The Common Good

The search for a corporate soul

Sojomail - January 23, 2002

               


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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 23-January-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++ The search for a corporate soul ++++++++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Mahatma Gandhi: religion of service

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *The search for a corporate soul

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Operation mandatory patriotic tattoo

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Cigarettes, pneumonia merit headlines. And anthrax?

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Message from the Quran: Act equitably

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 P. O. V.
     *Jim Wallis interviews Stanley Hauerwas

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *The making of "Dead Man Walking" airs on PBS
     *Black Hawk Down: good box office, bad history?

 E y e   W i t n e s s
     *Field report: Peshawar, Pakistan

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Faith-based environmentalism
     *Ad Busters
     *NetLingo
     *Derek's big Web site of Wal-Mart purchase receipts

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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"If I find myself entirely absorbed in the service
of the community, the reason behind it was my desire
for self-realization. I have made the religion of
service my own as I felt God would only be realized
through service. And service for me was India."

                         - Mahatma Gandhi
 
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B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The search for a corporate soul

by David Batstone

Whatever trust Americans once invested in their financial
and commercial institutions is eroding. Insider trading
on Wall Street, the savings and loan swindle, dishonest
accounting practices geared to mask revenue, pseudo-
research designed to cover-up the harmful effects of
products on people and the environment ­ a steady stream
of scandals deeply scar our social landscape. "Business
as usual" no longer implies a steady confidence in the
flow of financial exchanges, but sounds the alarm to
watch your back ­ if not your wallet. Corporate America
is in the throes of a moral crisis, and these cracks in
the public trust mean a real threat to its bottom line.

It¹s not just a matter of the utter unfairness of it all ­
employees losing their life savings while crooked executives
walk away rich. It¹s also a matter of what it takes to
make capitalism work. Investors must be reasonably assured
that reported profits are real, that executives won¹t use
their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of
stockholders and employees, that when insiders do abuse
their positions their actions will be discovered and punished.
Workers need good cause to risk their future fortune ­ and
the security of their families - on an enterprise that
purports to build value in the marketplace. Customers
identify with brands; once betrayed, their fury lashes out
like it would toward a fallen movie star or sports hero.

At root, the corporate crisis is as much spiritual as
it is moral. Here¹s an intriguing question: What is
it about the modern corporation that makes joining it
feel like we¹re making a Mephisto bargain for our soul?

Nearly fifty years ago my father launched his professional
career in the corporate world, joining General Electric
in a management training program before shifting over to
Union Carbide. But after a few years he left the corporate
world to start his own retail business. My father did not
run into any conflict with the ethics of the corporation
per se ­ and now in retirement he wrestles with the "what
ifs" he had stayed and climbed up the corporate ladder ­
yet he deplored the feeling that he was becoming just another
number in an impersonal organization, a cog in the machine.
 
With his 1956 classic "The Organization Man," William
Whyte attests that my father did not face his spiritual
struggle alone. Whyte¹s genius was revealing how the
growth of large organizations not only meant significant
economic and political ramifications for our society, but
also imposed a powerful force on the individuals who
worked within them. Whyte came to the chilling conclusion,
"We do need to know how to co-operate with The Organization
but, more than ever, so do we need to know how to resist it."

Society cannot expect individual moral impulse alone to
control the behavior of the modern corporation. The
conscience is a vital moral resource, to be sure, but it
is not as powerful as most moralists assume. Corporate
bodies inherently create a spiritual force that sets the
conditions for moral behavior. The conscience operates
most effectively in a corporate environment wherein
employees are rewarded for making good choices, and
made to be accountable when they make bad ones.

Citizens must urgently concern ourselves with "the
corporate soul," that is, how to nurture a spiritual
force that inexorably shapes a company culture for the
common good. Too many corporations use their organizational
structure to squeeze the humanity out of their collective
life. How tragic. Surely, a corporation is most vital when
it puts its organizational structure at the service of the
people it employs, and to whom it serves.

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Operation mandatory patriotic tattoo

As part of the Office of Homeland Security's broad,
discretionary power to enact any and all initiatives
that may prove effective in America's ongoing fight
against terrorism, Governor Tom Ridge has unilaterally
passed into law legislation requiring American citizens
to obtain an exciting new breed of tattoo. Go to this
link to pick out your tattoo (you have 3 options):

http://www.whitehouse.org/homeland/tattoo.asp

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B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Cigarettes, pneumonia merit headlines. And anthrax?

2:       Number of people in Washington, D.C., who were murdered
         by anthrax poisoning between 9/11 and 11/9/2001.

53:      Number of people murdered by other means in the same
         city during the same period.

4:       Number of U.S. residents who died of anthrax between
         Oct. 1 and Nov. 1.

33,000:  Approximate number of U.S. residents who died, during
         the same month, as a result of having smoked cigarettes

100,000: Number of children in Afghanistan that the United Nations
         estimates may die this winter from pneumonia and diarrhea

*Source: World Watch magazine, Jan/Feb 2002

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S o u l   W o r k s
++++++++++++++++++++
Message from the Quran: Act equitably

Oh you who believe!
Be upright for Allah,
bearers of witness with justice,
and let not your hatred of a people incite
you not to act equitably.
Act equitably, for that is nearer to piety.
Surely Allah loves those who do good to others.
Allah is the source of peace
and from you should come peace.

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B o o m e r a n g
+++++++++++++++++

Dan & Beverly Sweeton write from Lebanon, Tennessee:

With the Enron debacle thousands of workers have lost
their retirements and thousands of small investors have
lost their lifesavings. Why don't we see thousands of
people waving flags and making up donations for these
unfortunate citizens? What has happened to "UNITED WE
STAND?" Is it NOT as patriotic to help victims of
predatory capitalists, as it is to help victims of
foreign terrorists?

---------------------

Joe C. Roberts writes from Austin, Texas:

Re: Jim Wallis' column in last week's SojoMail:
I believe it is okay to have golden parachutes for high-
level employees. There are amenities needed for keeping
people motivated for taking on complicated risks, including
to afford assistance in their lives to make time for such
dedication. However, if Enron executives got employees
to buy company stock with pension funds and then prevented
them from selling it, they should be held accountable.

------------------------

Tom Boughan writes from Cowan, Tennessee:

Jim Wallis' editorial about whether Enron officials ever got
to church or synagogue and what they would find there is
one of the reasons I enjoy Sojourners. It is a truly prophetic
voice. I have yet to hear a peep from Pat Robertson about
the morality of the Enron scandal. That is his moral blindness.
Jim Wallis is right that from cover to cover of the Bible
there is criticism of those like Enron officials who prosper
from other's destruction that the rich helped create in
the first place.

---------------------

Betsy Barnum writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Thanks for Jim Wallis' hard-hitting condemnation of the
(un)ethical and non-Biblical behavior of Enron executives.
I've been wondering somewhat the same thing lately, about
the purported beliefs of our "born-again" chief executive,
for example, or other so-called Christians who endorse the WTO,
privatization, deregulation, and other policies designed to
increase the profits of those who are already wealthy and
powerful, at the expense of everyone else and especially
of those who are already poor.

Where in the Bible do they read that justice means "them
that got, get more?"

---------------------

Richard Cabell writes from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada:

I enjoy a lot of what I read in Sojomail, but I cringe
sometimes at the narrowness of vision I see.

Starting with "Where do Enron executives go to church?"
The references to their sins as described in the Bible
worry me - it is perfectly clear to me at least, that the
boss doesn't skim off the goodies and leave the people
he bosses to lose their shirts, but I don't need the
Bible - or God - to get the message. I know in myself
that I don't wish to live like that - I don't wish to
live with other people that I am ripping off, so, no
matter what anyone's "Bible" or "god" says, I'm not
interested! And surely no other religions condone this
type of behavior, whether they be Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim,
or any other religion - so the references to the Bible
make me wonder about the narrow-mindedness of the writer.

Because it is always difficult to see what is truly right
and wrong. Yes, the Enron failure has highlighted some
practices that it is easy to condemn - greedy people!
But am I free from greed - and are you? But condemn? I
think forgiveness is more in order (for all of us!) -
surely you don't think Kenneth Lay is a peaceful man!

Just as in Israel - surely it is clear that both the
Palestinians and the Israelis are committing inhumane acts -
we can blame one side or the other. The issue as I see
it, on the broad scale, is whether those people wish to
have peace, which means forgiveness, not revenge.

----------------------

Kathryn Kingsbury writes from Madison, Wisconsin:

Why do some Christians see Israel as always being
essentially in the right? The God of the Christians
is the God of the Jews, but through prophets and
disciples, God has continually reprimanded both Jews
and Christians for going astray.

Another thing I don't understand. Christian Zionists
often state the conflict in that area as one between
Jews and Muslims. What of the Arab Christian communities
around Bethlehem and in northern Israel?...

Frankly, I don't care what ethnicity the pre-1948
residents of what is now Israel and the Palestinian
Territories are. It is morally reprehensible to
force anyone from his or home, whether she be Muslim,
Christian, or Jew.

---------------------

Vicki Sander writes from Los Angeles:

Why is it that no one seems to understand that the Palestinians
probably would have a state though they don't officially "own"
the land...but the reason they don't is because they don't
want some land; they want to be rid of all Jews. Their
constitution said it for years, and even if the words have
been removed, it is very Muslim to want to "drive the Jews
into the sea", and be rid of them forever. Even the Quran
calls the Jews (and I think Christians) perverted. I am not
Jewish and I am not anti-Palestinian, and I wish they could
have a home per se. But Muslim people own most of the
Middle East. Why do they want the little sliver of Israel, too?

-----------------------

Kimbrough Leslie writes from Clovis, California:

I don't know where Jeffrey Adler gets his history if he
really believes that "...the stories about the Arabs
having to give up their lands is a  myth." I suggest he
read "Blood Brothers" by Father Elias Chacour, a Catholic
(Melkite) priest who operates an orphanage in Haifa and
who was awarded the World Methodist Peace Prize several
years ago. Father Chacour describes how his Christian Arab
village in Galilee enjoyed good relations with neighboring
Muslims and Jews until the village was evacuated and
destroyed by Israeli forces after Independence. (And, it
should be noted that the policies of the Israeli government
that enjoy the uncritical support of Adler and millenialist
Christians continues to decrease the number of native
Christians left in the Holy Land.)
    
Chacour writes about the tensions within the Zionist
movement between those who were willing to live side by
side with Palestinian Arabs and those who wanted to rid
the country of them. The name of his book comes from
Chacour's hope that Jews and Arabs, who as Semitic people
have so much in common, might someday learn to live as kin.
    
There is a tragic irony in a secular Jewish state that
ignores the warnings of the prophets against injustice
and violence. As a Jewish friend said several years ago,
"We didn't survive the Holocaust so we could beat Arabs
with clubs."

------------------------

Bishop Walton Mize writes from Spokane, Washington:

Why is it that when religion is rated, The Church of God
in Christ is not listed?  It is a Pentecostal body, but it
is much larger than the figure mentioned in your survey.
It is reported that the denomination has over five million
members. That would put it just below the Lutherans. Could
it be that because this is a black group they are not
recognized? The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal group that
got started out of the Azusa street in 1906 as did the Church
of God in Christ. I do not think this is an accurate survey,
and not at all inclusive. It appears to me to be biased.

---------------------

Jim Forest writes from Amsterdam, The Netherlands:

Guess which large Christian body isn't listed in your
survey? Clue: It starts with O....

Apart from the revealing omission of the Orthodox Church
(a church that, according to the 1999 Britannica, has
about 6.5 million members in North America and is surely
among the fastest-growing churches worldwide), I doubt
the survey is reliable.

It's interesting that the Orthodox Church remains basically
invisible to so many Christians in other churches.

------------------------

Patricia Kennelly Denker writes from North Freedom, Wisconsin:

We do not have a television and have depended on public
radio, mainstream radio, and the Wisconsin State Journal
for news. I was brought up Catholic and have considered
myself recovering from guilt issues and basic belief
conflict, and hypocrisy issues my entire adult life.
Somehow, I found SojoMail. I subscribed thinking I would
unsubscribe quickly, which is what I've done with several
other news email lists. However, I must tell you I love
yours! Surprisingly so, I really enjoy it. I find myself
keeping informed and not biased to just one side.

-----------------------------

Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:

"boomerang@sojo.net"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

P. O. V.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Jim Wallis interviews Stanley Hauerwas

Wallis: ...Is there any more we can say about a
better way to combat either terrorism or murder that
is planning to strike again? What do people like us
have to say is a better path?

Hauerwas: I want to be very clear. I don't think the
Taliban or bin Laden are nice people. I know this would
be very difficult, but what are your alternatives? When
you ask those kinds of questions, it makes it sound
like I need to have a foreign policy as a pacifist.
What that is asking me to do is accept the world up
to this point and then try to make it work out. I say
to just war people: How in the world are you going to
have a just war when you have a Pentagon and a State
Department built on national self-interest? Just war
isn't built on national self-interest, but the Pentagon
and our State Department's foreign policy are built
upon political realism informed by national self-
interest. To ask me now, "Okay, what would you pacifists
do?" means I've got to accept those presuppositions.
I'm not going to do that.

To read the entire Stanley Hauerwas interview as it
appears in the January/February issue of Sojourners
magazine, go to:

http://www.sojo.net/news/index.cfm/action/display_archives/mode/current_opinion/article/CO_010702h.html

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Need a great read? Check out "The Soul of Politics" and other
timeless works by Jim Wallis at:

https://www.sojo.net/resources/index.cfm/mode/display_category/Subject/10/action/catalog.html


********************************************************************

C u l t u r e  W a t c h
++++++++++++++++++++++++
The making of "Dead Man Walking"

During the last two weeks of January PBS will air
nationally "And Then One Night: The Making of Dead
Man Walking." Check out:

http://www.pbs.org/onenight/

--------

Black Hawk Down - good box office, bad history?

by Scott Peterson
The Telegraph (London)

"Osama bin Laden has called Somalia his "greatest
victory", though there is little evidence that his
men played more than a marginal role. More importantly,
he has also said that Somalia showed him how
vulnerable America could be."

http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/01/21/do2101.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2002/01/21/ixopinion.html

-------------------------------------------------------------------

E y e   W i t n e s s
++++++++++++++++++++++
Peshawar, Pakistan: The refugee business

by Doug Pritchard
Christian Peacemakers Teams
Reporting on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Pakistan is host to the largest refugee population in
the world. About 2.5 million Afghan refugees are currently
housed in camps along Pakistan's western border, with the
greatest concentration around Peshawar in the northwest.
From a distance, the refugee issue seemed simple - care
for them until they can go home. But it is not so simple.

"Yes, the refugees have depressed the local wage rate and
hurt the incomes of Pakistani day labourers," said a man
at an Afghan organization. "But if the refugees go home,
the economy of northern Pakistan will collapse. The
refugees bring in foreign aid money to this region, they
are a source of cheap labor for the booming carpet industry,
and their relatives abroad send remittances here. Pakistani
employers, landlords, and employees in aid organizations
depend on the refugees."

A recent study of the mental health of Afghan women refugees
found them to be significantly better off than Pakistani
women. Researcher Dr. Patricia Omidian said, "We repeated
the study a number of times because we did not expect that
result. We believe it comes about because Afghan women in
the refugee camps have more reliable access to food, health
care, and education than Pakistani women, and they feel
they have more options in their lives."

The aid provided to Afghans irritates Pakistanis who feel
the great needs in their own country have been ignored by
donors. One Pakistani church leader said, "Foreign missionaries
have stepped on our heads to get into Afghanistan. The West
has spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan and what have
they got? Terrorists, emigrants, and one single church
congregation in Kabul, and their building was destroyed 20
years ago."

Even with the financial aid to Afghans inside and outside
their country, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest
countries in the world. Life expectancy is 43 years; one
quarter of children die before the age of five, and the adult
literacy rate is 32%.

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W e b   S c e n e
++++++++++++++++++

*Faith-based environmentalism

The new Interfaith Climate Change Network offers
religious people of all faith communities an extensive
stock of information and practical, specific actions
for stewardship of creation. Along with energy
conservation measures for households, congregations,
and communities, the Web site facilitates advocacy for
such energy-smart public policies as support for mass
transit, stricter vehicle emissions standards, and
development of clean and renewable energy.

http://www.protectingcreation.org

-----------

*Ad Busters

Funny, satirical commentary on political news of
the day.

http://adbusters.org/home

...and look at the poignant letter President Bush
could have written after 9/11, but didn't:

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/39/whatcould.html

------------

*NetLingo

Ever wonder what "http" stands for? What about "URL" or
"DNS"? At this comprehensive site, you can look up
definitions of common Internet terms, acronyms, smiley
face and emoticon characters, and more.

http://www.netlingo.com

---------

*Derek's big Web site of Wal-Mart purchase receipts

Here's a cultural window for you. Derek shops at Wal-Mart...
a lot. Check out his Wal-Mart receipts from 1996 through
the present day and the sometimes snarky, sometimes
supportive comments people post about his purchases.

http://lightning.prohosting.com/~receipts/index.shtml

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