Corporate Kindness

In today’s USA Today, we saw a renewed focus on corporate kindness.

In the old days, they used to call it social responsibility.

In business school, they used to tell us that social responsibility was not in the interest of the shareholders. The shareholders demand a profit, they said.

That was then. This is now. A good heart is good business.  Giving some of the profits to those in need actually gives customers a better feeling about the company. Better feeling = more business. I do not think the profits and corporate kindness are mutually exclusive… to a point. At some nebulous level, though, the line needs to be drawn. Without profits, a business will not survive, cannot pay its employees, cannot re-invest into product development. The trick is finding the right mix, the correct balance. That trick applies to most things.

Victims of Our Own Unconscious Behaviors

The ThinkerI recently stumbled upon the Chris Jordan 2008 TED talk  wherein Chris made artwork out of our collective unconscious behaviors.  With a smoking skeleton and pills formed into a surprising circular array, he exposed the following and other punishing statistics…not to punish us, but to inform us.

  • 400,000 people died from smoking in 2008.
  • 65,000 teenagers would start smoking in one month in 2008
  • 213,000 Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug abuse

How are we doing against these data today?  More importantly, if the unconscious behaviors Chris exposed in artful form come from our individual denials, is there something we can do about it?  Not only do we bear the cost to our national psyche, but also to our healthcare costs, and unnecessary loss of life for our young people.

We’re moving in the wrong direction.

  • 443,000 died from smoking in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  •  114,000 teenagers started smoking in one month in 2011 (CDC)
  •  1.4 million Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug use in 2011 (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

I am reminded of the novel Lord of the Flies.  I think the book, published in 1954, has been required reading in the California high schools for decades,  and tracks closely to Chris Jordan’s reflection of our collectively destructive detritus.  The Lord of the Flies author, William Golding,  states that his novel’s theme is “an attempt to trace defects of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system, however apparently logical or respectable.”

Chris’s and our question of ourselves is: How conscious are we as individuals? What can we change today about ourselves that will change society, but more importantly, make us better individuals? Change is hard.   Becoming conscious is the first step.

Artificial Body Parts: My RACE TO DIE

 From the front page of the WSJ today, March 23, 2013, I was jolted into a sense of my own immortality. The title:Science Fiction Comes Alive As Researchers Grow Organs in Lab.” While most people would think this an exciting advancement, it scares the holy crap out of me.

It’s not because of the science fiction of it, Frankenstein notwithstanding, nor because I am afraid of having some test-tube heart or ear or liver. No. My fear is living too gosh darn long. My mom, God bless her, is 101, and wishes (because she is still very bright, sharp, and beats me at dominoes) with her nightly “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” prayer, to die. She’s tired of living.

It’s now a race. Can I make it out of this world by age ninety or so, or do I have to stay trapped in a rebuilt million-dollar body until I’m 110 or even more? What is going to kill us? If I have a one million dollar heart, what about my 50¢ brain? Can they grow more brain cells? If so, then who will pay for all of this? We know the birth rate in this country is declining to an alarming and destructive rate, so that our new workforce is dwindling, and thus fewer young people are paying less into social security. Result: we will not be able to sustain ourselves.  Where does this leave the government? Where does this leave medicine? Where does this leave me?

I would like to trust that someone will save the day. Steve Jobs is gone. Until then, I will race to my death to beat the scientists that would like me to have a new heart after I’m 90.  Or perhaps by that time, we’ll have an app for living without a brain.