November 12, 2006
My friend Michael asks, “Do you know, why and how does the Walmart, Starbucks, McDonald’s business model of huge international companies serve spirit and humanity’s future?” I thought it was a pretty good question. And the answer is?
In a world of duality, any action is partial. No action can encompass all values, all priorities. The better something represents one set of values, of course the worse it will represent the opposing set of values (assuming for the moment that the only choices are among opposites. In practice the true choices are among opposites, and overlapping sectors, amid cooperation and competition).
Michael’s concern is that things be pitched to a human scale rather than what he sees as a dehumanizing gigantism. But someone else looking at the same phenomenon might see the international scale of business as one more set of strands leading toward the tying together of humanity into one ever more closely interacting community.
Remember always, what people think they are doing is not necessarily what they are doing objectively Often enough, the far effects of someone’s most sincere actions are the opposite of what was wanted and intended. You remember Lincoln’s definition of politics: Create an effect and then fight that effect. A very sophisticated capsule definition of the process of change.
So, in the 1800s the British were seeking profits from textiles when they flooded the world’s markets and drove native competition out of business in India, say. Or, to look at an example you will like even less, the international slave trade sought profit from human misery. A third example and we will stop: the international gathering, sorting, distribution and use of materials in any one industry – the auto industry, say. In all these case, and a thousand more that could be cited, the intent was to make money. The effects went far beyond anything even dimly considered by any of the principals.
From the British textile trade came the industrial revolution, which did for international economics what Napoleon’s armies did for the remnants of the middle ages in Europe. From the slave trade came a challenging element into world society that eventually will force all involved to realize that there is only one race, the human race. From the rationalizing caused incidentally by the need to fill the demands of the auto industry came the model for the international corporations that have begun to surpass governments in power and prestige – which will lead to developments that do not fit into your current understandings of the world, hence are hard for you to imagine coming into being — even as they come into being around you and are already coming into being.
Remember a few things as you ponder the impact of this or that upon the world:
Our values are not necessarily your values, and our point of view is never your point of view, though it encompasses yours. Our ultimate goals may lead to things you do or do not like, but they are not imposed on you; they grow out of what you are and what you choose to be. There is no master plan. There is no central committee behind the scenes on this side moving you around like puppets. There is choice, and choice, and choice, and as you choose we continually present new choices that grow out of the previous choices. If you chose to move to Madagascar, your new choices begin from you being in Madagascar; they cannot begin from you being in Tibet when in fact you are not there. If you moved to Tibet instead, they cannot begin from you being in Madagascar. The choices we present you cannot begin from anywhere except where you are. That is why your next step is always right at hand. How else could it be?
Now this thought should allow you to consider everything that happens in a new light. No one, looking at the reality of 300 years of slavery, could see it as anything but evil, nor would we want you to. But that does not mean that all the effects were evil, which in turn means that all that suffering was not necessarily “wasted,” whatever that would mean. Similarly, take any event or tendency that you deplore, be it Walmart or militarism or materialism or religious fanaticism or urban sprawl – in other words, anything big or little, important or unimportant, evil or inconvenient or neutral – take it and look at it objectively, and you will see everything differently.
We didn’t quite get the point across probably. Let us try again. It is your emotional reaction to things that shows (and also shapes) your values, in a sort of feedback loop. But it is your examination of things in the absence of your emotional reaction that will enable you to see that all is well, all is always well. It is a skill to be developed, and it will be developed as all skills are, by practice.
Nice answer. Many thanks.
We have told you more than once, better questions get better answers.
I’ll take that as a friendly insult, and get out.