Is Conscious Capitalism Possible? It’s Time For A Revolution Of Consciousness
There is a lot of talk about the possibility of “Conscious Capitalism” these days and some “life coaches” that I know are going into corporations trying to raise consciousness and create a warmer working environment. My question always is —what is their motivation? And are they just going where the money is? I have written about conferences like Wisdom 2.0 and efforts to bring mindfulness into the workplace, especially in the tech arena, but the trend against such positive endeavours is frightening. Seduced by technology and seeking “control,” we have empowered companies to take our privacy and sanity for granted. The outlook of the actor in this commercial is prevalent among consumers, but unfortunately even his “road warrior” character will probably be replaced. I have joked with friends that if I had a choice between ordering food from a machine or a human I would prefer the machine –at least it will get my order right and not give me attitude. Computers and robots are also taking more and more jobs which previously enabled humans to earn a decent living and foster a sense of value in themselves and in their work. For many workers conscious capitalism is an oxymoron —a depressing contradiction and a cruel joke, as beancounters and technologists happily replace mid-level workers with machines and computer software that don’t take sick days or vacations, never wear out or go on strike, and are willing to work for free. Many who see this trend and have noticed the “control system” at work in society, where wealth is concentrated among the very few, have called for revolution against capitalism itself —and we’ve seen the results. Unfortunately most insurrections end up in anarchy, mob rule and thuggery, as social conventions are discarded entirely and the most ruthless elements take over. So can the good aspects of capitalism be salvaged? Can a universally equitable economic system based on individualism and achievement ever become reality? My own reaction has been largely cynical. I’ve written about the financial “industry” and how multiplying electronic dollars does not create value. Ironically, it was by following the stock market on Bloomberg News that I finally saw something that gives me hope: “Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook responded to a climate-change heckler at the company’s annual shareholder meeting with an impassioned rebuttal in which he famously told investors who care only about profits to ‘get out of the stock.’” Of course Tim Cook followed the iconic Steve Jobs as head of Apple; Jobs himself claimed to be “enlightened” and yet he famously mistreated and humiliated colleagues and employees. Cook has placed a huge corporate bet on solar and wind power, and according to the article other high tech companies are doing the same. It’s undeniable, however, that they are also doing it to increase profits; some of these same companies use virtual slave labor abroad and hide their profits in offshore accounts. But the key aspect of this story to me is that as a new generation of leaders assumes the top positions, if they are in fact “mindful” and become evolved individually, change may be possible. For example Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, is not just selling cars. He is selling a promise of sustainability and renewable energy, and even space travel, based on the namesake of the company –Nicola Tesla —whose many forward-looking inventions were usurped by greedy capitalists and never gifted to the public. Not surprisingly, his conference call with investors was a disaster when he predicted brashly —as his profits dropped —that in the future Tesla will rival Apple in size. Was this ego or confidence? These companies have placed huge bets on technology, so it’s anyone’s guess if humanity win or lose in the bargain.
The larger conundrum continues. What will happen as our technology becomes intelligent and even the robots begin to learn? Is the only solution a revolution towards communism or a socialism not unlike Steve Jobs’ original Apple commercial, where the workers revolt against Big Brother (IBM)? Will the marvels of technology need to be smashed so that ordinary people can earn a decent wage and create value in a peaceful sustainable environment? It seems to me that all mass movements like this are counterproductive precisely because of the term “mass.” Just as it seems impossible to reverse prejudice with legislation —because it can’t reach into peoples’ hearts and minds —society cannot be transformed positively through mass movements. My father noted this after surviving the Nazi camps and then having to flee the Communists in Czechoslovakia. As socially aware as he was and as an advocate of free public education and medical care (both of which were available in his country between the world wars), he saw the pitfalls of Communism firsthand. With the State in charge the lowest common denominator of performance and greed is actually rewarded. This is evident in totalitarian socialist countries, and of course China and Russia It is ironic that as Russia becomes more capitalist it also seems to have gotten more corrupt, or is it perhaps that the corruption has just “adjusted” to capitalism, with gangsters, Russian style? So my hope is that capitalism might be salvaged as the upper tiers of management become individually conscious. Those that earn a great living managing high tech and other successful businesses, after all, have a stake in their children and grandchildren’s future. Perhaps the most important step we might take to nurture conscious capitalism is to do what Eckhart Tolle has suggested –to teach “presence” in early childhood education. Instead of focusing entirely on the mental gymnastics of achievement and grades we need to disenchant our youth with the intoxicating sense of being intellectually smart and become more aligned with living intelligence. Bruce Lipton concludes his book, “The Biology of Belief,” with the analogy of individual organisms evolving to become conscious as humans, as the cells have “learned” to co-exist and form organs, tissue, and eventually the brain. As the name of this website suggests, now humans may need to evolve “collectively” in order to reach another level of consciousness which may take us beyond all “isms,” including capitalism. Because, let’s face it, all “isms” are conceptual constructs. Even Apple doesn’t exist except as an idea among humans. If aliens landed they would not find a living entity called “Apple” the corporation –only the apples that fall from trees. So as Tolle and others have suggested, to truly evolve and become conscious we must have a generation of leaders who have put their trust and belief not in the conceptual, but in the living truth. Hopefully the events described in the Bloomberg article are small baby steps in the right direction. .
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