Friday, October 15, 2004

The New Corporate Ethics

News this past week has been about the Royal Bank’s introduction of a rainbow symbol on employee’s desks. This symbol, understood by contemporaries as a gay favourable symbol, should be, so it has been intimated, placed on the desks of employees as a sign of “we love you” to gay and lesbians who have a sense that they may not, in fact, be loved.

The Royal Bank, courageously backing one of the most powerful and vivid forces of the day, has gone some way to back-pedal, since this little campaign of “diversity” and “tolerance” has caused a fair bit of unrest in the last few weeks.

The entire thing is just so pathetic. Corporations, desperate to have something to define themselves by, have done their best to lick their collective fingers, stick them in the air, and try and find out the way in which the winds of the times are blowing. Voila! “Same- sex causes” say the wind, and the corporations answer, “we are here…only say the word and we shall be popular”.

There is something genuinely tragic about the new corporate images. For there has never been a time in which the sheer bulk and aptitude of contemporary business has been so detached from anything like a rigorous cultural moral stance.

“Full drift ahead” could be the rallying cry of these large and lifeless projects. Years ago, we at the Centre spent a number of hours and days with those in a few of the large banks that have, as their role, the task of finding places in which to invest the money they set aside for charities. It was an exercise in futility. Our exercise, their futility.

It was not surprising that they wanted things that were both “safe” and “ non-political” like “breast cancer marches” and we discovered that they would shy away from things that could be perceived as “political.”

For the new captains of industry, in their massive and collective ignorance, do not know the difference between the moral and the political and reduce everything to the language of “the popular.”

When was the last time that you heard of a major corporation funding something controversial? Right. You have not. They want the popular course, they have no vision, so they look to the age as a mirror of their own blankness.

They are afraid of controversy because it is in swimming (or drifting) with the contemporary tides that they make their profits.

As that wonderful critic of this approach, that anti-corporatist, G.K. Chesterton, once put it: only dead things go with the tide, live things swim against it.

Let us see when a major corporation has the insight, wisdom and courage to take a principled stance against the popular currents of the day when such currents look to be leading us all into the dark.

For the most part, they are simply the pathetic cheerleaders of the flavours of the day. Being neither hot nor cold they are really only to be vomited.

Iain T. Benson ©