ICE, Internalization of the Corporate Ethic - Abandonment of Humanity - Let's Prehend
Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

ICE, Internalization of the Corporate Ethic - Abandonment of Humanity

Several million years ago our ancestors began using tools and taming fire. Human life has been getting easier ever since. By this time human life should be truly luxurious, as it is for some of us. Modern brain-power and technology could easily provide the where-with-all for a good life and an enriching culture with a minimum of effort - a rich and easy life for all, as described in SUSTAINABLE LUXURY, p.135. The task is technically easy, economically more difficult, politically impossible - maybe.

Yet most of the world's people live lives of quiet, occasionally noisy, desperation. Worse yet, the supporting natural ecosystems, and our supporting cultural systems, are increasingly fragile and vulnerable. The good life, such as it is, seems quite unstable. The poor life of much of humankind is getting poorer. Even the wealthy suffer a poverty of culture, not to mention gridlock and downsizing. Humankind is haunted by the threat of modern war and ecological catastrophe. How did this sorry situation come about? How did the fruition of human intelligence make such a mess?

Human nature may be this or that, but mostly human nature is versatile. Homo not-so-sapiens inhabits almost every corner of Earth - the icy north, steaming jungles, desolate deserts, grid-locked freeways, cultureless suburbs. In contrast with OOPS (p.140 and WE, p.145, two images that blame human nature as the culprit, let's blame human nurture for this outrageous fortune.

Human values are obvious. But let's make a distinction between the subjective preference for chocolate or vanilla and the more complex and deeper objective values. These underlying values are often overlooked because minds turn to what doesn't work, not what does. Worse yet, our minds DIMly adjust to our fortune, no matter how outrageous.

Objectively, what makes people healthy and happy is obvious. First is the basic food, clothing and shelter, and a secure tomorrow. Second is the social system to support the individual, especially the children. Third is the development of the culture to enrich life and enliven the spirit. Freedom from hassle and oppression underlies all human values.[ These human needs resemble the classic psychologist Abraham *Maslow's hierarchy of needs.]

Blaming `human nature' for the ills of mankind might be satisfying, but it's poor science. Blaming human foibles amounts to a `discount'. "If only people would ..." asks too much. It's a SOB story, p.?. It puts an end to thought - denies responsibility for further concern. Judging people as good or bad, one of `us' or one of `them', is not only unobjective; it's nasty. It's against the teachings of most wise people and most religions.

People have always had a culture, even long before we were people. Our cousin primates have their cultures. For example, our nearest cousins, the Bonobos, advocate making love not war; if only they could speak it as well as they practice it. Culture grows like a living thing. Cultural systems and their values evolve.

Some argue that culture is not designed by humans. In earlier times, `gaia' nature healed itself, but with the triumph of humanity over nature, the supporting ecosystem is degrading. Now that humans have gained dominion over the Earth, we're stuck with the responsibility to take care of it. In these modern times the decisions of humans increasingly dominate the ecosystem. Are humans acting according to human values, or market values?

One universal of human nature is loyalty to the group, one's own society and its culture. Aeons of evolution leave us with this Tribal Imperative, TI. Then and now, humans rely on socio-cultural as well as ecological supports. Intelligence could not have evolved without such support. Cultural evolution was part of human evolution. But now that the amount of interpersonal attachment and the content of face to face communication is decreasing, human culture is decaying. The highly evolved human intelligence is out on a limb. Under such stress and deprivation, people and societies go mad. We see it all around us.

Normally people are loyal to their nation, their firm, their boss. Alienation from this support system causes great distress. No matter how well the children are socialized, this conflict persists in the human condition. The conflict between humans and society is always with us, more or less well managed, a D chart measure.

For people to endure this alienation requires fancy thinking, elaborate rationalization, DIM. It's only natural that people need to `believe', to have ideas consistent with their culture. The degree of harmony or dissociation between the idea and the reality, between the individual and the culture, is a measure of personal and cultural health or illness, another D chart measure.

The modern world and all its people are knit into a great eco-cultural unit. Call it Modern Abstract Culture, MAC (p.?). MAC is enabled - but not compelled - by easier movement of information, goods, capital and culture around the globe. This new MAC culture needs a descriptive name, System As a Marketplace, SAM. Imagine SAM with a life of its own, a complex organism of commerce and culture.

A few centuries ago, economic evolution gave birth to SAM's main organs, the corporations. Corporations have become the dominant institutions in modern culture. The essence of the corporation is limited liability, Ltd. Ltd is nowhere near as limited as some would like, given the modern lawyers' role. Ltd originally meant that financial losses were limited to the assets of the corporation, protecting the rest of one's personal assets. It also meant a Dissociation of one's corporate life from one's personal life. It's just business. Thus the corporation is an organism in itself, like a liver or lover. On a deeper level, Ltd. expresses the denial of broader responsibility, a Dissociation of economic corporate values from broader human values.

During SAM's youth, in 1896, the U. S. Supreme Court gave `personal' rights to corporations. This got the Robber Barons off the hook. It also degraded their `noblesse oblige' into a public relations program. It was a major step in the Dissociation of cultural management from human beings to corporate functionaries. It boosted MAC by giving SAM more of a life of His own, further freeing society's leadership from human responsibility.

Each corporation has its own nature, but each is similarly constructed and elaborately intertwined. Their values are expressed as a Corporate Ethic, CE - the `bottom line', maximizing the stockholders equity. Since money is power, the corporation is the most important organ of SAM, especially the MUltiNational Corporations, the MUNCs.

Human loyalty to nation or ethnic group persists, but objectively, the MUNCs are taking over. As the personnel manager in a New Yorker Magazine cartoon expressed it, "We ask for no loyalty and we offer no security." Paternalism is declining. The ethic of the corporation has become the operating ethic of most of mankind. So most people `believe in it'. People usually make a virtue of this necessity, if they want to get ahead, or just to keep body and soul together.

SAM's basic ethic: An individual pursuing personal profit benefits the general social economy, as described in HOG, p.167. This happens automatically by the Magic Of the Marketplace, MOM. This ethic is most elegantly expressed by the father of modern economics, Adam *Smith in his "...Wealth of Nations"[ That's Adam Smith the elder - apologies to Mr. Schremp of PBS TV's Adam Smith's Money World. ]. Seeking personal gain for self and family, seeking wealth expressed as berries or bonds, is as old as human culture - even animal culture. But in MAC, managed by SAM, according to MOM, the corporation replaces the human as the dominant organ of the culture.

In recent centuries, the new entrepreneurs gradually displaced the old nobility, who often flaunted their `noblesse oblige' by its neglect. The feudal governments gradually transformed into institutions whose task was to coordinate the various organs of SAM, essential to keep enough order to allow MOM to work. Adam's buddies like David *Ricardo stressed minimum government, `laissez faire', let it alone, let MOM take care of it.

"Out of sight out of mind", as the directors manage things behind the scenes. Even today, modern classical economists such as Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley promote SAM's classic economic principles - perhaps mostly as entertainment - making a virtue of greed and upper class loyalty. They proclaim that government should stay out of business, except to regulate, protect, and subsidize it with public funds. This leaves the organization of society and the design of the culture to the invisible hand of the marketplace and the invisible management of the corporations. Let MOM take care of it.

The goal of the corporation is profit. Its Board Of Directors, the BOD, is obliged to increase the shareholders profit in every way, especially in legal ways. The essence of this corporate ethic, CE, is the Maximization Of Profit, MOP. MOP is profit in the narrowest sense - not human benefit - just money. MOP covers a lot of ground: highest prices, lowest cost, highest volume, lowest taxes, best trained, lowest paid, all managed by the best minds in the land, the MBAs, the Masters of Business Administration. As a result, the much-touted economic statistics, such as GNP and now GDP, are the main measures of benefit. Modern economics becomes business economics. Economics shrinks to a distortion of - and distraction from - human values. Human values are sacrificed to the simplistic images of SAM's ethic.

Another basic mode of MOP is the `externalization of costs'. The corporation avoids the cost of getting the employees to work, building the roads, cleaning the air, paying for the schools, counseling the alienated - unless forced to do so by countervailing forces. Half century ago John Kenneth *Galbraith explained this conspiracy of profit in his good humored classic, THEORY OF COUNTERVAILING POWERS. The various interest groups vie with one another for various advantages, often through their lobbied legislators. The weaker groups, such as consumers, take the loss. Not only are these costs externalized, but the public is expected to pay for them, along with an extensive array of subtle subsidies. SAM spends plenty to manage the image, evade complaints, weaken oppositions, lobby the government, and obscure the conflict between corporate and human values. Public relations is mostly a SAM sop to human values.

A most spectacular MOP is the military maintenance of the energy system. For the cost of the Iraq war of '91, the nation could have converted to benign solar, wind, and water energy systems. One estimate is that if these military costs were internalize, added to the cost, gasoline would cost $15. per gallon.[ Reuters 11/17/98 from the INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT, "...examined 40 external cost factors ... totalling $1.69 trillion/yr. ... Government's yearly subsidies include $123 to 323 million in tax subsidies..., $114.6 billion in extraction and production subsidies..., $1.6 billion regulatory and cleanup costs..., $55 to 96 billion for military DOD share of protection. *World Watch Institute also keeps tabs on such data.] An OOP with WE might argue that victory over vanquished, warrior over producer, is a worthy value, a Triumph of the Will, TW (p.?). Such an tragic choice illustrates the dominance of SAM's values over objective human values.

SAM's imperative is to make the money go 'round. Therefore, the greater the disaster, the higher the GDP. Similarly, prices are kept high in relation to costs to maximize profits. Thus, SAM leaves it up to MOM. The responsibility for human life and culture is left to the corporate ethic, not the human ethic. Corporate concerns replace human concerns.

Caught in the stress of this conflict, human beings have a need to understand, to accept and be loyal to something. Most people deny this transfer of responsibility from humans to corporations. They accept this loss, and deny it. Call it Denial Ideology, DI (p.?). DI is the implied and compelled personal belief system necessary to support SAM. "Why think about it if you can't do anything about it?" Why look at the sky? The withdrawal of human responsibility and the submission to the corporate ethic is the foundation of modern abstract culture. (To practice these acronyms, try: "MAC needs DI for SAM to apply CE and MOM to MOP up.")

Coherent ideas of what's good for the human race and how the economy might benefit people are often disparaged as fanatic, as `ideologies'. On his PBS TV's Money World, Adam Smith summed it up, "The only -ism is business-ism." Is this *The End of History? SAM wants it that way, He needs, promotes and loves DI.

Sacrificing human values to corporate values, submitting personal values to SAM, causes personal internal stresses, in case you haven't noticed. The actual content of culture, the interrelations between people, the depth of their discourse, all decrease as Modern Abstract Culture grows. In such a Poverty Of Culture, POC, people are driven to activities that have less meaning. This is called the Compulsion to the Abstract Life, CAL (p.?). The abstract culture cultivates a Culture Of Meaninglessness, COM. Trivial pursuits alleviate the stress and distract from the pain of dissociated living, resulting in a Poverty of Culture, POC, as analyzed in PASTIMES, p.188.

It's not easy to accept, understand, or try to explain how it happens that humans would so degrade themselves. But it happens, it's human, it's powerful and it needs an analysis. Submitting personal life to SAM depends on this great Power Of Socialization, POS. How else can it happen that humans sacrifice their integrity, deny their infinite connections with nature, flee from the great love of humankind, escape the ecstasy of knowing their place in the universe, miss the oneness of a child, ignore the drying leaves of elegant culture? The power of POS, backed by abject terror - no less - must be the mechanism. The greater the stress, the greater the motivation, and the more elaborate SAM's system of education and control. The fastest growing investments include prisons and security systems. Education is catching up, military is ahead.

Some people are less adjustable than others, but the vast majority at every level of society adjust, they Internalize the Corporate Ethic, ICE. They ICE well enough to keep themselves and SAM alive and running. ICE is the name of the game. Pronounce it as "ice" or "I see" or "icky" as the context requires. Each person plays ICE according to her own array of genetic, psycho-historical and environmental peculiarities.

The decisions of ICErs, from the most personal purchase of a golf club to the development of a community, become increasingly dominated by the unhuman corporate ethic. A pernicious example, second only to the military, is the role of the Real Estate Developer, the RED. RED is SAM's son who decides where and how people live. RED is a major player in culture design. A few human values survive among some city planners and culturally conscious architects, but RED mostly makes slurbs with gridlocks and leaves slums with human sludge. Yet each developer is bound by the demands of her business, she is ICEd by SAM. If she doesn't do it, someone will replace her in the `competitive marketplace'. The proliferation of the slurbs is surely not the work of human intelligence, it's the intelligence of SAM, MOM and her ICErs. The REDs know not what they do, lest they suffer `normative conflict'.

As a worthy exercise, evaluate the various economic activities such as real estate, Advertising, law, auto manufacturing, highway design, etc. all in terms of their human values - try using a D chart of JOBS. Contrast their human value with SAM's common economic evaluation. Be careful - don't take it personally or the pain might force you to end the analysis and turn to trivial pursuits.

Suggesting interventions and solutions is called `culture design'. Imagine an example: Modest internalization of external costs, such as a higher tax on gasoline and cigarettes, would gradually shift the system in the human direction. *WORLD WATCH PAPER #134 on tax reform elaborates these opportunities. Increasing personal security and decreasing poverty would improve the quality of life. [See alternative images described in the PROGRESSIVE STAGNATION, LIBERTYVILLE, ECOVILLAGE, WARD PROGRAM... etc.]

Hazard lurks in the shadow of reform. Think what would happen if the least human-valued jobs were eliminated or decreased. The income tax system, the drug war, the gaming industry, etc. account for a millions of jobs. Eliminating these anti-human-value jobs would cause major unemployment and economic crisis. SAM demands that people have `jobs' - even when they live on family money.

One might blame the CEO's of the multinational corporations who dominate world culture, as if these hapless billionaires were somehow evil people bent on degrading human culture and its ecosystem. Not so. Attributing such sin to individual human nature rather than to ICEy adaptation to SAM is called `False Personalism, FP, a SOB story. The CEO ICErs are just doing their job. Thomas Friedman in his New York Times 6/12/97 explains how these hapless policy makers are wearing a "golden straight jacket" - all must conform to SAM's Global Economy, GE. Are they OOPs or ICERs?

Some CEOs are so intelligent that they know what they are doing. Even so, they are obliged to continue. Tycoons who can afford it, such as George Soros, protest that human intelligence must supersede corporate mechanisms if the eco-cultural system is to survive and flourish. But most leaders talk themselves into believing in the system without such minor reservations. They remain loyal to SAM's myths in spite of human pressures. It's easier to evade these issues and submerge one's humanity into one's job, to ICE. But let's not deny the ecstasy of WE's financial triumph on the not-so-level battle field. Certainly human ecologists can suggest more wholesome ecstacies.

One might argue that the `separation of powers' and the `adversarial system' limits SAM's anti-human activity. Further, that the inherent humanity of corporate and government leaders, like Soros and FDR, alleviate SAMs brutality. Such factors operate, but they gradually decline as MUNCs expand, as explained in ENHANCEMENT OF INVESTMENT, p.177.

Application of human intelligence to mankind's problems is often disparaged as `socialism' or some such embarrassing term burdened with cliche and dogmatism. In contrast, human ecology and culture design offers a framework for the discussion and development of human values and their application to the ever changing culture. With modern technology, good lives and enriching cultures for all humankind is well within reach - technically easy, economically difficult, politically perhaps impossible. But in the unlikely event that such a endeavor is acceptable, the Evaluative and Diagnostic schemes and the helpful images of LET'S PREHEND, a Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design are handy.

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