I sent a letter to the WAVE America folks. They sent me a reply.
I can’t help but think that they’re missing the point. But then again, maybe it’s me who’s missing the point. JonKatz met with the WAVE folks, and came away with a pretty grim feeling. After all, Pinkerton is a money-making business, why should they purport to espouse any particular morality with any particular program of their’s?
I’ve been hearing about the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and all the concern people have over the new owners following the existing Social Responsibility policy. I suppose that’s really important for some people; but I just don’t see it as a corporations responsibility to be socially minded. If said corporation chooses to have a social conscience, I think that’s great - but not necessary. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Ann Rand, but I think a corporation’s single goal is to make money. Or maybe it’s to produce the best widgets, a side result of which is that the employees and investors will realize a profit.
I’m honestly not sure that anyone really has a social responsibility. As an agnostic, I certainly don’t feel compelled to be nice to my neighbors from any faith-based point of view. As a fiercely individualistic person, I don’t feel obligated to give my neighbor’s the time of day: they can buy their own damned watch. And if there is some situation that suggests that individuals have a social responsibility, I’m not entirely sure that the same can be said of businesses. I don’t think it translates.
I’ve always thought that Ben & Jerry’s Social Responsibility was something of a gimmick - they knew how to pitch their product and their company to their intended audience. In a manner, this is exactly what Pinkerton is doing with WAVE. They see an audience eager for someone to sweep in with a ‘We can fix it!’ solution. People want to avoid responsibility for the world they are a part of. We bitch and moan about the world at large, and then look to someone else to fix it.
The best response I can think of to WAVE is to simply not partake of their service. Parents ought to be more involved with their children, their education, and their socialization. Pinkerton is just doing what businesses do best: exploiting their market. They could be put out of business fairly easily: parents could get more involved with school goings-on. Schools could be far more encouraging and welcoming of diversity and differences. Young adults could step up to the plate as role models for younger children. We could all start spreading the message that ‘jocks’ and ‘goths’ and ‘geeks’ and ‘preppies’ are all just people. We all deal with similar problems. One set of interests is not better than another. One set of activities is not dangerous.
The reply I got from WAVE encouraged me to participate in their program. That was a smart tactical move. Microsoft has been doing it for years: ‘embrace and extend.’ Bring your opposition into the fold so that they can be a part of the restructuring or redesigning of the product. Try to redirect your opposition from an adversarial to an advocacy position. How many people do that on a regular basis? How often do we try to embrace our opponents and really ‘clue them in’ about who and what we are?
No, instead we propogate the ‘us versus them’ mentality. We assume that they could never understand what I’m going through. They could never relate. That just might be the case - but how often do we try to find out? I think back to my high school and college days, and I really wonder how many great people I never had the pleasure of meeting because I was so self-absorbed; because I was so wrapped up with the ‘us-them’ distinction.
Culture at large propogates a lot of this. Schools place such a high priority on athletics and athletes, and usually downplays academics and theater programs. Advertising shows us that only happy well adjusted people are wearing Tommy Hilfiger clothes, and only really sexy people use the expensive perfumes. Is this true? What’s so important about wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt? Why is wearing all black a stigma? How often do we ask one another why they dress as they do?
I’m just one guy. I’m not going to change culture at large by myself. And maybe everyone else in the world is really happy with the isolationism, villification and labelling that’s going on. Maybe poeple are happier not getting involved with one another’s lives, especially if that involves embracing a radically alien lifestyle.
I guess Pinkerton is going to make a lot of money.