Born and Raised by Corporate America: How Capitalism Defiled American Morality and the Family
Making money at any expense has become the common norm, and cuts across every socioeconomic class, race, and age group. It is an addiction for some and a life-long necessity for others. Earning money by corporate or self-employment is by nature a contribution to the advancement of society so people are taught from their youth the necessity of working and earning a living. But the work/life balance over the past 50 years has been tilted toward the work end, ultimately neglecting the life end of the scale.
As technology expands the possibilities of making money across the globe, this expansion forces people to become creative in how they approach regular workdays and family life. Companies, on the other hand, constantly seek new ways to streamline operations to get more for their investment by slashing manpower and inventing faster ways to do the same job. Other companies take a more frugal approach by increasing manpower but slashing the payroll budget. In either case, the corporate power structure has shaped the workforce to their advantage.
The authority of corporations to determine the culture of work in society has done more harm than good to the worker because the sacrifices of the worker outweigh the benefits over time. This means that those who structure the workforce structure it in their own favor to maximize profits without regard for those doing the actual work. However, the economics of the workforce is just a surface-level aspect of earning a living; the core purpose of earning a living is to survive life; first for the worker and then for the worker's dependants. And general logic suggests that the worker needs to earn money to sustain his or her family therefore working is essential.
The problem comes in when people lose sight of why they are working. There are two psychological thresholds that should never be crossed once a person becomes a full-blown worker in American society. The first is losing site of the duties of the job and the second is losing site of the duties to the dependants. In either case, corporations have set a standard to working that causes many people to lose site of one or both of their duties. Some people take their jobs too seriously while others feel the pressures of responsibility and survival to an emotional and psychological limit.
The first rule of having a job, any job, is understanding the general purpose of the job. Whether it is the vice president of a corporation or a cashier at a fast food restaurant, some people tend to take the job a little too seriously by abusing whatever power that comes with the job. In addition to abuse of power, they tend to complicate simple duties by pushing extreme boundaries on other coworkers or onto the general public they serve. These are called company men (or women). They seek to enforce every policy and procedure in the book in any given situation even if the situation does not necessarily call for that much precision.
Many times the unnecessary enforcement leads to more problems for other people or for the company itself by adding extra strain to the overall goal or mission of the company. For example, the new concept of mandatory overtime is being introduced into the workforce and imposed unnecessarily to fulfill time-sensitive quotas to catch up with production. But apparently there must have been mismanagement and a lack in productivity from the beginning of the project. This adds stress to the workers, which many times drive down morale and increase mistakes causing sloppy or careless work results. Setting unreasonable goals is usually the cause of falling behind on quotas; and setting unreasonable goals is usually driven by unreasonable expectations, or simple greed.
As a result of mismanagement, many of the workers on the low end - who are actually the producers of the product - are forced to work more days and longer hours, which in turn causes them to sacrifice time with their families. While the pressure comes from the top based on overzealous production, it trickles down through the hierarchy and causes management figureheads to demand faster, more, or longer production hours and finished product. The managers then turn to whatever means necessary to get the job done; even to the level of antagonism, threats of job loss, retaliation tactics, and even verbal abuse.
This pivot from management professionalism to passive-aggressive authoritarianism generates a certain mindset within that person over a consistent period of time, causing that person to become someone they were not when they started the job. As growth, acquisitions and mergers happen at the top, more demand is pushed down through the ranks and that much more pressure is put on middle management thus spilling over to the workers. Once a company has gone through the stages of corporate dissolution, it turns into a company filled with bitterness, resentment, and afterward a high turnover rate of workers. Then the layoffs come, the outsourcing, the downsizing and finally the bankruptcy and closing.
Generally, the abuse of power starts at the top. Disregard for the law also becomes a problem in many companies and organizations. Laws regulate industry and many times businesses seek short cuts around tax laws, environmental laws, and civil laws that govern society. Within the slightest disregard for the law there are networks of fabrication and shortcuts that have to be taken in order to maintain a sense of legality. Those shortcuts jeopardize worker safety and relations with the public and/or the customers they serve; food production, water and air quality, fire and policing and many other retail and service industries that the public rely on, are all examples of businesses that should operate on good faith and honest business practice.
Over the last 50 years, corrupt business practice has become a new normal, and unfortunately protected by the courts. When at one time the work day consisted of 8 hours, a weekend of time off, good benefits, pension plans and security for retirement and a wage that could maintain a family of four with one income, the workforce today has sadly dwindled into a servitude culture. Work days are 10-14 hours, 6-day workweeks and sometimes 7; health benefits have been cut in half, and pensions plans and unionization has been all but cut off. In other words, companies use to take care of their workers, now the worker has to take their wages and pay for the benefits they had once gotten with help from the company.
This shift in work culture has brought worker morale to a lower point and respect for and trust in companies has dropped. People now look for an outlet to vent their frustrations. At one point, people were lashing back at companies by suing them blind, but recent Supreme court rulings have put a stop to that and have sense forth sided with the companies. More companies are gaining the sympathies of the court systems and workers are getting pounded by a reduction of rights. This all causes average people to look for other ways to retaliate and make do. Since the courts are now protecting the companies more, many people have inadvertently turned to lashing out at their family members, neighbors, and strangers. Some (thank God only a few) have taken to returning to their places of employment to kill their coworkers and superiors.
People are currently being driven by the corporate culture without the ability to make their work/life balance doable. It is all work, and no life. People have to come up with new and creative ways to take time off. With the stagnation of wages over the years coupled with layoffs, outsourcing and a demand for college degrees, both parents have been forced out of the home and into the workforce. When at one time families were able to save money and make major purchases with cash occasionally throughout the year, for electronics, appliances, clothes and the like, corporate America decided waiting on those few spending days of the year was too long, thus they incentivized credit as a means to maximize profits more often.
The credit and finance markets boomed making banks and investment firms' rich, but plunging more families into debt and drained their savings accounts. Once again, the courts sided with corporations and strengthened credit collection agencies, tightened bankruptcy laws against individuals, and expanded the credit market to include, education, automobiles, interest-based loans, and every other consumer good. The strain of debt forced people to rely more on their jobs and the companies knew this and took full advantage of this new market of worker debt. They implemented tougher work hours, policies and quotas knowing that people really did not have a choice as long as they wanted to maintain an A+ credit score based on financed goods.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, husbands worked longer hours and mothers left the home, which increased the demand for daycares. The work/life culture shifted from the serene community lifestyle to the hustle and grind of the corporate plantation. "As more mothers have entered the U.S. workforce in the past several decades, the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time now stands at 46%, up from 31% in 1970." People now have to work to survive as opposed to the pride of providing for the family in times past. "Images of the traditional family still dominate our televisions and magazines, but they do not represent how most Americans live. In 2002, only 7 percent of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked."
The work, work, work lifestyle leaves little quality time for family life. Children raise themselves and corporate America capitalizes on this trend by marketing to children and parents on television. The family paradigm changed from togetherness and dependency on one another to self sufficiency and the bootstrap mentality. This spread from family to family and from community to community now is now gone national; and even global. This shift in culture is praised by corporate barons as being the natural progression of civilization and as they gobble up the profits from all the markets, they pass on their standard of success as a blueprint for the average worker to follow and label it the "American Dream," and the working man's success story. All of which are mere delusions.
This slow process of purging of worker fulfillment and the breakdown of the family has driven society into a somewhat measured, time-released hell of self destruction. Unable to maintain the nature of the traditional family or find a break in economic independence, people split from what is natural in order to adjust to the demands of the new corporate humanity. To cope with everyday life now, people use drugs to keep up and remain relevant in their jobs. They go to any extremes to maintain a sense of stability when their jobs are challenged or in question.
People have transformed their personalities into their jobs by becoming the person of the actual job description; i.e., they have traded in their humanity in order to keep their jobs. For example, prison guards, social service workers, immigrant officers, police officers, lawyers, judges, doctors and others will abandon their humanity to fulfill their roles and job description at any cost. All in the name of maintaining the corporate culture, policies and procedures. They answer to political correctness and uphold laws that they would otherwise condemn as an individual. Yet many people have crossed that fragile threshold and are now completely entrenched in the world of corporate authoritarianism.
Average citizens are locked away in solitary confinement; others are turned away for food and assistance, children are arrested, jailed, and taken from their parents for what at one time would have been normal childhood misdeeds. Mothers are overworked and forced to drop their newborns off at daycare centers for full workdays; fathers are subject to strict court legalities and restrictions from their children and sometimes jailed for supposed neglect. Anti-depressants, alcohol, steroids, amphetamines and illegal narcotics inundate the schools, communities and places of work just so people can cope with what is now the work/life balance.
Not to blame corporate America for all the ills of society, they try to help by instituting wellness programs, rehab centers, childcare centers on site and they attempt to give reimbursement for education and offer extra incentives and bonuses to help their employees manage. However, all these things would not be necessary if they would not press so hard to increase worker productivity. The profit motive stands behind all of their decisions and as this motive gets out of control, the circumstances of the workforce will also get out of control, as it is now. Giving to charities is an escape and excuse corporations make to sugarcoat their public images, while behind the scenes they continue to institute a slow form of debtor labor.
The bottom line is that workers are not top priority when it comes to corporate advancement. Their bottom line is making profits for and pleasing those who invest in the company. Capitalism, as the foundation of corporate America does not work for the worker in the long run. America has seen what 50 years of capitalist economics have done to the country, the workforce, and the family. What this country needs is a foundation that protects workers against the aspect of greed and power and a system in place that takes full advantage of individual creativity, a sense of responsibility, and willingness to contribute to society what they know best.
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