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Friday, September 7, 2012

The gift of seeing things in perspective


Culture is a more influential phenomenon than we often think, and I don’t just mean the culture of a country, but every prevailing behavioral pattern in large and smaller communities. The other day I read in an article about an employee of a Brazilian beer company who was granted $25,000.00 after suing his employer for unreasonable and unethical demands. The man accused his employer of forcing him to participate in parties with prostitutes and watching pornographic movies. The judge handling this case asserted that the plaintiff, who is married and a devoted member of a Christian Church, had frequently been humiliated and ridiculed by his coworkers.

Disturbing situation, especially if we consider that it happens far more often than we read about it. Workforce members often find that they can only safeguard their jobs if they stretch their ethical boundaries. One can say, of course, that everyone is free to move on if they feel that their job brings unreasonable demands, but that's easier said than done, because we all know that jobs are not readily available, and that one cannot simply exit if one has monthly expenses and a family to uphold.

So, it might be worthwhile to examine why working people are placed before these types of moral challenges. First off, I would like to clarify that I, personally, have nothing against commercial sex workers. I think they suffice a need and probably even help lower the number of rape crimes in their communities. What disgusts me is the fact that business executives consider it necessary to entertain their affluent clients with distasteful activities that place their employees before ethical dilemmas.

And this is not a problem limited to certain parts of the world: it’s a global pestilence. In America plenty of scandals have been published over the years, especially about financial giants on Wall Street, where the millions roll as if they were peppermints. By default, women have had a hard time staying afloat in such an environment, not only because they often got harassed or bullied by their male coworkers, but also because they felt awkward taking clients to strip clubs. As a result women in this sector remain unmarried or exchange their high-paying but unreasonable jobs less prestigious but more ethically sound ones. The male employees generally seem to have fewer problems with this culture, even though there are some who abhor this part of their obligations, such as the above-mentioned Brazilian beer company employee.

As for the forced viewing of porn films I do have some reservations, because I feel that one doesn't have to look at something one doesn’t want to see. Of greater concern to me is the fact that some may think justice has been done now that the Brazilian beer company employee has been awarded $ 25,000.00 for having to endure this culture. But when we consider that the company has an annual turnover of more than half a billion, it quickly becomes clear that this sum is an absurd pittance for this mammoth company. Consequently, I would be very surprised if this fine would change anything about this corporation’s culture. After all, if you can sway a client into a collaboration that will guarantee several millions of dollars annually, and in return you might be fined the meager sum of $25,000.00 every ten years, would you stop if you had no moral conscience? Of course not!

Therefore, I believe that this entire damage compensation issue is a farce, intended to derail the masses, while the wicked corporate culture gets prolonged uninterruptedly. But then again, there’s nothing new under the sun.

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