Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saul: "abnormal to say no" when we need NO!

There is a fascinating development occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Those whose lives have depended on the fishery including all species, and are now begging for clean-up jobs with BP, are telling anyone who asks questions of them, specifically reporters seeking the story behind the story, "I cannot talk to you because I am forbidden to talk to you!" At the same time, BP denies it is muzzling anyone!
John Ralson Saul, in his penetrating work, Equilibrium, prophetically wrote these words, back in 2001,
...the people who have specialist skills and knowledge on any side of a debate are not free to take part (in public debate). Why? Because they are contracted to one side or the other. And employment regulations determine the nature of their public involvement. If they are present, it is only as 'spokespeople' for interests. There is almost no possibility of disinterested participation.
In short, our society has structured itself to prevent most people who know something about a given issue from expressing their concerns, their disagreement, even their real agreement. We have created a structure which removes ethics from our daily life and makes it abnormal to flex our ethical muscle, abnormal to say no.
Loyalty replaces ethics. Only through heroic opposition, which will probably damage her career and the well-being of her family, can a citizen express concerns in the areas she knows best. (p.112)

Saul argues that the employment contract is the single largest obstacle to truth telling in a democratic society that depends extensively on truth telling. Our dependency on that employment contract, just like those out-of-work fishers in the Gulf, is monumental. They dare not speak, simply because their family's next meal depends on their silence.
While there is no specific sale price for such a worker, what is the real difference between their being muzzled, about the profound and complex truth of this great public disaster, and the silence of the slaves, before the Civil War? Instead of the slave owners, we now have the corporation (legally considered equal to a human being) controlling the free flow of public information, in order to protect its "ASSets" from legal liability.
You say, that is an exaggeration. And you may be right. However, the legal protection of the corporate employer has become one of, if not the single most protected "value" in the society. The shift from normal flexing of the ethical muscle, to the abnormal, leaves the biggest sharks in the tank in charge of the tank, protected by the rules that all the other sharks support.
While the vibrant and living organism of the democractic society depends on the free flow of information generated by the single, simply un-attached, independent person, with an intelligence, a curiosity, a capacity to compare various pieces of information, and a capacity and courage to speak his/her truth to those needing to know that truth, it is that vey truth that is being "cut-off", blocked from dispersal, by the silent, even unwritten but certainly obeyed rule that says "the corporation is KING!"
Can anyone then be surprised that those responsible for the safety standards of deep-water drilling in the Mining and Minerals Service (created for the express purpose of supporting the large companies in the first place!) have sold out to those very interests who wrote their own "specs" in order to maximize profit and minimize safety precautions, especially those needed in this very different, and very challenging deep-water environment.

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