A huge number of lives will be saved and an unimaginable amount of suffering eased, should the alcohol trade change its ways. There is much talk of the potential for good through voluntary agreements reached with the big players controlling this business worldwide. But the results of the deals so far have been, we learn, below par. ‘A waste of time’, is the cry from those who’ve tried long and hard and failed. But why have these attempts not borne much fruit thus far?
Maybe the deals were sought by parties with no strong mandate to speak for the (global) public’s good? Or those chosen to speak for the trade weren’t properly picked? Who can really represent such a global giant, to discuss the business practices it will henceforth change? Board members, paid staff, shareholders or ‘experts’ engaged for the negotiation cannot really speak with authority on policy for next year. And those they meet with, to negotiate (such as those from health agencies or concerned interest groups), can’t be sure they will be involved even two years later, to follow up on decisions.
Voluntarily agreements generally work when they reflect personal commitment. The parties concerned know very well that they can hold the other to account if one should cheat. An unspoken message when two people agree is that the cheat loses face. Even among regular cheats there’d be quite a few who’d find it hard to look in the eye the person they deceive. But with ‘representatives’ and ‘delegations’ it’s another matter altogether. A new spokesperson can always feel free to contest interpretations of earlier text agreed by another person. To make things worse, the people who came when the voluntary deal was sealed may well have left the company by now. This is part of the problem with implementing voluntary codes agreed with mega-corporations of all kinds.
The alcohol trade is not the only commercial entity that is aware that it directly kills many of its customers. When discussions are held with trades, to minimize the harm they cause, the underlying sanctity given to human life still counts. That’s because the people who come, representing the trade, are still human persons. The corporation they negotiate on behalf of is also recognized as a person – but of a different kind. It’s a legal, though non-human person. Flesh and blood people are employed by the ‘higher’ non-human person, to fight on its behalf.
Humanity, or some few humans, chose long ago to give life and human rights to corporations. A newly created sub-species, called corporations, was conferred rights hitherto enjoyed by living and breathing humans. People trying to persuade the alcohol trade to adopt kinder policies forget that the corporate person was not created quite in the human image. It was only provided legal existence and the power to undertake commerce. Armed with this dispensation, the corporations have taken us over and are steadily escaping effective human control.
To learn how we may partner the alcohol trade in a shared effort for the pubic good, we must first learn how human control can be re-exerted over corporate entities in general. This is difficult – for the corporation now uses humans rather than the other way around. Neither the shareholders, nor the staff, nor indeed governments or any other entity outside it, can influence its nebulous core. Humanity has no real means through which to question or change a corporation’s mode of existence. Its immutability allows it to mould powerless employees, CEOs, directors and all, to conform to its vision; to use humans as it pleases and spit them out when it chooses, all the while ensuring that some human beings get the blame.
So let’s face it. The human spirit can no longer reach a multinational corporation at its core. This is primarily because there are no human owners. There is only a diffuse and ever-changing collection of shareholders – and indeed staff. The chief shareholders are in turn other corporate entities. So the corporation belongs to nobody or to humanity at large or to some other abstraction. These corporate entities are pseudo-beings ennobled through the conferment of human rights. Those who, in their wisdom, gave independent existence and power to such bodies forgot to give them feelings and ethics. But our human negotiations are based strongly on feelings and ethics.
We have to recapture and tame corporations of this kind, and if that proves too hard, simply kill them off. These virtual entities have already acquired enough life for us to feel squeamish about contemplating their destruction. But humans have at some point to be liberated, especially those controlled totally by corporations and held blindly in their thrall. This requires only that we rescind all laws that give to corporations, companies and other such bodies all the rights enjoyed by us. They can no longer be held legally on par with flesh and blood human individuals. It’s as simple as that.
We can then begin fruitful discussions with the new human owners of the trade, who will as a result emerge. It should be easy for us to work out, if it were humans speaking on both sides, how together we can steadily reduce the disastrous damage from this drug.