The Only Way Is Ethics

 

monopoly

The much-loved board game Monopoly contains a lesson for all capitalists, one that seems especially relevant given the news this week that Tesco has serially screwed its suppliers with cynically late payments, complicated clawback scams and barely-veiled threats to comply with its one-sided “negotiations”, or else.

The lesson is not, at first glance, obvious but can be summed up as “the winner loses”. In the world of Monopoly, players are in a closed system with a finite amount of money to be shared. The object of the game is to serially screw over your opponents until all their money is your money, all their property your property and the only remaining solace for the sore losers is the pleasing prospect of smashing in the winner’s big, fat, smug, amoral face. Having won, however, the game is now at an end. With no more players left to fleece, the winner could only carry on the game by endlessly circulating the existing money between properties and utilities they already own. The mechanism for wealth creation has essentially disappeared. To quote Hans Gruber misquoting Plutarch in Die Hard: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept; for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

The relevance to Tesco is not necessarily that the supermarket chain is doomed to end up in a monopolistic prison of its own design. In an economy that is not closed, wealth production tends to ensure an endless supply of future victims to feed the vampire squids of commerce. Rather it is the inherent short-termism of a policy that squeezes one’s alleged partner until their pips squeak and then discards them without a “by your leave”. It is the depressing range of line-of-least-resistance strategies that you sense no one in the business’s upper echelon can see past, or can be bothered to challenge, because, well, you know, it’s all about results now: jam today. What would the shareholders say if we dared to take the jackboot from our suppliers’ throats for a second, just to let them breath every once in a while?

It’s not just Tesco. Everywhere you look, the biggest players in industry and commerce seem hellbent on their own variants of jam today policies, their visions stretching no farther than the next set of results to set before the Board. When Google dropped its “Don’t Be Evil” motto it was but a short march from there to the risible tissue of lies that comprises its corporate tax reporting today. And let’s not even get started on the effect of this corporate malaise on the companies’ own personnel. Far from being “our most valuable asset” most staff find themselves in pretty much the same boat as the suppliers: caught between a rock and a hard place as they strive to make good the ridiculous cheques that their masters write on their behalf.

There is a word that is sadly missing from the vocabulary of many of today’s executives. They would probably find it ludicrously quaint and laughably naive. They probably saw it on a poster somewhere once and wondered what it meant. The word is “ethical”.

It shouldn’t have to be made a mandatory requirement for a business to be ethical in its dealings; it should be obvious to even the meanest intelligence that win-win is a better long term strategy than win-lose. But then most businesses are so myopic they make Mr Magoo look positively eagle-eyed.

 

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Feeling Low

shhh bowie.jpg

Monday morning head fog,

Dead dog telling me to stay down

“Lay down your dreams, boy,

‘Cause nothing good is in your stars.”

Reach out and turn the TV on

Something’s wrong,

The news is playing ‘Life on Mars’?

*

The Dog Star has set at last,

Faded fast:

Hero passed.

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Tributes to a Starman

bowie

David Bowie RIP

The sad death of David Bowie has brought with it the usual, generally poignant, host of Twitter tributes. Among these are some posts that are reactions to David Cameron’s own tribute. These range from the splenetic (e.g. surely he’s too busy fucking pigs’ mouths to listen to Bowie) to the indignant (e.g. what right does HE have to even comment on Bowie’s death?).

Now I am no Cameron fan; I disagree with a number of his policies and views; likewise those of Corbyn. Cameron may or may not have been a Bowie fan; Bowie was non-committal about his own politics. Whatever the case, the  moment you believe it is genuinely morally repugnant for an elected Prime Minister to say something nice in tribute to a rock icon who died is the moment when you should really turn the mirror on yourself and wonder just how twisted your world view has become.

 

 

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Third Degree Burns

It’s the time of year for this to be appropriate once more. Happy 2016 everyone!

Kind of Lime

Image

It’s New Year’s Eve and later, after a few snifters, we’ll no doubt be singing Auld Lang Syne. But what on Earth does it all mean? Fear not, my faithful friends! I studied Burns at school and, as my gift to you as we part with 2013, I am happy to bring you the inside dope on what was going on amid that impenetrable thicket of Scots. You’re welcome.

**************************

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

Should we forget our old friends and not remember them?

[Note how Burns uses this tautological device to drive home his point about forgetting things. Like the thing he just said.]

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Should we forget our old friends and Old Lang Syne!

[Old Lang Syne was a teacher of mathematics at Dalrymple Parish School where Burns first learned some of the things he later forgot. At that…

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A Conversation With God

In the light of the atrocities in Paris, a repeat of this blog seems in order…

Kind of Lime

God

“Well,” I say, somewhat hesitantly. “This is awkward.”

God raises an enquiring eyebrow: “How so?”

“Well, what with me being an atheist and all…”

God throws up a self-deprecatory hand.

“Oh that!” He says. “Think nothing of it. Water off a duck’s back.”

“Really? Only I got the impression it was rather important to You.”

“If you don’t mind Me saying so, it seems more important to you.”

I ponder this for a while. “Well, it’s just that I did, once, believe in You. Went to church. Sang in the choir. Every Sunday and Holy Day. Religiously, You might say.”

God chuckles. He clearly sees what I did there.

“And did you enjoy it?” He asks.

“For a while. Especially at Christmas. Then I started having doubts. Those turned into big doubts. And, well, there You go.”

God nods understandingly. “I see your difficulty. Might I ask a question?”

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Lest We Forget

I first posted this two years ago, since when the world has arguably become even more dangerous for innocent civilians, whatever their nationality or creed. As I feared, Syria is still very much at the forefront. I truly hope in another two years we will have sorted our collective shit out.

But I won’t be holding my breath.

Kind of Lime

NYC

Twelve years ago today, Mrs. Limey and I were aboard a charter flight to Crete. The journey had been largely uneventful until around an hour from landing, when the cabin crew grew suddenly and noticeably tense. They asked us, politely but firmly, to return the DVD players we had been watching, although with no explanation as to why. Clearly something was amiss.

What they knew, and we didn’t, was that 9-11 was underway.

We remained in ignorance right up until we reached our hotel room. Then, as is something of a holiday tradition, Mrs. L retired to the bathroom while I, rather than do something useful, like unpack, turned on the television to check out the exact number and nature of the available channels.

The television screen flickered into life, to reveal the unmistakeable skyline of New York. As I watched, a jet plane careened silently, as if in slow…

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Move Over, Stanley Kubrick…

Just over a year ago I put together an amateurish little music video and posted it on You Tube. So far it has had exactly ten views. Not exactly viral, I fear. It certainly won’t be knocking Grumpy Cat and his ilk off their virtual perches, that’s for sure. On the other hand, ten is a nice number. Three better than seven, I would venture to suggest.

Psychologists tell us that we tend to be too fond of our own ideas. We nurture our little brainchildren and become very over-protective and under-objective. Also we tend to act a lot like pushy parents, shoving our progeny into the limelight at the drop of a hat and shouting “Look at them! JUST LOOK AT THEM! Aren’t they wonderful?”

In my defence, I may now be reasonably accused of the same thing, but think how much discipline it took to wait a year before I cracked and went the route of self-indulgence.

Now watch my bloody film you bastards!

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