6 July 2012

Their culture of bullshit

I find the onging parade of organisational scandals profoundly depressing. This morning on BBC R4, I listened to the latest story about Glaxo Smith Klein.  Evidently GSK aren't the only pharmaceutical company to act in this way and it is simply a reflection of the culture of greed and avarice that dominates contemporary society and contemporary culture. Whilst he wasn't talking about pharmaceutical companies, David Cameron's comments, quoted here in September of 2010, raise a wry smile:

"For too long, those in power made decisions behind closed doors, released information behind a veil of jargon and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture - and it's called transparency." 

Around the same time, Sir David Kelly, chairman of the committee for standards in public life, said:

"In all of this what's really required is changes in behaviour, it requires a culture in which the principles of public life, selflessness, integrity and so on, are embedded in the behaviour of those who hold public office."

I won't belabour the point but it seems to me that as long as a culture of excess, where money and obtaining it, dominates the focus of the upper strata of public and private life, we will be entertained by this horror-show. We will also be entertained by hypocritical public and political figures who always blame the 'rogue trader' or the 'rogue journalist' or the 'rogue executive' for the latest scandal.

The truth is that, as we have seen in Somerton, when organisations loose touch with wider society and see their power or actions as essentially self-serving, then their actions become self-interested. Vince Cable recognised the inability of the regulators to regulate. By extension, he suggested that the executive is incapable of self-regulation, incapable of acting in a socially or morally responsible manner. And when he suggests that it will only be pressure from beneath, from shareholders, that will cause change, he also suggests that it will only be pressure from beneath, from wider society, which will cause our 'leaders' to rein in the excesses of their venality.

Our 'leaders', and I use the term in its widest sense, have become so used to having their snouts so deep in the trough of excess that they cannot conceive of anything other than their own access to excess.  And this is why our leaders and their cronies fear 'direct action' and condemn anything approaching it as the equivalent of 'terrorism'. And, thus far, it would seem that those who are paying for the excesses of the wider leadership, the common people, are willing to go along with this bullshit.

But Paul Krugman, writing in his excellent book 'End This Depression Now' (ISBN 978-0-393-08877-9) retains a positive view. In the face of such an embedded culture where decency and service are entirely absent, Krugman entreats us, "Don't give up.".

Somerton Somerset