Monday, March 26, 2007

Deathco's Gift to Society

  • A. Median Salary for a CEO of an American corporation: $680,077

  • B. Average CEO salary for an S&P 500 company: $13.51 Million

  • C. Starting salary for a New York City Police Officer: $34,970

  • Ratio of A to C: 19.5 : 1
    Ratio of B to C: 391 : 1

    Many of the corporations headed by the characters in categories A and B pander slow death to an ignorant public. Death on a bun, death in a fizzy plastic bottle, death in a vat of deep fried gluten. In a recent column for SF Gate, Mark Morford wonders how these guys can look themselves in the mirror:

    It all raises the perennial question, one I've often wondered at as I see CEO after CFO after nasty politician after corrupt misogynist Supreme Court justice march across the face of the planet without so much as a glimmer of a hint as to the pain they so casually, effortlessly inflict.

    Here is the question: How can they not know? How can you stomp through life and attain a position where you provide a product or service to the nation that literally poisons its very heart and still go home and play with your kids and smile and not beat your dog or drown yourself in Prozac and cheap whiskey and bloody ritualistic self-flagellation?

    The fact is, Mark, that these guys generally will live an entire fat and wealthy life off the lives (and deaths) of countless others until, one day near the end, the great moment of inner reckoning occasionally arrives, and they attempt to wash away their karmic rot in one fell financial swoop of remorse—the modern version of the medieval practice of purchasing an indulgence. History is strewn with such efforts at cosmic reconciliation.

    Alfred Nobel is perhaps the most famous of them all: a techno-genius who built an armament empire during his life and gave the proceeds away to the foundation that bears his name and awards its Peace Prize. Another instance of such johnny-come-lately moments in ambivalent philanthropy came from one of the most despotic corporate tyrants of American history. He was a man who made a massive fortune on the lives, sweat, and blood of untold numbers of nameless people. One of the most feared and hated corporate predators of his day, Andrew Carnegie is remembered today as one of the great benefactors of society.

    Does it work? I mean, is the karmic balance sheet squared by such munificence after death, following a life defined by the pursuit and practice of the most decadent, soul-chilling evil? Can we then look forward to an era when the wealth of the CEOs of Exxon, Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Union Carbide, Monsanto, Bechtel, KFC, Halliburton, and so many other corporate killers and global agents of oppression have their own day of contrition and decide to purchase their indulgences?

    Perhaps these are questions that have no answer, though I suspect that Morford is right on target with his:

    It's a question that's occasionally worthwhile to dip back into now and then, if for no other reason than merely to check our progress, to see if there's been any change in the spiritual barometer. And the bad news is, in most cases, the needle has barely twitched.

    No comments: