“It seems that not being religious is a form of risk-taking, consistent with other patterns of short-sighted behaviour in men.” ~ Rodney Stark, Theologian
“I am very short-sighted, and if I don’t like a situation I take my glasses off.” ~Jenny Eclair, Comedian
Originally posted on Facebook—June 30, 2010
It is amazing what thoughts enter the mind as one attempts to wind down for an evening’s sleep. I am sure that many people share similar experiences before falling asleep; fascinating combinations of thoughts that come across as epiphanies. For me, during that period of time between slipping into bed and actually falling to sleep, my mind tends to find parallels between subjects that would initially seem unrelated. Maybe I need to be half asleep to allow my mind to be able to reasonably consider such correlations. Who knows? All I know, is that during that pre-dream state of being, my mind is its most creative.
Last night—or rather, early this morning—as I was gathering my thoughts for a restful sleep, I began to ponder the current state of the global economy. For those who are business savvy and/or well educated on the topic of economics, it would not be surprising to you if pondering such a subject kept me up all night. Fortunately, it did not. My thoughts began investigating current conditions at the macro level of economic evaluation, slowly progressing into one more micro.
Think about the struggles of corporate goliaths, such as AIG and Lehman Brothers. These corporations are enormous. So enormous, that if any such companies fail, whole economies take a massive collapse from its demise. It is one of the drawbacks of possessing freedom: The freedom to fail. But what freedom do you or I truly have on a macro level? Are we not all living interdependent of one another?
I am not a communist, but neither am I a capitalist. Socialism sounds good at first, but only turns into Communism (somebody always wants the power and control). Reactively, the government continues to regulate markets given the recent follies of major financial entities. As a result, some say that our leaders are socialist; or worse, communists. I am not sure either description is appropriate. More appropriately, I think our leaders could be described as “lost.”
Who would want to be in their position? I definitely would not want to be the president of our nation right now. How would you stop a massive flood with one sandbag? That is the type of quandary our government finds itself facing: How do you stop something that is already out of control?
As a Christian, I believe I live in a fallen world. If one is not in a delirious state of dementia—given current circumstances—it would be hard to argue such conviction. There is much sin in this world, and if one believes in the concept of generational sin, the effects of sin compounds upon itself. In one way or another, we are all responsible for the current state of civilization. And sadly, not many of us, probably myself included, have taken an appropriate amount of personal accountability for it.
Instead, I often find myself playing the blame game. It takes more than one person, however, to create the crisis in which we now find ourselves. An inability to take personal responsibility for our own spending habits on a micro level caught up with everyone on a macro level. As a society, we took more than what was ours to claim, and unlike Joseph, never kept up stores of grain for the drought. Now we are in quite the predicament.
Let’s go back to the company-level. What many times leads to the fall of companies—not to mention, dynasties and empires—is an unwillingness to adapt to the changes in its environment, evolving processes and philosophies to better reflect the needs of the market. There is an unwillingness to change something that led to success in the past, because making changes to prior successes carries a great risk; especially, if you are the decision-maker. If it fails, people are going to say, “Why did you change what got us here?”
In making such decisions, one is picking up a megaphone and saying at the top of his or her lungs, “I’m volunteering to be the scapegoat if this doesn’t work!”
However, most decisions in a company-environment are myopic. Practices need to change constantly, because business is chaotic and regularly changing. Large corporations, however, have more moving pieces, and do not make major changes with nearly the efficiency of smaller companies. Moreover, there are greater stakes if a major strategic initiative flops.
Subsequently, decisions become more reactive (change due to government regulation or lawsuit) than proactive. When large corporations fail, it is usually out of an unwillingness to change. They fall behind more innovative companies, ignoring its own needs to compete, and slowly become irrelevant. I always think of Xerox, and the opportunities it left on the table because they were near-sighted; failing to possess a long-term vision. By the way, Microsoft thanks you.
Another way large corporations fail, is through the implementation of corrupt business practices, initiated either by greed or fear. An executive or an executive board realizes that shareholder value cannot be increased through completely ethical endeavors, so they manipulate the truth and establish some ‘little white lies.’ Eventually, those ‘little white lies’ become ‘big whoppers,’ and take on a life of their own. The CEO’s fate is now tied to his or her ability to keep the truth hidden, because as soon as the truth is known, his or her termination date is sown.
There is much we can learn from contemporary business culture, as I believe we are the CEOs of our lives (though Christ is the Chairman). We cannot control the environment in which we live, but we are responsible for maintaining our corporate image (our integrity and reputation) and forwarding our success. And unlike businesses, there is no golden parachute available (well, at least in this world). Furthermore, we allow greed, power, and fear to direct our decisions, frequently viewing our options with a short-term lens. How many times have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t like doing this, but I have no choice?” How little do we trust anyone but ourselves?
Jesus tells us to (paraphrased) “Love God and love one another.” To do so as a society, mitigates greed, surrenders power, and alleviates fears. Decisions would be driven by righteous thought and long-term sustainability. Corporations would be hard-pressed to worry about increasing share-holder value short-term, but rather “maintaining and growing shareholder value with long-term fiscal health.” People would not kill the golden goose. Company initiatives would more likely be determined through moral reasoning, and improving the quality of life in society. Automobile manufacturers would move faster to develop alternative fuel vehicles. Most pharmaceuticals would likely come off the market. Those in the medical profession would seek to find more alternative means of healing. Recycling would receive much more attention. People with jobs in government would actually work 😉 Sort of (not really) joking.
As people, we would encourage greater creativity from one another. When we turn on the news, we would expect a majority of it to be positive. Hate crimes would be non-existent. Dreams could be followed.
Pipe dream? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work towards that end? Otherwise we are doing what the government is doing currently. Is it reasonable that we can eliminate the national debt anytime soon? Nope. Should we continue to do what got us to this point?
…I wish people would look past themselves and see how our decisions impact not just us but those following us. I wish people would look to see how not reacting at all IS a reaction. We make a decision whether we want to or not. Our decisions may only be something we can control on an individual level. Some of us may even have some control within the companies we work for or own. Regardless, it is the cumulative impact of these decisions that leads our society from NOW to LATER.
It starts with me. It starts with you.
Think past ourselves.
In concluding, I do want to clarify, that as a Christian, I believe I am part of another kingdom. In that kingdom, I am but a poor representative. Christ is the CEO. His leadership is infallible. He loves His citizens and he takes responsibility (the cross) for our failures (sins). Jesus doesn’t need sandbags to stop rising waters; just His Word. And while it is easy to question Jesus when viewing circumstances in this world, it is not this world for which He is fighting. His vision is long-term and everlasting. And when it comes, the only job we will have left is to thank Him and praise Him.