience into the patient in order to decrease the risk he or she poses to their environment. In the case of the corporation, corporate social responsibility (CSR) could be considered the equivalent to this attempt:

CSR is the artificial conscience of an institution that innately serves nothing but its own profit.

Ra-ha-ha-heally intelligent people have made a huge effort to define CSR through a static set of criteria, and transform it into a one-size-fits-all business technique. Yet, CSR seems to escape any attempt of capturing it in one theoretical framework. Instead, everybody kind of agreed that CSR is a socially constructed idea and highly context specific. It’s basically a philosophical concept in which corporations understand themselves as responsible for their impact on society and the environment.

Hm. That’s not really a standpoint on business ethics that can be taken for granted, though, is it? Rather, modern global economy builds upon good ol’ Milton Friedman’s statement that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”.

This actually means, that CSR totally and fundamentally contradicts the priority goal of any corporation as soon as it limits its profits (which it usually does, at least on the short-term). Friedman argues further that the corporation’s manager actually doesn’t even have the right to neglect opportunities to make profit or to spend profit on altruistic purposes, because of his or her responsibility towards the stakeholders of the corporation who have a right to the maximum outcome of their respective contributions to the corporation. So, according to Friedman, corporations rightfully avoid taking up responsibility towards society and nature, if it implies limitations to their monetary gain.

In my opinion, this idea of full responsibility of the corporation towards its stakeholders is precisely what creates the political resignation about resistance and change amongst us, and reduces the chances for CSR to ever be fully implemented: corporations not only avoid taking up other responsibilities apart from making profit, but they proactively invalidate any criticism of their actions, by taking and spreading the standpoint that the economy’s interest is naturally in line with the individual’s interest.

Since economic growth is understood as the only means to secure wealth and innovation for the general society, everyone needs to make their contribution to the economy- be it as a stakeholder or as a consumer- in their own interest. Yet, this makes the interest of communities in unpolluted land, sustainable handling of common goods, and humane working conditions frequently appear as if it was contradictory to their interest in secure livelihoods.

The chronic optimism that lies within the capitalist maxim that ‘everybody can make it’, blinds people for the possibility of change and decreases the impact of their resistance when corporations externalize their costs to the disadvantage of the general public. This unrealistic suggestion of optimism about the system and pessimism about possibilities to change it, is also supported by the human tendency to underestimate long-term outcomes and rather thrive for short-term gain: it’s a human weakness that facilitates the increase of corporations’ day-to-day profit on the grounds of the short-termed pleasure of consumerism while they destroy the basis of future livelihoods against the long-term interest of everybody.

Thus, resignation and passivity towards irresponsible activities by corporations are natural by-products of the capitalist ideology.

So, what do you think, is CSR maybe just an attempt from within the system to raise the credibility of the notion that the economy’s interest equals society’s interest?  I think it is and it’s deeefinitely not an attempt to change the system, commonly referred to as “the stupid system” (by me.).

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I mean, just the way in which CSR is communicated makes it so damn obvious that all that the CSR movement has accomplished so far is promoting green- and bluewashing and maybe one or two saved lives and whales (Haha. Cynical joke straight from the black core of my heart. Anywayyys…)

Most CSR strategies are solely profitable, because of competitive advantages that come along with a good reputation. However, reputation and reality is not the same thing, which creates the opportunity for corporations to ‘have the cake and eat it’ by making minimum investments in CSR while still constructing an image of sustainability through their marketing campaigns. Like airlines that claim to be sustainable, when they’re really only cutting down on-board services. Haha, yea right, because the wrappers of the on-board chocolate is causing climate change (well, they probably are, but you know, big picture, right?).

So, the strongest incentive CSR holds for the ones in power whose decisions determine corporate behavior – its profitability – can be achieved without the downfall of actually investing capital into CSR. Again, the voluntary engagement in CSR is unlikely to resist the pressure of global competition on the free market.

One could even say, that the CSR movement forces corporations to become hypocrites, because honesty is not guaranteed to be rewarded, whereas green- or bluewashing the corporate image while still making maximum profits through exploitative methods holds a promise for the largest possible profit margin.

Only persistent third party monitoring that guarantees international transparency of corporate practices could remedy this flaw in the conceptualization of CSR.

Which leads to my conclusion that CSR has to be reinforced by global governance and internationally binding legal groundwork. The voluntariness of the concept is unlikely to withstand the pressure of the free market.

Trusting corporations to commit to CSR is like trusting a psychopathic patient to watch over him- or herself: he or she would be likely to hurt others and eventually him- or herself, because of a pathological lack of empathy and awareness of communal values and interests. While the managers of corporations surely don’t (all) suffer from psychopathy, the institution of the corporation clearly does. Corporations need boundaries set by society, just like patients with a psychopathic personality disorder, because they fundamentally lack in intrinsic motivation to serve anybody, but themselves and therefore pose a societal and environmental risk.

However, identifying the limitations of CSR is an important step towards adapting out-dated paradigms of local governance and jurisdiction to the modern reality of a globalized economy. Let’s take the next one, though. CSR is soooo frustrating…

On the ethics of dating amongst a generation of narcissists

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This is not a relationship blog and I’m not a relationship person. However, this is a blog about flaws in our system, my loud conscience, and me, so this actually fits in perfectly:

Being attracted to narcissists validates their egomaniac, selfish worldview, which is not okay, because narcissists are perfectly compliant to our stupid system. They’re overly ambitious in order to secure a high social status (entirely extrinsically driven), and they feel perfectly comfortable in the hamster-wheel of work-life, because it gives them a sense of security and shelter that they can’t find in themselves.  They’re exemplary consumers, who nourish an addiction to status symbols throughout all their life. In the best case, they are entertaining charmers and a constant source of condescending big-talk; in the worst case, they’re completely ignorant of other people’s feelings; and in any case, they don’t care about anything, but themselves. Not about the environment, not about the poor, not about their neighbors- not about anything that doesn’t increase the grand image they maintain of themselves. If you’ll ever find them discussing these topics, or even acting upon some of the injustices in this world, they’re probably doing it to look good.[1]

Yet, I just can’t help myself- I find men and sometimes women, who are constantly putting up a show to protect their fragile self-esteem, charming. I want to take care of them. I want to tell them, that I think they’re the best version of themselves, when they’re not pretending: when they’re laughing so hard that it makes them look stupid; when they accidentally admit to their weaknesses; when they try to sneak a compliment or some kind of validation out of you and think you don’t notice; when they give you this child-like, huge smile after you finally comply to their cajoling and give them what they want: “Yes, this is great work! You’re such a genius! You look sooo sophisticated with those glasses! This is the best pasta I’ve ever tasted!” and so on… Basically, I want to help them, as I want to help everybody, because it makes me feel in control of the situation. Powerful. In the end, helper’s syndrome is just another form of low self-esteem. I know that.

I’m being manipulative and dishonest to them in order to make them love themselves and me. Funny thing is, they love it, but they don’t necessarily love me and they will never really love themselves.[2] The few times, when these kinds of relationships made me very happy, are entirely outweighed by the vicious fights, numbingly deprecating rejections and intoxicating affairs that came out of them.

So, this has to stop. I shouldn’t fall for a guy that loves talking about himself more than going out. I shouldn’t purposely bend my opinion to avoid scratching a man’s ego. I shouldn’t belittle myself and deny my needs in order to make room for his. Thinking about this as a moral obligation, rather than something I do for myself, might make it easier. Morals play into this in two distinct ways: First, there’s the broad moral obligation of honesty, what’s more: the moral obligation of actively standing up for your beliefs. Second, there is a moral obligation of refraining from playing along a narcissist’s unhealthy strategies, that get him or her through life, by further inflating their ego. In the end, narcissism is a personality profile that continually causes great harm in and around the affected. Nurturing it is wrong.

Oh, and I won’t let any excuses count that stem from me being a hopeless romantic, who believes against all logic in a totally outdated concept of love. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t! 😉


[1] Which is another great reason to make green living and non-consumerism seem cool. Nothing wrong with doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, I think…

[2] This is a generalization for the sake of a nice sentence structure. Obviously, therapy helps, if you have the self-esteem of a lamb in wolf’s clothing. Unfortunately, narcissists are the least likely of all personality profiles to seek help in psychotherapy, though. For reasons, see this article.

On becoming a rubbish pirate

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I couldn’t say it ANY better… my brilliant roommate Tali did a blog post on our dumpster related activities. *putting on my worst German accent* Rrrrread it! That’s an oaarderrrr!

Apples & Anarchy

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Sometimes, writing about the issues that I feel passionate about is a difficult thing to do. It’s hard to articulate my emotions, when they bubble up in a tangly, muddled fashion inside my head.

Our global food system is one such issue. I’ll admit I am only at the periphery of understanding, but the more I read, the faster my mind races and the wider my eyes become. And then I find myself pulling at my hair, opening and closing my mouth like an angry goldfish, or sometimes just half singing, half shouting, “fuuuuuck!!” I mean, the things we do in this world constitute madness, and madness is a difficult thing to put into words.  But this isn’t meant to be about me and my feelings (oh the feeeeeeliiings!!)– it’s bigger than that, more important than that. And so, instead of a lengthy rant, here are some cold…

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Tadaa! Pallet bed!

My pallet bed!

My pallet bed is done! It’s cosy, stable, doesn’t make any noises and looks- well, judge for yourself! The “problem” that it’s too large for my double mattress could be easily solved with a saw or a king size mattress, but I actually like it that way: serves as my night table. And why would I hide that beautifully painted thing anyways?

I’m also pretty damn proud of my “shelf”. It’s a bunch of cardboard boxes and comes with several advantages: I was able to adapt them perfectly to the space I had, they cost aaaaaabsolutely nothing, and I can rearrange them or add more as much as I want to! If anyone is in doubt: they’re perfectly stable and a few drops of water (or a whole emptied vase) (I’m a bit clumsy) won’t hurt them at all.

All the covers, pillows, the lamp, the vases and the picture frames are bought second hand. I spent about 40 Dollars on the whole thing, including the paint, which I got as a sample.

So, there you go, all you broke and/or conscious consumers! Pallet away! People are actually HAPPY to give them to you for free!