Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Corporations Aren't People

Almost twenty years ago, when my mother passed away, I had occasion to do some transactions with various banks. Most were straightforward but one of the largest in California gave me a very hard time, and I determined not to do business with them again.

Then recently another bank credit card had a limit on its cash back rewards which I reached, and at the same time the large bank advertised a friendly no limits reward policy. So I signed up.

After my first two purchases I received a phone message with no identification from “Credit Card Services” asking me to call back. When I did they wouldn’t tell me which bank and said it was a “courtesy call.”

I wanted to know who it was and called back, finally learning that it was the new credit card bank, not a surprise, and they said my account had been flagged for security.

I asked for what purchases they needed a confirmation and they indicated a $20 grocery charge I had made that day. I suggested that if they continued to call me for every charge and didn’t identify themselves on the phone I would not be a customer, and the calls stopped.

Then I finally had a cash reward available for $52.55 and wanted my cash. To get the cash sent online was a very complicated process and it had to be in $25 increments, meaning I could not get the full amount.

So I called and was told that the reason for the $25 increment was simply their “policy”, which was repeated by an indifferent supervisor with no attempt to empathize or see my point of view.

I understand their—obviously by withholding some money they keep me using the card. But at least make an attempt to see the customer’s perspective—not even the usual saccharine “we apologize for the inconvenience” from the supervisor.

I chalked it up to business as usual until I got a Customer Service survey form in email. I thought, wow, maybe they really have some semblance of interest and I can comment on my experience. That’s when I saw this in the email:

When you reach the login screen, please enter the following information:

Your project ID is: y8234x

Your login ID is: 9823456

Your password is: nrtfs

(Information is changed in the above example)

I mean really, what human would come up with a procedure like this for providing feedback, presumably to show a level of concern for the customer?

Human life is complicated enough. But as motivated as I was to perhaps indicate to them how unfeeling and indifferent they had already been, this proved to me that they had no comprehension of just how inconsiderate this request is.

This is just a small but meaningful example of the hoops that institutions put us through that make our lives so challenging today—because if we fail to comply with these “arbitrary policies” which are always for the institution’s benefit and not for ours, we know that we are in for a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape to straighten out the inevitable mess.

What makes it even worse is to watch the commercials for these companies on TV, or God forbid, to read their mission statements. One would think that the needs of the customer and care and consideration would be uppermost in their priorities. We’re always “part of the family”, dysfunctional as that family might be.

Give me a company that tells the truth. They didn’t invent the product to make our lives better and because they care—they are in it to make money.

And that is of course the crux of the matter.

Companies aren’t human because that is their real purpose, to increase the digits on a balance sheet.

The fact that humans (more or less) set the policies that maximize profit is irrelevant; the reality is that corporations are an abstraction that exist for an abstract concept: profit.

One can hear arguments that they do community work (for PR to increase profits) and provide jobs (which pay very little these days except for the exalted policy-makers)—and some of this might be mitigating factors if it weren’t for one thing.


The example of the log in procedure, the unwanted phone calls and the televised offer of a user friendly credit card all point to the unlevel playing field between corporations and humans.

Because of our humanity—we experience the fear that lack of compliance can engender and the overwhelming presence of their megalithic intrusion into our lives and find ourselves at the mercy of these figments of human imagination.

The power struggle that looms, now that the Supreme Court has qualified them as “human” entities with rights, may well mirror or rival the intensity of the current conflicts in the Middle East.

The central problem is the worship of money and the imbalance in power between these giant electronic entities and the humans that need to deal with them.

If humans don’t wise up, things will get worse. Of course we can always fill in a customer satisfaction form – then everything will be ok.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Matter of Scale

Lately I’ve been “wasting” a lot of time thinking about strange things. For example…

DNA has been on Earth for 3.5 Billion years – within the first bacteria.

Human software maybe for 60 (circa 1950 early mainframe computers).

As we know from geneticist Juan Enriquez, among others, speaking at TED, both programs work on the same basis—change the Code and the output changes. Change the code in MS Word, the font changes. Change the code in DNA, the species characteristics change.

If both are based on an intentional idea, perhaps we can put aside for a moment the idea that life began spontaneously in the oceans, and play with the notion that maybe DNA software was “downloaded” from somewhere, someone or something.

I know it begs the question where did it ultimately originate – but we can certainly sense that it’s been running its Evolutionary “program” for a lot longer than we’ve been running Microsoft Word.

When we consider how long we’ve been using technology, that span of time is dwarfed by almost everything even in the most recent era.
When we look at our civilization in comparison to the age of primates, everything human is pretty much flattened into a relative minute of time.

And, if we take a larger perspective than that even the entire span of human history becomes almost insignificant…

Based on longevity alone one might surmise that a much Higher Intelligence has been “at work” on Earth for a span of time that is almost infinite in comparison to our own Science.

One might ask if other cultures have been in closer touch with this intelligence. I would submit that the Egyptians, with their mathematically and astronomically precise pyramids and a philosophy that did not seem to distinguish between philosophy, science and religion, or spirit and matter, might have been so connected. This would be supported by renegade archeologists who claim that the Great Pyramid is an astronomical marker and observatory and that the source of Egyptian wisdom predates the pharaohs by centuries if not millennia.

One of these archeologists puts the actual date of the Sphinx at 5000-8,000 years BC—altering our sense of the span of civilization significantly. The basis for this is the apparent presence of water erosion at the base which would have presumably been caused when the area was still fertile (not a desert).

One might well speculate how a civilization that used a different set of symbols and deities to represent what we consider psychological and metaphysical concepts might have experienced life on earth—in many ways they could be considered to have been running an entirely different “operating system.”

Of course even more “far out” theorists, starting with Erik von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods, have speculated that ancient monuments around the globe are evidence of visitations by extraterrestrials that might have altered the course of evolution with scientific wisdom (genetics) that we are only now discovering.

These speculations have been derided by conventional science as unfounded – but if we consider that only 750 years ago everyone in the western world believed the world was flat and now we “know” that the universe is about 14 billion years old, we might wonder what else we don’t know.

Von Daniken himself has been exposed as unscrupulous, making him almost a modern day Trickster, whose methods might be questionable but whose beliefs and theories seem eerily provocative.

For example, if you think about the Bible as a historical account of humans without technology, and consider that perhaps beings with advanced technology were present, then the “chariots in the sky” of Ezekiel would suggest flying craft, while the concept of preserving species from extinction with an “Ark” might similarly suggest a genetic storage facility—like the seed banks that the government is now creating to store the genetic source of the earth’s food supply in case of disaster or war.

Why are these issues so intriguing?

We base so much of our beliefs on left brain science without questioning it.

We take a lot of things for granted—starting with Existence.

Where did a universe with billions of galaxies that is still expanding after 14 billion years come from?

Is it an accident or a matter of chance? What would that even mean?

One might ask if such knowledge is not as far beyond our comprehension as the difference between the span of time of our own species or civilization, and the span of time of life on Earth—or the age of the solar system or our own galaxy, the Milky Way?

It is interesting to consider that our own software development in the computer field often refers to matters of “scale” –which are influenced by physical storage and computing power but also can be a function of programming acumen; in other words, new concepts like an algorithm can exponentially scale the power of a program to perform its task.

In the case of genetic decoding itself, it wasn’t until we reached the capacity of a Supercomputer that storing all of the genetic information for an individual or a species (its Genome) was possible.

So, are “primitive” cultures that “worship”, or relate directly with something Higher really so backward, compared to us, or do they have a relationship with a reality that we have lost, in spite of our magnificent scientific progress?

What would it mean to have such a relationship with reality?

Might it mean changing our own inner programming in some way, as to be able to literally connect with something much Higher and greater than ourselves?

How would that be accomplished. Does meditation begin to open such channels?

That’s what I sometimes meditate on when I have twenty minutes to spare.