Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #4/13 – Ethics in Government and Business
He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
— Albert Einstein
Initially, the ethics of government and business were to be examined under separate sections. I found it impossible, however, to speak of one without mentioning the other, and for good reason: government and business, at least in the USA, are one and the same. It would not be unreasonable to think of U.S. government as a Corporate Democracy.
I wish I could have come up with another country to serve as a better example of capitalism gone awry. It saddens me to no end to see the country I love, a country founded with such lofty ideals by such great minds, and whose government has been the object of poetry as an example for all other governments and freedom loving individuals, hijacked by corporate giants and special interest groups.
In the last few years alone, we have witnessed American intervention in El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Columbia, Panama, and South Africa. In Iran, our government overthrew a democratic government and replaced it with a dictatorship. The United States government funded Saddam Hussein for years, even before he came to power, and even stood by as he used chemical weapons against the Kurds, killing men, women and children alike. Panama did not exist as an independent country until the U.S. decided it wanted to build a canal there. Then there is the matter of Manuel Noriega’s ties to the CIA and the “Company’s” involvement in cocaine trafficking. In Chile, our government overthrew another popularly elected government, although it took two tries. And this doesn’t even touch on American economic policies.
Even though most American citizens would rather not know these things, they are not secrets. No form of self-imposed ignorance, such as blind patriotism or sentimentalism, will change the fact that the horrible events, and the senseless disaster that occurred on 9/11 are (at least in part) in some way the result of American foreign policy. Our leaders know this. Those poor people did not deserve what happened to them on that fateful day, and the individuals that caused it should be hunted down like the animals that they are. Instead, government leaders have seized upon this opportunity to launch huge military campaigns for corporate interest groups. This is precisely why we must learn and use critical thinking skills and ethics, choosing freedom to deliberate rather than swallowing propaganda, logical thinking rather than sentimentalism, and individual pride in doing the right thing instead of blind patriotism if we are going to prevent this from ever happening again.
For many people1, the United States is a failed experiment. Americans are deeply divided; even the propaganda fails to cast a believable illusion of unity, and there appears to be little hope for reconciliation in the near future. The very government that pretends to be a champion of freedom has used the fear generated by the attacks of that fateful September day to convince its subjects to voluntarily surrender what is left of their freedoms. What little culture there is appears to be quickly fading under the military boots of America’s so-called “Religious Right.”2 The liberals distrust the highest political practices and this will eventually erode whatever civility is holding this country together. Dialogue is useless because most people surrender like sheep to every lie fed to them by their religious leaders, such as the myth that America’s Forefathers were champions of a Christian government. It is similarly useless to recommend that they read the works penned by the architects of this country, because they prefer a lie of their own making to the truth.
Men that loved freedom and were willing to die for it built up this country: ethical men. Their voices can be heard while reading the founding documents, personal memoirs, and the letters they wrote to their family and compatriots. The United States has not seen its greatest day, and that day is only delayed by greed, lack of critical thinking and ethics, blind patriotism and sentimentality. We must be capable of thinking beyond our own needs to observe the impact that these lies are having on our families and friends, government, and ultimately the relationship and responsibility that you share with every other human on this planet. In corporate democracies, people vote with their money. Every dollar is a vote. Think of money as a talisman, and learn to use the power it affords you wisely.
So why apply ethics to business? The Libertarian will tell you that corporations are, by definition, designed solely to make money for their stockholders. In other words, a corporation’s “True Will” is to make money, and as such, it should not be subject to the same penalties or restrictions as regular people. The stockholders, lacking ethics, lobby to make a world where their corporations rule supreme. In such a world, they can do business without any mandatory compliance to environmental restrictions, workers’ rights or unions, without paying corporate taxes, and without shame for exploiting people at home and abroad. Consider the benefits afforded to HMOs, oil companies, energy brokers, and the like. The Food and Drug Administration, which was instituted to protect consumers from harm caused by snake oil salesmen, takes donations from the very pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs it is supposed to regulate. This is a conflict of interest at best, and accepting bribes at worst. Is this ethical?
Was it ethical for the Fox Network to persuade the court that they were not obligated to report the truth in their news broadcasts? Fox thereby avoided paying damages in a lawsuit awarded to a former reporter wrongfully terminated for trying to report the truth. Where were the ethics of this company? Where were the ethics of the judge that ruled in their favor? Knowing this, what can be said of people that still tune in to get their news there?
Is a company that was fined for polluting in one country ethical when it relocates its plants to other countries too poor to demand environmental compliance? What of a rancher that introduces a cow displaying symptoms of mad cow disease into the food chain rather than lose a few bucks? Is the sole purpose of business to make money, without concerning itself with ethics? Can a business justify its disregard for public or ecological responsibility because their primary objective is to make money for their stockholders? If a business creates an environmental disaster affecting people everywhere, should that company be responsible for cleaning up its own messes, or should the taxpayers foot the bill? Is it ethical when government forces the taxpayer to pay for the logging roads that will be utilized exclusively by logging companies in harvesting our forests?3
Consider capitalism4 and how governments embracing this paradigm conduct their affairs as businesses. Capitalism, in its present form, is concerned with the accumulation of wealth to no particular end. When the few benefiting from the money-grab have milked their own country dry, capitalism must, by necessity, spread its domain to other cultures in order to continue feeding their addiction. This is why countries go to war. It isn’t for freedom or liberty. It isn’t for a love of justice, but a love for more and more things.
Reflect on the present conundrum in the Middle East. In recent memory, we can trace this problem to an Iranian “bad guy” that wouldn’t play ball with the U.S. government. The U.S. government replaced this leader with someone they could exploit. This led to the American hostage crisis, where the radical Iranians kidnapped American citizens. Back then, Saddam was a “good guy,”5 and Reagan armed him to fight against the Ayatollah, who was a “bad guy.” When Saddam wouldn’t play ball with the U.S., President Bush Sr. dubbed him a “bad guy” and carpet-bombed his country. Later, when now Vice President Cheney wanted to do business with him, he was once again a “good guy” — until, of course President Bush Jr. needed a diversion for not being able to find Bin Laden — who in turn was a “good guy” when we armed him to fight the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the ’70s and ’80s, but a “bad guy” for having the U.S. bombed in 2001. In short, people who do what we want are “good guys” — but they are “bad guys” when they resist exploitation. Government can get away with these things time and time again when citizens suffer from historical amnesia and intellectual laziness.
The simplest way to make this point is to compare capitalist or corporate governments to ancient Rome. Much like today, Roman soldiers were deployed to other countries in order to feed some emperor’s hunger for gold and other luxuries. There is an obvious difference between Rome and our present world: Roman citizens benefited from Rome’s conquests, and the Roman government only catered to the greed of the emperor rather than business interests. Like those of yesteryear, today’s emperors remind us to be “patriotic” and “support our troops” while they send our boys and girls to fight — not to liberate some country from an intolerable despot, but to capitalize the country and exploit its resources. It is surprising that more people don’t protest these maneuvers, but it is even more astounding that they can find people to fight these wars in the first place.
At the same time, well-meaning soldiers that enlisted for a love of their country, or because joining the military provides them the only opportunity to have an education,6 spill their blood and the blood of the occupied people so that the friends of the commander-in-chief can enlarge their coffers. Presently, concurrent with the call for patriotism and support, senators plot the end of military medical benefits for those very same soldiers they sent to the desert, in order to pass those savings on to the hungry corporations (HMOs and other medical insurance corporations). That’s some support.
It is typical to blame human nature for our own individual failures or our inability to exchange the things we want to do for the things we should do. Killing others over resources is often justified as human nature. It is romanticized by religion, portrayed as some lofty spiritual goal. We force ourselves into the social acceptance of war when we accept it as a form of “patriotism.” To posit that true human nature is driven by a desire for universal brotherhood is to invoke the wrath of individuals who find it easier to watch the atrocities of war than to stand against it. To categorize war as human nature without a second thought is to deny the possibility that we may one day evolve beyond our own self-destructive behavior. It denies the existence of the True Will, making all of us slaves unable to choose our own course.
It is a good scam, if you think about it. Taxpayers foot the bill for a military occupation to benefit their business interests. Soldiers are exploited and are stripped of their benefits so that they will either have to pay to for the emotional and physical injuries that they incurred while fighting for the same companies that are now discarding them like broken tools, or else join the thousands of mentally and physically handicapped vets — a large majority of whom are homeless.
Elsewhere, genocide and ethnic cleansing occurs on our little blue planet, but since there is no economic benefit to corporate interests there, “the powers that be” turn a blind eye to the slaughter. To prove this point, we must simply consider how the U.S. has imposed trade embargoes on Cuba and Vietnam because they are communist7 while China, which is also communist and is a country with a horrible record and long history of human rights violations, can be awarded “most favored trade status.” The answer is quite simple. Capitalism has spread to China, and its emperor is willing to play the capitalist game to cash in on its resources of slave labor so that huge corporate interests in the U.S. can benefit by the cheap manufacturing that slave labor provides. American government turns a blind eye to the fact that the Chinese government regularly harvests the organs of living prisoners against their will for profit, even when the overwhelming majority of Chinese prisoners have been imprisoned solely for having spoken against an oppressive government.
Again, this form of capitalism has to spread abroad, once all resources in the homeland are exhausted. The relationship between the U.S. and China is tenuous at best and dangerous at worst, since once each of these countries have exploited one another they will once again have to compete with one another for resources, and today is a much more dangerous world that it was during the Cold War. And all the while, people in Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba die every day from hunger and lack of medical supplies because they refuse to cave in to capitalist pressure. This is what we can expect to see from ethically bankrupt governments (and businesses).
- Many of them Native Americans.
- Must we wonder why religion is so repulsive to so many people?
- The same forest taxpayers pay to protect.
- Capitalism is not unethical in and of itself. There are ethical ways of doing business. It is what is been passed off as “capitalism” today which is without ethics.
- Even though he was using chemical agents to genocide the Kurds.
- How fortunate for the military.
- The “red threat” is still an effective boogieman for fear-based societies.
©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Naya.
Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.