A Plea for Common Good Sense

I realize how this might sound. But, I feel like I have to say it. I wish that more of us would make a choice to work more for the common good. I want us all to have a better sense of our common good. I am worried about the direction our country is going, where we are going as a people.

Maybe I’ve watched too many movies. Maybe things never were all that good, people were never all that kind. But, I think things were different. I think that we went to war for the right reasons in WWII. I mean, it’s not like we’ve found out that, in actuality, despite what some idiots might say, the stories about the Nazi’s were exaggerated. I don’t think there was some kind of conspiracy to get us into the war so we could secure our supply of sauerkraut. But, ever since then, it seems like our wars have ulterior motives.

And our parents tell stories about how you didn’t even lock the door of your house when you went out. Seriously? I turn on the burglar alarm at night and if we leave the house for more than a short errand, and even then sometimes. I have deadbolts and bars and dogs.

I think things were different with employers and bosses, too. It used to be that an employer took care of their employees. It was the right thing to do. And, it made sense because your employees made your company better. Employees felt cared for, worked harder, had loyalty. It wasn’t just a paycheck, it was your job. Now, that being said, it couldn’t have been all roses since the government did, at some point, need to step in and mandate a minimum wage as well as health benefits for full time workers.

So, maybe that last part is wishful thinking and Hollywood hoohah.

But, I can’t help feeling like things are different now. And I wish we would all just make a decision to do it differently.

A lot of it has to do with corporations and the drive for profits. It’s hard to blame corporations. They do what they are designed to do. And, not only that, they have a legal obligation to maximize profits. But, maybe some things shouldn’t be for profit. Things like schools, health care and utilities. Capitalism is a good system for business. But education is not a business. It is an art. We have a problem when we are cutting costs to maximize profits when it comes to education. Or health care. Because what happens when you start thinking of cutting corners, making things more efficient? Well, we know what happens. We lose. People don’t get the care they need. The don’t learn the things they need to learn. Utilities that earn a profit mean that some people won’t get them because it will price them out of the market. Or, that profit-taking will occur in times when supply drops or demand rises.

Isn’t that what we saw with the housing bubble? Isn’t that what we’re seeing with gas right now? Libya produces about 3% of the world’s oil, but that’s all the excuse that was needed to start raising gas prices 20 – 30 cents per gallon. Rediculous.

The Buddhists have a concept called Right Livelihood from the Eightfold Path.

I am not a Buddhist so I will probably either oversimplify this or get it otherwise wrong, so I apologize in advance. However, as I understand it, it is the idea that we should make our living in life in a way that doesn’t hurt or victimize others. Think about that for a second. No, think about it for a good minute. How many corporations violate this all the time? We have Apple and the FoxConn controversy. Or Enron. BP. All of Wall Street. HMOs. I mean, let’s be honest here. Practically every business of any success has made a good portion of it’s profit on the backs of some people or another in a way that has made them poorer or less happy in the process. Think of all the polluted streams and toxic dumps, the sweatshops and the grey markets. We don’t even pay the full cost of things because of the human suffering that subsidizes our commerce.

But, hey, that’s Capitalism. People vote with their dollars and all that. Well, yeah, if we know about it.

But, what if we lived in a world where people decided to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do? What if they paid people more than they had to? What if they paid workers a living wage and helped them take care of themselves and their families when they were sick? What if we lived in a world where a corporation published their misdeeds and then offered to make amends to those who were hurt? What if we lived in a world where corporations actually tried to make decisions that made people’s lives better, safer and healthier instead of making the shareholders richer? What if we lived in a world where the only time war was fought was really to defend freedom and justice? What if we lived in a world where freedom was actually for everyone and not just the people that look like us? What if we lived in a world where people paid their taxes because it made everyone a little better off? What if everyone paid a fair share? What if everyone paid a fair share? (Yes, I said it twice because it seems like such a novel concept. If you have more, you pay more, but in the same percentage as everyone else. And, as I remind my students who complain, “That’s not fair!” Fair means everyone gets treated the same. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fair.)

What if we lived in a world where people actually had a sense for the common good? Then, being good wouldn’t be so uncommon.


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