“Now let’s start by, making it clear, who is the enemy here, and let’s show them, that it’s not them, who is superior”
-From the lyrics for Marching the Hate Machines into the Sun, performed by Thievery Corporation and featuring The Flaming Lips
I have occasionally spoken negatively of corporations in previous articles posted on this website. With an introductory quote like the one above you must think I’m about to declare all corporations evil. Are they all evil, do we need to purge ourselves of their existence, and is there a better way of doing business in this world? The answers I believe are no, sometimes, and definitely yes, respectively. I would never make such a sweeping statement as to say that all corporations are bad, and as a matter of fact I have spent the past several months researching whether I want to start a business of my own. The following paragraphs attempt to briefly draw a connection between the role of modern corporations and our health since, after all, health and environment are the primary themes of this website.
Wall St versus Main St
The Occupy movement that swept across the US a couple years ago attempted to demonstrate, among many other ideas, the increasingly disproportionate amount of wealth acquired by the top 1% of Americans compared with the remainder of the population. Because money equates to power and influence in the American political system, the Occupy movement wanted to raise awareness of the control that a tiny minority exerted over a vast majority. Beyond these massive societal issues are questions such as what are the costs to our health and the planet’s health when profit is always placed as the number one pursuit of a publicly traded corporation. The dominant business model in America is without a doubt; profit first, people second, and planet third, at least to the extent that the customers and laws allow for. When the primary purpose of a publicly traded corporation is to make a profit then people and planet are often exploited. This exploitation will continue until the customers get upset and their negative perception of the company begins to reduce profit, or until the questionable practices are challenged in court. There must be a better way…
Planet first, people second, and profit third
What happens when a company tries to reverse the order of priorities mentioned above? Sometimes it proves to be quite successful such as when a company like Whole Foods thrives off the selling of natural and organic food. In this case we even saw conventional companies like Walmart trying follow in the steps of Whole Foods, as was the case when they attempted to get into the business of selling some organic food. Similarly we see the launch of pioneering electric car company Tesla being followed by the other major car manufacturers attempting to develop more efficient and less polluting cars of their own. I use these examples to show that it is possible to have profitable corporations that can provide their customers with the services they need while limiting their impact on human and planetary health in the process. Sure, we could spend all day debating whether Whole Foods and Tesla have truly sustainable business models, but you get the point, they are a step in the right direction.
We are what we buy
It can be so easy to always point our fingers at the big bad corporations when in reality we should often be pointing our fingers at the mirror as the number one enemy we face on our path towards health and sustainability. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but what if we shifted that to “you are what you buy”. Corporations may seem evil for their destructive practices, and for selling their disease causing products, but the reality is that they would not exist if we didn’t continuously give them our money. This of course brings us to the slogan, “vote with your dollars”. While the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans are clearly voting with their dollars by lobbying politicians, the remainder of the 99% can also use our money to vote. No, we probably can’t afford to make a major contribution to a Senator’s election campaign, but we can purchase products that are non-toxic, low impact, healthy, all natural, environmentally responsible, organic, fair traded, and/or locally produced. Better yet, we can exert our influence over corporations by simply not buying a product, and I’m not only talking about boycotts, I’m also talking about reducing our consumption; “minimize it, and don’t criticize it”.
One of the major benefits of Ayurvedic preventive medicine is that there is little need for major corporations. This system of medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, long before the modern corporation was ever conceived. We may need a few companies to responsibly import herbs and spices to the US, but other than that most Ayurvedic lifestyle practices can be performed using commonly available foods. These lifestyle practices can be performed by you alone, or maybe with the guidance of a practitioner depending on your level of knowledge. Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, but if that is what we really want then we need to stop and ask whether the food and products we purchase are actually making us healthy, and contributing to our happiness. More often than not we are buying products that we don’t really need, or even worse, products that are destroying our health and the health of the Earth. There are many small scale, local companies that are genuinely trying to run responsible businesses, and it is important that we give them our support. The Occupy movement started a conversation in America that continues to this day, now it is time to take advantage of the summer season and Occupy our Farmer’s Markets.
Happy Summer Solstice!!!