The testimony of the CEOs from America’s five leading oil companies before congress revealed their belief that the unit of survival is (solely) their organization. That is, the center of the universe is (literally) their corporation and industry and correspondingly that their importance both personally and corporately must not be questioned—they stand above it all. Representative Rockefeller’s assessment that they are “out of touch” with those below them spoke to this (inflated) self-image. Moreover, threatening that unless the government (which in effect is the citizenry) gives us what we want we will leave speaks volumes about their self-image as overlords. Seeking to intimidate the society that you depend upon is not only parasitic—as we as society are being harmed—but is also evidence of misplaced importance.
Giving the attitude represented by this behavior more critical thought, it is clear that it isn’t that the lords of corporatism—and we can include other panels CEOs from many other industries who testified before government committees—could be otherwise and chose to be as they are. It is not that they are evil persons it is just that each has not developed his/her personhood—each is developmentally stuck. Such people shouldn’t be given the power of authority; it would be like giving a child a loaded gun—nothing but harm will come of it!
Morality Requires Development
These corporate lords are incapable of being otherwise because it seems it is as far as they have developed as human beings. They are simply incapable of knowing, empathically feeling and understanding the perspective of others and acting responsibly. Apparently, walking in another’s shoes and imagining being the other as a way to inform behavior is not within their interests or capability.
Sadly for all of us, this capability is foundational to ethical and socially responsible decision-making. If this capability was present—it they had developed self-leadership—then in all likelihood the economic, environmental and social disasters caused by developmentally stuck corporate executives—most recently the 2008 great recession and the BP deep water oil explosion—would not have occurred.
The unfortunate thing is not that they are incomplete human beings—we are all incomplete—it is they don’t appear to be striving to become more of the human beings that they potentially are. Why? Likely they are far too consumed by their very own wealth and importance. They have swallowed the story whole that human beings are independent beings whose purpose in life is to accumulate as much wealth as one can.
As individuals turn the focus of their attention toward amassing things they unavoidably lose touch with life itself. They become alienated from one’s self and each other. As alienation increases, they lose all perspective on living as a human being, and with this loss, their ability to make morally sound decisions diminishes and unconsciously become increasingly irresponsible—the antithesis of moral leadership.
We Are Interdependent Beings
What is not realized is that we are not simply instrumental to each other’s needs. The fact that we need each other for more than the satisfaction of our material desires is not recognized. Neither is the fact that we have a very deep interpenetrating responsibility to each other’s unfolding and development. Individuals can’t realize the potential inherent in their humanness without the help of others; we are therefore each incomplete without each other.
The nature of being human involves the ‘I-We’ proposition where each person has the simultaneous responsibilities to develop both ‘I’ and ‘We’. This means that each individual has the responsibility to develop his/her capabilities and each individual has the responsibility to collaborate and contribute toward facilitating/supporting the development of the collective other, the community of people. However given their attachment to the notion that the purpose in life is to accumulate as much material wealth for oneself as one can—maximize my material gain—then these individuals are incapable of understanding that society is not merely the source of one’s material gain and that life is not about what’s in it for ‘Me’.
Re-Thinking The System
While the precepts of our economic system would have us believe otherwise (for the sake of maximizing our desire to consume) we are not mere cogs in the economic machinery and those in the executive suite are not our overlords. However as long as our society practices capitalistic democracy, the overlords of industry will have us be governed according to their self-serving interests—overly influencing the democratic process from elections to directing both policy and law/regulation—whereby the common and collective voice and interests of the citizenry matters not.
Consider the closing remarks from It’s the EconoME, Stupid
…as long as we continue to follow the maxims of egoistic capitalism we are headed in the direction of dissolution, not evolution: For we cannot possibly progress as a species when we are increasing our ego-strength and, correspondingly, relinquishing our uniquely human powers in service to the invisible authority of the economy… The egoistic economy, by definition, is self-serving; it serves, but only itself.
What’s the bottom line? The engine of self-interest driving business and economic activity is destined to destroy the very system it created and depends on—it is a system that is nothing but suicidal! You see, the pursuit of unlimited growth and wealth accumulation is not a self-regulating process, but rather self-reinforcing toward self- destruction.
Cooperating with this system, in the end we all lose.