Thursday, January 10, 2008

corporations and spirit of liberty

So I've been pretty sick this week, which sucks because it is the last week before one of my classes starts at Catholic University next week (but thankfully I have a few more weeks until classes at Leland start). And in the spirit of being sick, I've been watching lots of depressing movies, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and I watched The Corporation yesterday. The Corporation is a documentary/movie discussing the power and roles of corporations in our country and the political, economic, and even religious power that they wield in our nation and around the world. It was a hard movie to watch. It's hard like reading Wendell Berry is hard; it's just so hard to know where to begin how to change my life. It seems overwhelming and like there is no hope to buy products that aren't tainted by blood of marginalized and oppressed people in third-world countries, or that aren't environmentally sustainable. I mean, one of the worst scenarios from the movie was that when Coke realized that it couldn't keep its product brand name in Nazi Germany and not lose credibility and face in the States, that it created a new brand name Fanta, which in the states, we most often think of as the orange soda, that is made by Coke...they simply changed the name brand, even though Coca-Cola owned and created the product, so that it would be less likely to be traced back and associated with the Coke name. I mean, Nazi's need Coca-Cola too right? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. It's just so hard to know what do with the accessibility to all this information about the ways corporations have used the system to make a profit and damage people and the world. Any suggestions with ways we can do something?

On a completely separate note, I met with my spiritual director again this week, and I have to say, it was just what I needed. I felt like crap after that night of meetings, and sort of paid for it the last couple of days, but that conversation was great. We talked about how I was able to see God in the midst of Advent, and the routine of keeping the hours, and that even when things changed when I visited family, and my routines became different...I didn't struggle with the ol' evangelical guilt of not "spending enough time for my 'quiet times'" or praying enough. Rather, in the midst of not being in routine, I prayed short prayers, tried to listen more to my family and to my wife, and try to put the interests of others above my own, and I saw God in new ways over break. Not in the emotional or spiritual high kind of way, but in the centered, balanced kind of way. My spiritual director said that this is what St. Francis de Sales called a "spirit of liberty" when life with Christ was balanced and centered. Traditionally I think I've lived in the extremes of trying to be rigorous and ultra-disciplined, never missing certain prayer times, journaling, reading the Bible, etc. or I've been on the other extreme of being undisciplined, intentionally against reading the Bible or praying because of the evangelical guilt or pressure. But this time, and I sensed God in it, I didn't freak when I missed praying the hours on vacation, or wasn't spending much time alone or in silence, instead I prayed the short prayers from Traveling Mercies, "God, help me" or "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you." And in those times, God was near, and I heard the still small voice. I felt it in a conversation with my brother on the last night I was there, I felt it when Shey told me that I had loved her well over vacation, I felt it when my mom spent time sewing on new buttons for the baby's gift that she passed on to us. And I have to say, I like that spirit of liberty, of being centered and balanced. I know I don't live there often, and I know when school starts up, it will probably be gone. But I want to enjoy it now, and say "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you" as this new year begins. Meeting with Father Lou has been wonderful thus far and a real blessing...they say that finding a spiritual director that is a good match is like one in a thousand...so far so good. Amen, Amen.

1 comment:

Brendan said...

Yo Josh,

On corporations, i heard Nobel Peace prize winner (from Nov 06), Muhammad Yunus, about 8 months ago, and he was talking about the prospect of "social businesses"--entities which fall b/w a nonprofit and a for profit, with the intention of covering all costs without donations, but aiming to serve a social good/need, and not (from my u-standing) to make a profit. You'll have to check me on this once i finish his book i just bought on this ("Creating a World WIthout Poverty"), but he seems to be considering the idea of the current iteration of business as perhaps just that, an iteration that can potentially transform into social businesses, where the myriad resources our world has can be spread with more equity. I think the prospect is intriguing to say the least, and would have to (although i'm not sure yet of his take) occur through voluntary participation. Could for profit businesses be oh-so-gradually replaced with "social businesses"? I think that would be grand, although the economic side of it, along with other details are what i hope to learn some more on through his book. I'd suggest checking out "the smartest guys in the room" on Enron, and "iraq for sale," as two other revealing looks at business.

At the risk of going on too long, i'll just throw another quick thought here, regarding US trade policies, and the way corporations are going overseas by the bucket load. Our trade policies do not require other countries to have various principles, including, as far as i u-stand, human rights, child-labor laws, minimum wage laws, right to organize, or environmental principles. These are also ways that i believe corporations are just a pernicious factor in our world, as they can close down plant after plant to go overseas, pay less, not have the humane standards our country (generally) has in place, and capitalize on the whole thing. So we have less good jobs, humanity is not furthered overseas, and they're the winner. One of the alternatives as i u-stand it would be to, as one of, if not the biggest consumer country, refuse to trade with these countries unless they put these humane standards in place (from what some claim this would mean withdrawing from some trade deals such as NAFTA, as well as from the world trade org. (WTO)).

How's that for a mouthful of a response? Good topic though on your part, and i'll have to ck out that documentary...