‘It is also true that many corporations are efficient and well managed.
But they are, by definition, managed in interests at variance with those of the public. Their directors have a ‘fiduciary duty’ towards the shareholders: they must place their concerns above all others. The state, by contrast, has a duty towards all members of the public…’
George Monbiot, Captive State
I’ve been thinking about corporations and shareholders for years now and wondering how I am supposed to react to them as a Christian.
Obviously it would be very hard, if not impossible to function in our society without coming into contact with corporations.
Right now as I type this I can see a ‘Dell’ logo staring back at me and another ‘Samsung’ logo on my mobile phone.
But there is a problem as I see it from a Christian or church going point of view.
As George Monbiot mentions above or as this clip from ‘The Corporation’ shows they are required (by law?) to place the bottom line of it’s owners above the public good.
Or to put it another way, public corporations operate by favouritism at the expense of other people. They favour (by law?) those who are the shareholders. The financial interests of its owners (whoever they are) are more important than the public interest.
The problem from the Christian point of view, or for someone who is trying to follow Jesus with their whole life (not just the Sunday morning church going life) is that Jesus doesn’t do favourites.
Or at least that’s the official line on Sunday mornings from the pulpits and on the pages of the New Testament even though we fail miserably at living it out.
Surely it should be fundamental that the Christian doesn’t favour one group of people over another group of people? If Jesus loved and died for everyone and we’re called to follow him then that means that we’re to show self sacrificial love to everyone, not just a select group of people such as the shareholders of a company.
This is not the way the good news should operate if it’s really the counter-cultural kingdom it’s supposed to be and not some made up myth.
When I worked for that well known DIY company with the black and orange shirts there was different levels I worked on.
On one level I was simply working to earn money for rent and food, for clothes and the occasional trip to the cinema. This is the basic survival level, the level at which you would do nearly anything to make sure you’ve enough money to keep going and function in society.
But it was the other bigger picture level that always troubled me.
Who was I working for?
Who where these shareholders that I was earning money for each time I hauled 20 boxes of polished porcelain tiles into a Nissan Micra?
Perhaps there are other bigger things to worry about but our work matters and who we are ultimately working for matters as well. If this stuff is really true then my whole being has been redeemed and every minute of every day matters. Is there any point in me or any Christian singing something like ‘Only by Grace’ on a Sunday morning then going out on Monday morning to try and win the biggest gains for the company competition?
With a company such as B&Q it was nigh on impossible and far too complicated to ever know who I was ultimately working for. That used to really trouble me.
The bigger picture beyond my monthly wage was that I was contributing to shareholders profits and playing along with ideal of competition that seems to be the way the world works and is designed to work. I wasn’t just selling tile grout, I was using my body to do devils work and trying to grow the company at the expense of smaller companies and my neighbour. I was playing along the strong arm tactics of world leaders and trying to help them build Babel.
Is that too dramatic? I don’t know, I’m only saying this stuff out loud as that’s how I feel about stuff but can never express it when asked about it on the spot.
It’s the whole question of how we’re supposed to live our lives if we’re following Jesus. The way of favouritism and working for a select group of people at the expense of another group of people, doesn’t seem to gel with the truth that we are too love our neighbour as our self. And neighbour means anyone, not just those who are on our side and in our group.
So, there you go. In one way it seems pointless to even mention stuff like this as that’s just the way the world is and sure we have to eat and earn a living and it’s messy, sometimes (or most times) we just have to do stuff we don’t like doing in the race of survival. It’s seem impossible to live without leaving a trail of destruction and death around the place.
I’m using energy writing this that will pollute the atmosphere, who knows how the materials for this computer were mined, who knows how the person who made my fleece and shorts was treated while making them. I guess that’s the way the world has always been as well. Perhaps the last and best bit of advice for making sense of it are the words of a Buddy Miller song I’ve been listening to the last few days
This old world just stays the same
one man wants what the other man gained
one man’s greedy one man’s not
you can’t worship money and god
Cain killed abel that was his brother
sons of abraham still killing each other
c’mon children understand
Jesus washed all away the sins of man
time to love every man woman and child
just forgive and let live for a little while