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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Big business ... where are their morals?

I belong to a forum for women with metastatic / advanced / Stage IV breast cancer (choose the title that you prefer) and someone posted this link to a YouTube video about Monsanto, Bill Gates etc.

It makes interesting watching and a few things stuck out for me.

Monsanto are evidently the proud owners of IG Farben!  That was the company that produced the chemicals for the Nazi gas chambers, and they had a huge slave labour factory at Auschwitz.  The 'workers' were driven until they were no longer useful, then they were loaded into dumper trucks to be taken to the gas chambers and dumped down the steps of the gas chambers then, if necessary dragged into the gas chamber to be murdered.

I appreciate that not all Germans and Austrians (it is often ignored that Hitler was Austrian, not German) were responsible for the war and what was done in their name.  It is a stain that must be so difficult to have to live with and comes to terms with as was once shown in a documentary where the children of Nazi war criminals met the children of Holocaust survivors.  The children of the Holocaust survivors began to realise that the children of the Nazi's had a much harder past to deal with as the Holocaust survivors looked back at the victims, and the Nazi children to the perpetrators of that crime.  But, I digress.

Why was IG Farben allowed to continue, or BASF or the other companies who used slave labour?  With Monsanto's record of polution, genetic engineering and creating chemicals which are poisoning the planet it seems to be entirely right that they should be the owners of IG Farben.

We therefore come to the question of the moral responsibility that any company has to do business, and create products that are not only good for their profit margins, but good for their customers and the planet as a whole.  What happened to this?  Big business has always been somewhat unscrupulous, you only have to briefly think about the slave trade, the sugar plantations etc to realise that.  But this is the 21st century for heaven's sake.  Haven't they evolved from a mentality that they can do whatever they like in pursuit of profit?  Where are their morals?  I have absolutely no objection to a company making a profit, and I am in favour of Capitalism, but Capitalism should also have a moral bottom line as well as a monetary bottom line.

Anyone who does not accept that this planet is over stretched and being over-exploited is, in my opinion, living in cloud cuckoo land.  The Western Lifestyle has become a rapacious monster, and sadly is one that the rest of the world aspires to.  I think it was a statement by George W Bush after the horror of 9/11 who said that the American Way Of Life is 'non-negotiable'.  While many things about America should indeed by non-negotiable the whole Western lifestyle of conspicuous consumption is open for negotiation; it has to be.  While I absolutely believe in Human Rights somewhere along the line the concept of human morals, and human reponsibility has been displaced by 'I want it and I'm going to have it, and I don't care about the consequences' that has become Human Rights.  I had a disagreement with a colleague this week about everyone's right to have as many children as they want.  He considers that it is a human right to have children, which it is to a certain extent, but there is also the human responsibilty to have the children that you can afford to raise, and to accept the responsibilty for those children.  A badly behaved feral child is not the responsiblity or the creation of the schools, the police, the politicians, the social welfare system (or the lack thereof) but is the creation and responsibilty of the parents.  What does your income have to do with raising children the right way, to accept their moral and social responsibilites to their family, community and society as a whole?  When did putting any effort into your education become too much of a drag, and not the student's responsibility?  We all have to put effort into things.  After all there is no such thing as a free lunch, because even if the money does not come out of your pocket, someone somewhere it paying for it.

I believe the American constitution puts into words the ethos behind democracy that we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Couldn't agree more.  But in return we have certain moral and personal responsibilities that are at the foundation of those rights.

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