Mindfulness in business, work, investment, and leadership-what’s up with all that? I can remember not that long ago when the mention of mindfulness practices in the boardroom or workplace was met with blank stares; now it’s all over the place. It amazes me how quickly it’s moved beyond the fad stage into the realm of best practices. Last week I watched Arianna Huffington talking about mindfulness and business on CNBC’s Squawk Box, featuring moving first person accounts by Aetna CEO John Bertolini and Harvard Business School’s Bill George. That was followed by a HuffPost Live broadcast about mindfulness and work that included our friend and mindful.org contributor Janice Marturano, head of the Institute for Mindful Leadership. Business and work are central to our lives, so I’m very pleased about this development. Our friend Jeff Klein, a leader in this area, tells us that you will be able to learn from CEOs who are actually doing it about how conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit and include the aspirations of all the stakeholders, including employees, customers and the surrounding community. Also in the Bay Area on April 30, Stanford’s CCARE will be hosting a one-day conference on Compassion and Business, presenting research and best practices by leading experts and business leaders who have successfully implemented compassion-based programs in their organizations. It will include three of our favorite leaders in the mindfulness and business world: Chade-Meng Tan of Google and SIYLI, Scott Kriens of Jupiter Networks and the 1440 Foundation, and Chip Conley who developed the Joie de Vivre hospitality chain. Four investors who consistently beat the market over more than 25 years discuss their philosophy and strategies for investing and giving. As part of the discussion, our friend Jeff Walker will lead the panel in a discussion of their own unique strategies for personal development and how these strategies help them to live a more complete and fulfilled life.
Why Is There Poverty? – Allan G. Johnson
More than one out of every six people in the United States lives in poverty or near-poverty. With a majority of the people competing over what’s left to them by the elite, it’s inevitable that a substantial number of people are going to wind up on the short end and living in poverty or with the fear of it much of the time. In part poverty exists because the economic system is organized in ways that encourage the accumulation of wealth at one end and creates conditions of scarcity that make poverty inevitable at the other. If we’re interested in doing something about poverty itself – if we want a society largely free of impoverished citizens – then we’ll have to do something about both the system people participate in and how they participate in it. Learning to run faster may keep you or me out of poverty, but it won’t get rid of poverty itself. People can argue about whether chronic widespread poverty is morally acceptable or what an acceptable level of inequality might look like. If we want to understand where poverty comes from, what makes it such a stubborn feature of social life, we have to begin with the simple sociological fact that patterns of inequality result as much from how social systems are organized as they do from how individuals participate in them. The result is that some people rise out of poverty by improving their competitive advantage, while others sink into it when their advantages no longer work and they get laid off or their company relocates to another country or gets swallowed up in a merger that boosts the stock price for shareholders and earns the CEO a salary that in 2005 averaged more than 262 times the average worker’s pay. The system itself including the huge gap between the wealthy and everyone else and the steady proportion of people living in poverty, stays much the same. Welfare payments, food stamps, housing subsidies, and Medicaid all soften poverty’s impact, but they do little about the steady supply of people living in poverty.
Alienation 2.0: Commodification of the Soul In Late-Stage Capitalism
Some work is subsistence – in fact, for the larger part of history work was mostly related to survival. Sometimes work is meaning – sure, humans can survive without Van Gogh’s Starry Night or the poetic rhythm of Omar Khayyam but wouldn’t it be almost inhuman to say such art was not worth the effort? Some work expresses human values or ideals – tidying up the kitchen helps roommates show respect for one another and volunteering to cook hot meals for the homeless at a local mosque is one way to fight poverty. Although wage labor is a lot like subsisting in many ways, wage-earners do not possess the materials, tools, or space needed for their labor while subsisting workers can access the natural resources they need to make a living. Wage labor is different from other labor because workers neither control the activity of labor itself nor the goods or services they produce. If labor improves a worker’s life or if it gives him a sense of worth and meaning, the worker is the author of his labor and working expresses the worker’s self. The worker treats her work as an object instead of a process under her control – she is alienated from her own actions. Labor moves outward as an expression of self-development and alienation reverses it – alienated labor invades the worker as an activity developing from the outside in. “Labor appears as loss of reality for workers; objectification as loss of the object and object-bondage; appropriation as estrangement, as alienation.”- Karl Marx. The core concept of Marxian alienation is that workers experience a part of themselves as something alien to them and that sounds a lot like dissociation, which psychologists described as experiences of detachment from part of a person’s reality. In a wage system, the worker is immediately alienated by the act of production because all that is produced is automatically another person’s property, disconnecting workers from work itself and its results.