Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are you ready to rumble? Why, yes I am.

Capitalism is often not nice. Talk about the obvious. But also talk about the nearly impossible for me to embrace. I've long considered playing business to win as unsightly verging on unethical. Now, except when it is unethical, I think of it as an unlikely but fascinating benefit of being alive in the 21st century.

Capitalism is often pugilism. At its best, it's like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, grace and strength going after each other with scary ferocity. It's hitting as hard as you can, as fast as you can. It's dodging as many blows as possible, and recovering quickly from the ones that get through. It's having a fight strategy, but changing it the moment it stops working. It's both smart and rough as hell.

But capitalism isn't thuggery, or least shouldn't be. That's like Ali knocking out the kid asking for an autograph. Then it becomes crime, not business.

Capitalism isn't cruelty, either. Competitors can be fast friends and crucial allies outside the ring. And a side benefit of the brawling can be life-enhancing innovation and meaningful, well-paying work. Think Apple vs.Microsoft, Google vs.Facebook, Verizon vs. AT&T, Toyota vs.GM.

And for me personally, being up for a head-to-head challenge in my daily work duties is a necessity. So is the need to go in with some fierceness and fire in my heart and battle strategies in my head. So is the ability to accept getting knocked down, knowing that I can't stay down. So is the realization that when you step in the ring, it's a fight.

Happy Birthday, Ali. And RIP, Smokin' Joe.

7 comments:

  1. Is your fight song that Tubthumping one?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, especially the part about "Pissing the night away/ He drinks a whiskey drink / He drinks a vodka drink."


    But the fact that Chumbawumba is a pack of anarcho-punks probably means they're not really into capitalism, which presents too much discord for Tubthumping to be my official fight song.

    Any other recommendations? Eye of the Tiger? We Are the Champions? Rock You Like a Hurricane? Material Girl?

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Capitalism isn't cruelty". Maybe not cruel to each other. But what about the out-of-site bad practices that help give some capitalistic ventures their competitve edge? Selling cheap clothes assembled in sweat shops, making candy bars with cocoa harvested by child slaves, etc. These business practices make it easier to compete--as long as the customers don't find out, or don't care. But they most certainly are cruel.

    How do we reconcile the cruel capitalists and human rights?

    ReplyDelete
  4. JCDC,

    I'm with you. That's the part about businesses acting like thugs. And that was part of why I found capitalism so difficult to swallow for so long.

    But I think more and more organizations understand the consequences of their activities on the people who directly or indirectly work for them--and are taking action to ensure human rights are protected. Organizations such as Patagonia have this ethic in their DNA. Nike had a PR disaster around human rights that altered their choices dramatically, probably forever. And even Walmart, long the prototype for evil capitalism, dedicates serious resources to ensure that they're, in own their words, "meeting or exceeding the requirements of local laws and buyers' Code of Conduct concerning wages, hours, health, safety, and human rights of employees."

    Of course, there's still evil being done in the name of profits. But I think that, to use an tired cliche, capitalism writ large can be, over time, a tide that lifts all ships.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's great as long as Capitalism (or any system) raises all ships. The problem comes when you sail with survival-of-the-fittest ships. What's the point in winning if everyone else drowns?

    Yes, some companies have come a long way--but we're a human family and until everyone is okay--no one is okay.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm not trying to pick a fight. Really. I'm just thinking here. Been thinking about this for awhile now. Then when Christmas rolled around I couldn't get excited about buying people gifts. No one I know is really in NEED of anything. It feels wrong to roll around in excess when others lack the essentials.

    The options? Hum...

    - We can't divide and share the wealth equally because we know the saying, "if you give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish he eats forever." I think that's true.

    - I don't believe in survival of the fittest either. That's just plain cruel. (Both on a personal level and on a corporate level)

    - It doesn't seem wise to leave businesses unchecked. There are plenty of unethical (harmful to others) ways to make money. Currently, there are all sorts of fair-practice regulations in place. They're broken all the time.

    - We can't legislate that all businesses provide humanitarian aid. It's kind of their right to be greedy, I guess.

    So how do we enjoy the freedoms and the thrill of entrepreneurship and capitalism and still help the human family? That's my question.

    We can hope goodness triumphs over greed.

    I think we can help that process along by supporting good businesses and building good businesses. There's no reason capitalism can't help the human family.

    I've heard extremely wealthy business people refer to themselves as "stewards of wealth". I love the attitude that helping the human family is a responsibility that comes with financial success.

    And that's my hope.

    I hope cruel and thug-like and selfish and even wreckless capitalism vanishes and responsible capitalism fills it's place. (Not that all are currently bad.) I hope all those hard working, business loving, burning the candle at both ends, competitive, thrill-seeking capitalists recognize that they are stewards of the wealth.

    Until all capitalists are looking out for people everywhere, and as long as greedy capitalists swim in the gravy--I maintain there is such a thing as cruel capitalism.

    Exiting the forum. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. JCDC,

    Wow, very well put. I share your hopes. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete