This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perspectives on Corporate America and Darwinism

I am here to write today on something kind of different but interesting.  Have any of you noticed a sort of "survival of the fittest" mentality among big companies as they swallow up little ones?  And, why are the big banks and huge corporations so threatened over the existence of small businesses?  For those of you who only think that Charles Darwin was just about men coming from monkeys, I want to say that evolutionary thought has permeated a whole realm of disciplines besides science, and I am convinced that Darwinian principals define corporate operations today in some subtle but scary ways that may impact us in the long run unlike anything has in the past.  Read on if this makes you curious.

This is not a theological teaching, nor is it meant to be a devotional aid today, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed as it affects many of us who have to work and pay our bills in the corporate world.  I stated up-front before that this blog would occasionally deal with issues that were not theological in nature but do affect our faith and also present controversy, and therefore this is one of those posts.  It is based largely on some observations I have made from almost 15 years of dealing with Corporate America, and some of you know what I am talking about.  Therefore, let us get started.

In the recent economic climate, we have seen banks and companies collapse, small businesses taking huge hits, and the "big fish" in the proverbial corporate seas cannibalistically feeding off the carnage of the mess by absorbing and stamping out not only small businesses, but even other large companies.  There is not a single doubt in my mind that this DOES have prophetic implications, do not get me wrong on that, but I want to look at the immediate effect it has had on the individual, using my own experience as an example. I have worked in a contractor capacity for several large corporations over the years - and I am talking big players too! - and am currently with one of those now although I am praying God opens some other doors really soon.  What I have noticed first off is that many of these HUGE corporations do not give much consideration for their employees that work very hard for them; they fire and lay off at will anyone they consider to be a "weak link" in their acquisition of profits and they also show no mercy for people in circumstances that sometimes they cannot help.  For instance, commuters by bus - people who rely on public transportation for work (as I do) have a lot of challenges to face that people with reliable cars don't.  For one, buses DO break down, and often emergencies happen (a couple of weeks back on my route I take, for instance, a wheelchair-bound passenger tipped over in his chair as he was trying to board the bus, and that tied us up 20 minutes or more) that bus commuters nor bus drivers cannot help.    Also, if an employee has to take a bus, it is a huge sacrifice for that person to do so; buses have set schedules, and in order for a person to commute over 25 miles to work as I do, it means often starting one's day 3 hours earlier than their co-workers.  Employers, especially management, often live in their ivory towers and don't relate well to things like this because they have their six-figure salaries, their Jags or BMW's, and all they think of is numbers, not people.  And, if people have problems, the management doesn't care - a weak employee is an expendable resource to them and easily replaced in their eyes, despite the fact that employee is a HUMAN BEING who has a family to care for, bills to pay, and is placed between a rock and a hard place.  And, if you are a contract employee, it is far worse, as oftentimes the company doesn't even make it worth your while - no bonuses are awarded for hard work, no insurance or benefits offered, and at times this concept called "mandatory overtime" is expected without fair compensation.  I am going to address some of these issues at length now, and hopefully this will be something many of you who read this identify with.

Let's touch first on mandatory overtime.  The LARGE company I work for has billions in assets, but recently received a $46 billion bailout from the Obama administration.  As a result, this corporation was encouraged to take advantage of several sinking mortgage brokers by buying up their loans and thus generating a high volume of work.  Now, this corporation also has what is called a "mandatory overtime" policy, meaning that at will the management can dictate that you work a mandatory 2 hours over your shift or up to 6 hours on Saturdays or you can lose your job.  However, they do not offer contract employees any time-and-a-half compensation, and they are so rigid that if a person DOES have to rely on public transport to get to work and cannot do those hours, it could cost their job.  Unfortunately, Federal law doesn't regulate this (although it should) but in specific circumstances it can be fought successfully if sufficient proof is given that such policies cause hardship on the employee.  However, in the future, many of us need to pressure our elected officials to make these glorified air-conditioned sweatshop boiler rooms abide by regulations to curttail institution of mandatory overtime policies.  Aside from that, it disrupts people's lives too - if mandatory, unannounced overtime is required, it interferes with a person's life and health, and the company doesn't care as long as its own pockets are filled.  People cannot be realistically expected to do that, honestly, and for a corporation with such greedy arrogance to even enforce such nonsense is unfathomable.  Overtime is not an issue, but it should always be voluntary.  If a company treats its employees more like human beings than like robots, then the employees will produce for them with no issues.  A former boss of mine and a successful attorney in the Miami area by the name of John Ritter (now deceased) once had a good policy - he always said "happy employees are productive employees."  And he was right - working with Mr. Ritter was one of the best positions I ever had personally, and I gave above and beyond because he made it worthwhile.  And, he never expected us to do it either; he treated us well, and thus he got our loyalty.  To this day, I lament that there are not more people like him in the business world.   Not just "small fry" businesses understand that either, as there are some major figures that have implemented good policies as well.  For any one of you that know me personally, for instance, you know I am an avid collector of vintage big band recordings, and of course naturally the late Lawrence Welk fits into that.   I love listening to Lawrence Welk personally, and am an avid fan of his show, watching it religiously every Saturday night.  Welk, however, was not just a musical legend, but also a first-rate businessman as well.  Although growing up very poor on a farm in North Dakota, the scion of Volga German immigrants, Welk is an American success story.  And, he authored several books to that end that expounded at length upon his success and how he achieved it.  Although a firm believer in the value of work, he was also a believer in fairness, and as a devout Catholic Welk had a strong Judeo-Christian basis for his practices.  Quoting from his 1979 book, This I Believe (Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall) on page 47, he describes his system in detail, and the bottom line is this:

                      When I'm asked to describe our system in one sentence, I have a little trouble.
                       But if you can think of it in terms of a father or mother doing whatever is best
                      for their children, you have a pretty good understanding of what makes it work.

He went on to say on the following page that his system incorporates four things

1.  It motivates top performance
2.  It rewards excellence
3.  It shares profits
4.  It bases all its actions on God's laws

In other words, it is the "Golden Rule" being put to business ethics - treat your employees well and they will respect and appreciate you.  Many big companies, driven by lust for profit and their worship at the altar of greed, forget these principals.  Yet, a top-rate entertainer from years back not only implemented them, but so revolutionized the business world that it was amazing. Welk was actually one of the first business entrepreneurs, as a matter of fact, to offer the concept of profit sharing to employees of his organization.  Later, his good friend Walt Disney instituted it (Disney employees were well taken care of, incidentally, up until the Japanese bought the Disney empire in the 1980's) as did other companies.   And, although Welk himself went to his eternal reward in 1992, his company, the Welk Group, still operates on those principals today as far as I am aware.   His "Welk Freedom System," as described in the back of his book, should be required reading for every business major.   Another entrepreneur, also a devout Christian, is octogenarian J. Truett Cathey, who founded the Chick-Fil-A franchise chain in Georgia.  Cathey, a strong Baptist layman and Sunday School teacher for many years, has a very radical but Biblical philosophy that many corporate executives would do well to follow - the leader should be a servant first.  As a result also, you will NEVER see a Chick-Fil-A restaurant open on Sundays either; would Ray Kroc be that willing to pass up profits for McDonald's by following this same higher principal??  I should really send this information to every big corporate executive, because it is a needed lesson due to the fact that as a nation we have gotten so greedy, godless, and off-center that it is no wonder we are going to hell in a handbasket.  And, it is reflective also in our government as well, but that is a whole other subject I can deal with at another time.

Another sad reality is a phenomenon in recent years called "outsourcing," where large corporations use cheap labor in other nations (usually India) because they don't want to pay hard-working Americans the salaries they deserve.  Thanks in part to Ronald Reagan, who although a great President, made a fatal error by signing some law in the mid-1980's giving companies the carte blanche to do this.  Problem is, it hurts a lot of people - it robs decent Americans of jobs, it exploits hard-working Indians as cheap labor, and it has severely impacted our economy as a nation in a negative way.  The only ones who benefit are the rich fatcats who serve  as CEO's and shareholders of these monster corporations who hold in their clutches assets numbered in the BILLIONS of dollars.   Something is wrong with this, seriously, and this "outsourcing" needs to be regulated more.  God will judge these companies for making innocent children starve as well as decent hard-working people, both American and Indian, lose their homes and other things due to unfair wages.  And, some of these corporate executives need a good shakedown, starting with these HUGE banks such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America.  The evil people who control those banks are wicked, greedy, and are out to fulfill their own agendas at any possible costs, and they do not care who they step on to fatten their own purses.  And, one day, it will be people like them that usher in the Antichrist, and it will be greedy corporations who will probably back the mark of the Beast in order to further their own interests by eliminating competition in the name of "corporate advancement."  However, those evil executives are in for two nasty surprises.  First, when the Antichrist comes onto the scene, he will eventually unseat them because he will be Satan incarnate and will assume control of ALL economics of the globe.  Second, for their greed and idolatry of worshipping at the altar of commerce, these executives (unless by some miracle they repent of their evil) will face the Great White Throne Judgement, and Jesus Himself will tell them, "Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!"  The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, as found in Luke 16:19-31, is something these greedy corporate bigshots should REALLY read, because if they don't change their ways this is their fate. 

I want to also show another Biblical principal for business ethics that many could profit from today.  It is found in Ephesians 6:5-9, and when the Apostle Saint Paul wrote it he was at that time directing it toward masters and slaves and the treatment they should show each other.  However, in the modern business world, it equally applies to the employer/employee relationship, and although it exhorts workers to be obedient and respectful of their bosses, it also exhorts the boss to reciprocate the gesture.   The harmonious relationship between an employer and an employee will generate an atmosphere of productivity in the workplace, and God will bless that business.  Unfortunately, many corporate executives are anti-religious unless something quoted from the Bible makes them money, and therefore Christian values are not to be readily expected or practiced in the workplace as a result.  However, this goes beyond Christianity even; God created us all with a sense of decency and it is only common courtesy to treat your fellow human beings with some sort of respect, as that is a great witness.  Problem is, when an employer is all about profit, and Satan uses that spirit of greed to control a person (a Scripture, I Timothy 6:10, warns that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil - money itself is not the issue, but rather the importance of what we do with it) because greed IS a cardinal sin, one of the oft-quoted "Seven Deadlies," and in the end the root of greed is idolatry.   The wicked and idolatrous generation that 21-century America is immersed in is based in prosperity unfortunately, and some who get a little taste of success will often become obsessed with the acquisition of success, both in wealth and prestige.  It is often flaunted as the "entrepreneurial spirit," but in reality it is a bondage.  A Southern Baptist pastor, Rev'd Marshall Maglothlin, said it many years ago when he pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Morgantown, WV, when he said that the "new American credo" was the "9 M's of Yuppie-ism", which he described as "money, microwaves, minivans, and more, more, more, for me, me, me!"  Replace that with i-pods, Jags, Beemers, etc., and that describes the average American high-management corporate bigshot today.  No room for God, family, etc. - some of them are so absorbed in this obsession that they don't even know how to have meaningful human interaction with their employees, which is REALLY tragic; what example of company loyalty does that impress with an employee who doesn't even get a response upon saying "good morning" to his boss, seriously??  What is worse, their own drive to boost their bank accounts and egos is taken out upon their long-suffering employees, who often are forced to give up their own lives for "the good of the company."  Sounds like forced idolatry to me, doesn't it?    The tragic result of this is declining health, broken homes, and if the person is a person of faith, backslidden spirituality.  God cannot and will not honor this, and God's people who are stuck in these situations need deliverance from them.  God wants his people to worship him with their whole being, and if anything hinders that, it needs to be removed.   Therefore, I want to offer something to you all today.

If you are employed in one of these dead-end corporate bondage-galleys, I challenge you to PRAY.  You cannot let a mere job dictate your life God gave you, and if a workplace is SO oppressive that it is robbing you of time for church and family, you need deliverance.  However, DO NOT QUIT!!! Be proactive and pray and also make some efforts to find something better.  Also, while working in such a place, do your best - it can be hard, as I can well attest, but remember it is also your witness.  Build yourself up spiritually by also maintaining an active prayer life and listening and reading material to help you (a lot of jobs do allow you to listen to music, etc., so take some godly music and even teaching CD's with you to listen to while you work).
In time, God will come through.  I write this to myself as well as to others, as I have been in these situations and am currently facing a similar challenge as I write this.  Any rate, God bless each of you, and may you be encouraged today by these words.