No More Free Ride for Corporate Irresponsibilty

By: Karla Fetrow

America has an issue with responsibility.  Not only with accepting it, apparently, a very large number aren’t even sure of the definition.  This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that responsible action took some major hammer blows through a paper trail of insurance liability and law suits that found home owners guilty for allowing neighbor kids to play in their yards; consequently injuring themselves; judged more favorably in two vehicle accidents for the one who had the highest insurance premium, regardless of the circumstances and determined that unauthorized people can be arrested for using life saving equipment, belonging to a public service, in a major crisis.  When the question should have been one of responsible behavior, it was an anal retentive view of statutes, policies and regulations.

The counter-cultural movement of the 1960’s – 1970’s put out a lot of effort to create self-sustaining communes and communities, but most of them failed.  The most common explanation for this was the rampant drug use and consequent abuses.  Drugs were prolific in many of these small societies retreating from mainstream life.  Drugs were often involved with property vandalism, break in’s and violent encounters.  At the same time, you also saw builders, artists, farmers, fishermen, teachers, firemen, counselors who used drugs but did not seem to see any reason for letting drugs consume them or drive them to make poor ethical decisions.  It wasn’t the drugs that ruined the early communes, but a lack of commitment by those who saw the liberal leanings and isolated environment as a free ride.

Drugs are an easy way of saying “lack of responsibility”, and an even easier excuse for keeping drug use under control.  As generally happens whenever the public begins taking a little more lenient attitude to marijuana laws, the adversaries of decriminalized marijuana have begun beating their drums.  A recent “My View” in the Anchorage Daily News stated, “those stoned don’t contribute to the common good”.  That’s basically all the author said, in five hundred words or less.  No statistics.  No documentary evidence of the malfunctioning of stoners; just a short comment by the writer that after giving up marijuana thirty years ago, he now experiences failing cognitive function.

The most debatable part of his short argument was the contribution to common good.  Marijuana use, as a medically approved drug or for recreation, is pretty wide-spread across the work force; from college professors to truck drivers.  They all seem to be doing their jobs efficiently, and appearing to the public as completely normal.  The most non-contributing stoners seem to be among those who must take invasive drug tests to land a minimum wage job.  It might have something more to do with motivation than getting stoned.

Fortunately, My View is a little more tolerant toward homeless alcoholics, although homeless alcoholics don’t contribute greatly to the common good either; at least not in the measurable terms of holding a job and paying taxes.  Karluk Manor, the Anchorage response to the nationally led “housing first” project, opened on December 8th of this year.  Its purpose is to provide shelter for chronic alcoholics that have no place to go.  Fifty-four year old John Kort, one of the Manor’s first clients, was found dead on New Year’s Day.  Beside the usual grumbling about an establishment for undesirables becoming a draw for alcoholics to the neighborhood, there was an outcry that the project wasn’t working because in less than a month since its opening, it had already experienced a tragedy.

What was important for the supporters of the Karluk Manor was that John Kort didn’t have to die out in the cold, filled with misery, with no soft place to lay his head.  What was important to My View was that the motel was an act of mercy.  What’s even more important was that the City had assumed a sense of responsibility to a dispossessed population that has been dying off at a rapid rate of as many as twenty a year, in a city with less than half a million people.  Their deaths have been attributed to alcoholism, foul play and occasional accidents such as drowning or stepping out into traffic, but mainly to exposure.

That’s a step in the right direction, but a small one.  Orlando, Florida recently made the news when it arrested three members of the “Food not Bombs” movement for feeding more than twenty-five people in a park within two miles of City Hall and that allows only two permits per year for feeding people.  Although the organizers of “Food not Bombs” had behaved responsibly, choosing a priority of satisfying hunger over statutes and city ordinances, the City of Orlando had not.

Said spokesperson for “Food not Bombs”, police waited until everyone had been served, than began making arrests. “They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people,” said Douglas Coleman.  “For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable.”

Much has been unacceptable over the last few decades through the blurring of the fine lines of responsibility.  The organizers and participants of the early communes dreamed of equitable societies living in harmony with nature and healthy food; a responsible commitment, but one that was shaken by those that came along for the free ride.  Corporations fought for and won the recognition to be a person under the law, giving it all personal rights as listed under individual freedoms, but relieving them of all responsibility as a corporate entity.

This is the year to resolve ourselves to responsibility.  The media has not done its job.  During the New Year’s countdown in New York City, a summary of what the Occupy movement wanted was more jobs.  Jobs are certainly on the wish list, but when you read the demands in their entirety, it really boils down to one thing.  The Occupy Movement wants the corporations and governments to take responsibility for their actions and begin making amends.  There has been no indication so far that they intend to do anything except extend their free ride by any desperate measure possible.

If the governments won’t do it, and the corporations won’t do it, we must.  There is a time when law biding citizens must question the laws that remove personal responsibility and puts innocent people in harm’s way.  That time is now.  There is a time when law abiding citizens must choose between restrictions of the law that handicap them in aiding the homeless, the hungry, the disturbed and the disenfranchised.  That time is now.  There is a time we must take our own tools, our own resources into our hands and do the right thing.  A time to be responsible.  That time is now.  The time for the corporate free ride is over.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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20 Comments on “No More Free Ride for Corporate Irresponsibilty”

  1. Ah, the “r-word” – one that’s often thrown around in the public discourse but few seem to understand. In practical terms, the “responsible” party in any given circumstance is the one with the power to affect it: the less power one has, the less responsibility he has over the outcome of the situation.

    The reason I point this out? Because I’m tired of people telling folks like me what I’m “responsible” for or not – particularly people who rave against those who refuse to participate in the absurd, pointless political system the state has set up to keep normal people occupied: I refuse to vote because my vote carries no real power; I refuse to contribute to charaty organizations because I have no power over how that money is spent (and much “charity” money is spent on nonsense); I refuse to obey the “law” because I have now power to decide which “laws” are instituted or not – in short, I have no power within conventional society therefore I accept no responsibility for what it does or does not do.

    Thus whenever a politician enacts a new “law” that brings us closer to a full-fledged police state, a charity defrauds people or the government decides to bomb yet more helpless civilians in search of more power and resources I take no reponsibility for any of it – I have no part in it and don’t even cling to the delusion that I have the power to change these things through any means shy of a full-scale insurrection (and I ohbviously don’t have the power to make that happen)…

  2. Sh, responsibility and power do go hand in hand. In a responsible government, someone says, “the buck stops here”. When nobody is accepting responsibility, the carpet baggers, swindlers and outright thieves have a free playing field. At this point, individual responsibility becomes necessary. It’s one of saying, “i will”, when nobody gives a sandwich to a hungry man, cleans up a deserted lot or teaches a child to sing. It takes away from the power of those who assumed authority without responsibility.

  3. @ Karlsie,

    “In a responsible government, someone says, “the buck stops here”. When nobody is accepting responsibility, the carpet baggers, swindlers and outright thieves have a free playing field. ”

    I think you misunderstood my using the word “responsibility” – I’m not talking about “moral” or ethical responsibility so much as practical responsiblity (what most people refer to as “fault or “blame”). To speak of the form you allude invokes all manner of assumptions about what constitutes “morality” and other such myths our society has created: the form I refer to is strictly limited to cause and effect – who had the power to set up the causal conditions from whence the later effects followed – no more or less.

  4. “who had the power to set up the causal conditions from whence the later effects followed – no more or less.”

    Then I believe we can trace this whole thing back to God. Let’s blame him.

    This is the antithesis of accepting responsibility for one’s own acts.

    -f

  5. Sh, I apologize. The comment was meant for Az. I think i’ve been debating with you so much over the last week or so, i automatically write your name.

    As an analogy, this is how i see things. Suppose shortly after marriage, a woman discovers the mate she has chosen is a very good provider. In fact, after quitting several jobs and losing several others, she decides the best way to keep their home going is to become the main bread winner. She thinks it’s not a bad bargain. He can clean the house, care for the children, fix the meals and wash the dishes. Unfortunately, he decides he doesn’t want to do that either, and when she comes home at night, she can’t rest but must catch up on the household chores. It isn’t long before she begins to rationalize she’s better off without him. He doesn’t contribute in any way, but has all the privileges of their marriage contract; shared housing, shared income and a shared bed. He’s costing her in time, money and work, so since she’s doing everything on her own, she boots him out.

    This is how the marriage contract between the government and the public has become. It costs the public money in the form of taxes. It’s not cleaning up the messes it makes. In fact, not only is this husband shirking its share of the duties, he’s abusive (sending the children to war and forcefully subduing the wife) and he’s taken another lover – corporations. The most practical thing to do is boot him out and do things on her own. This is when responsibility becomes power; when you realize you have all the tools for doing everything on your own, and you don’t need to be wet-nursing co-dependents.

  6. I believe, in order to boot “the man,” a long list of events, happening at the exact right moments, need to take place.

    Today, no one could orchestrate and guide such a thing, IMO.

    I think the only way to bring the man to his knees is to take away his real power: money.

    Money is a worthless piece of paper with imaginary value. (shocking, I know.)

    I think as long as we are, individually and as a society, dependent on money, we will be dependent on the man.

    I say fuck money. (I’m a potty mouth this week.)

    I’m also going to boycott money this week.

    -f

  7. Taking responsibility is never an easy thing to do. Particularly when it is a moral and ethical responsibility. Add to that the fact that we have been indoctrinated to believe someone else will worry about it: Our Parents, elders, the government, the people themselves.

    What is needed is for people to not give up. Arrested for distributing soup? So what? Same time next week everyone. You cannot take responsibility in one day. And our nation is as hard to train as a donkey. We need to be consistant.

  8. @ sh,

    1. As one who doesn’t believe that “god” is anything more than a code word for the mores and values of a given society it makes no sense to cast any blame in its direction – the creators of the entities we know today as church and state created “god” to serve the ends of subjigating the public, thus I blame them.

    2. I never said that I don’t take responsibility for my own acts – what I spoke against was the idea of ascribing the actions of other powers to regular people: regular people don’t have any real control over the actions of the state and its corporate flunkines, hence it makes no sense to blame them for what these entities do.

  9. @ Karlsie,

    Unlike the “marraige gone bad” in your analogy, the common man can’t simply divorce the state – all attempts by regular people to go against the will of the state will be met with force and (unlike the abused housewife) the regular person can’t go to the authorities for help because the state *is* the authority.

    This leaves the common man with two options – run or fight: and since the U.S./NATO empire has a global reach running is pointless (if the state wants you arrested or killed, it will do it) – which leaves only the latter of the two options.

  10. You cannot have social responsibility in a country that: spies on social activists; sends activists to jail with ridiculously high bail used as a measure of keeping activism down; enables personal background checks that invades their personal privacy; allows wire taps and enables policing agencies to monitor private phone calls and emails of good citizens.

    The very premise of social responsibility does not go hand-in-hand with mistrust and insecurity. As we erode civil rights and human rights we also erode responsible social behavior. Simply, there is a reaction for every action.

    For instance: when you eliminate jobs, good employees become complacent with unemployment and stop seeking employment. When you suspect certain races through racial profiling, you create animosity in those races and create behavior that disrespects those who benefit from racism. When you allow only the wealthy access to justice, you create a form of street justice where a lone gunman stands in a street and shoots passersby. When you enable people to live in the streets you create a disregard for public property.

    This idea of responsibility is akin to privilege. Those who have benefited from social privilege feel annoyed with those who haven’t benefited. They are convinced life is so simple, if only you apply yourself. They assume we all tackle life with the same hurdles and believe if they can leap over them, then why can’t the rest of humanity?

    What they fail to understand is that some of these “irresponsible types” have jumped hurdles that would make those judging them give up if they only encountered one third of the challenges. This is why we as a society must demonstrate a degree of humanity when dealing with others who may appear to have quit life; and those who we think aren’t contributing to any responsible behavior. And yes, we should feed, house, counsel, prod, and motivate them; if we are to be considered a socially responsible society. Until then, how can we talk about responsibility at all?

  11. @ sh,

    “The U.S./NATO empire does not have a global reach.”

    Tell that to all those dead Middle Eastern “militants” and “terrorists” (or at least that’s how the media reports those deaths) or the Southeast Asian children being put to work in sweatshops for pennies an hour.

    I know that most people say “but it’s the American corporations that run the sweatshops” and they’d be correct – but what gives said corporate entities the muscle to set up shop and put down resistance: the answer is the threat of U.S. military action (overt or covert) against those that should get in the way of CEOs looking for profit.

    Mao was right when he said that “all political power grows from the barrel of a gun.”

  12. Thank you, Grainne. This is the type of social responsibility i’m talking about. Superficially pumping the economy with more funds isn’t going to work. The more dollars that are made without the resources to back them up, the more dollars it will take to cover the costs of living. Put aside the dollar values for the value of the individual and what that person is able to contribute to the community as a whole. With each individual empowered (we are only as strong as the weakest link) we have self-determined communities. Azazel is probably right in the aspect that these self-determined efforts will be met with resistance and violence, but the alternative, slavery for ourselves and our future generations is the only other choice.

    Sh, several months ago a friend of mine said something that caused me great mental anguish because he spoke an awful truth. He told me we should get on our knees and thank Afghanistan and the other Mid-Eastern nations because they are doing the resistance job that most Americans are too cowardly to do. At one time, Russia was the great balancing act against corporate greed before its economy dissolved. Now it’s the BRIC nations, watching the mistakes of Western policies and determining the course of their own rise to global influence.

  13. Good job, Karla. In agreement with everything, generally.

    As regards drugs, I suppose it can be argued that using them is showing a lack of responsibility. As in, why face the harsh reality of the world when instead you can see the world through foggy, surreal lenses brought to you by drugs? And I’m sure there are plenty of people who take advantage of the government’s programs and get stoned or drunk of SS checks.

    All that said, in cases like using morphine to help a patient die peacefully, I’m sure few people would argue with the ethics of it.

    So yes, I understand why people abuse alcohol and pot…because they don’t want to suffer. They want to alleviate suffering. I think they deserve the right to do this, whether it kills them or not. And they deserve to be fired if they cannot discreetly hide their “affected state” from others, as do alcoholics. But it would be incorrect to say that all drug users are affected in the same way. In fact, for entertainers I’m sure mind-enhancing drugs actually help them create unconventional art, writing, etc.

    Anyway, I’m rambling off topic. I think drugs are mostly used as a scapegoat and by everybody. Everyone blames everyone else for using drugs or banning drugs. In the end, if you want to do it, just go where it’s decriminalized. End of story. BTW, I do think it’s a shame that sober people have to live in apartments and do the same drugs as their neighbor via second hand smoke. I’m not totally convinced there’s not a meth lab somewhere above me. So sucks to be me.

  14. As regards responsibility, I think it is human nature to be irresponsible. I admit I doubt whether any species of mankind is capable of taking care of himself, let alone others. And this I suppose is why I find it difficult to formally endorse anyone or anything.

    I also feel, perhaps prejudicially, that Americans tend to be spoiled, and thus are extra-incapable of taking responsibility for what they have created.

    I wouldn’t call myself an authoritarian, but I do feel as if individuals need to stop proclaiming themselves victims and accept what they are and what they do. Stop blaming other people. And yes, I know that it’s hard to say this, when in fact, corporate America makes so many decisions for people, in affect controlling their lives.

    I guess all in all, I am willing to accept everyone…but people need to admit what they are (stop lying) and then be given freedom of choice. They need options to change their life. In this current government, perhaps even this world, there aren’t a lot of options.

  15. I wondered how sturdy they are ? How much weight you can put in them. I couldn’t find that info listed and the plastic I’ve seen like the donkey box is not real heavy duty and I usually carry heavy objects like groceries, bottles. Great idea tho, although not to much of an on and off again tote if you need to use twist ties.

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