Sunday, August 2, 2009

Self-Preservation: The Ultimate Ironic Mega-Mismatch

The title of this blog entry is the working title for a chapter in my book "I Pledge Allegiance: To What? The Paradox of 'Me.' " (Don't look for it on the bookshelves yet! LOL) Due to space limitations, it will require several weeks for me to fully explore this topic here. Generally, though, the thesis is that our evolutionary, genetically-based behavior patterns -- successful though they were thousands of years ago in a completely different environment -- may lead to our undoing in the modern, high-tech, globalized society we now inhabit. Evolutionary psychologists refer to this situation as a "mismatch" -- an unintended disconnect between what once was a behavioral trait leading successfully to self-preservation through reproductive advantage and the impact of that same behavioral trait in a totally different world.

In the United States today, selfish and self-serving behavior -- once a necessity for survival -- has become institutionalized in powerful and inevitably dysfunctional ways. The ubiquitous corporation, an entity with the official legal status of a person and required by custom and well-established law to act solely in its own best interests, uses its accumulated wealth and power to preserve the status quo, sometimes at the expense of the general welfare. And to the extent that such status quo endangers the planet and/or results in social injustice on a scale that could conceivably lead to social unrest -- thereby putting at risk all that the corporations wish to preserve -- the self-serving behavior may ultimately and ironically become just the opposite.

Please note that this is not a condemnation of either capitalism or democracy. It is, however, a warning that unregulated, unenlightened, short-term self-serving behavior may eventually cause the demise of both.

Let us begin by simply expanding on the obvious: those powerful and wealthy enough to do so frequently hire lobbyists to peddle political influence, with the objective of preserving and/or enhancing such power and wealth. In the State of California, according to the website of the Secretary of State, there are more than 2,300 organizations that employ professional lobbyists. I will list below only a few of these organizations, grouped in accordance with certain traits or habits possessed by California residents:

Those who were born (hmm, OK, that's pretty inclusive): California Medical Association, California Nurses Association, California Hospital Association.

Those who live in an apartment or a house: California Apartment Association, California Building Industry Association, California Association of Realtors, Escrow Institute of California, California Construction & Industry Materials Association.

Those who eat: California Grocers Association, California League of Food Processors, Dairy Institute of California, California Restaurant Association, California Farm Bureau Association.

Those who buy anything: California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Alliance, California Retailers Association, Direct Marketing Association.

Those who purchase insurance: Anthem Blue Cross, Associaton of California Insurance Companies, California Association of Health Plans, Alliance of Insurance Agents & Brokers, Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies.

Those who use the telephone: Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc and Its Affiliates.

Those who will eventually die: Cemetery and Mortuary Association of California.

Special interests hire lobbyists to influence your life from cradle to grave. Are you surprised? I doubt it. But you may be surprised at how powerful these interests are. Tune in again next week.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you delving into this issue! The influence of lobbying groups has grown so significantly and it's an issue that has yet to really be dealt with, even after the whole Abramoff debacle. Moreover, the current health care debate is a perfect example of the strength of lobbying groups in determining an outcome that is favorable to them, regardless of whether the public interest is jeopardized or disregarded in the process. Look forward to reading your part two next week.