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Over the years, there's been a shift in social perspective, away from the expectation that governments can and should provide for those who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances involving their health, employment or living situations. Corporations are given tax breaks while service costs are shifted onto the middle class and working poor. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there is an expectation that private resources will provide whatever is needed. There is often another undercurrent of belief running through this narrative - an assumption that the poor and the suffering must somehow have brought their circumstances upon themselves.
When our local governments hold Housing Summits in which they tackle homelessness by redefining the parameters of what constitutes affordable housing and claim success because there are or will be a handful of living spaces available for purchase under $150, 000, when American Walmart executives believe that it's perfectly acceptable to hold food drives for their own employees while refusing to pay living wages or provide benefits or decent working conditions, something is terribly wrong in the system.
In my last posts, I've written about ways in which each one of us can help others with small acts of kindness. Such individual acts do not absolve governments or corporations from social responsibility. Even if every person with means was able to provide for those less fortunate, our governments and the businesses which rely on the fruits of our labours have a duty to give back to the community.
Businesses exist to make profits. There's nothing wrong with that; it's what businesses do. When businesses and corporations claim status as citizens while mistreating employees and laying off people to add to already huge shareholder profits and executive bonuses, it's past time for some push back. Here's where our individual actions can come into play.
Corporations speak in dollars, so the advice to "Shop Local," and support small, personal, family run businesses is sound, but there is more that we can do. We can call out corporations who disguise advertising in the form of donations and we can insist that our governments fund the services we need, rather than hiring consultants to study problems yet again. We can pressure these institutions directly, in writing. We can lay out our cases to the media. We can protest on the ground. We can educate ourselves on the actual costs of corporate and government models for P3 partnerships and use that education to question those who provide us with statistics which don't ring true. We can continue to call for clean air, for clean water, for the preservation of our planet. We can demand that every being is respected, regardless of their gender, race, culture, spiritual beliefs or social circumstances. We can and we must let our voices be heard.
I believe that these three segments of society - individuals, government and business - bear responsibility for the support of the entire social system. When we shift the weight of social responsibility from one or two of these segments onto a single support, the entire system is in danger of collapsing. Balance requires cooperation among all three.
There is no new insight here. I am simply restating what has been discussed for decades, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue repeating the message. We may think that our voices will never be heard, but that's the nature of Karma Yoga. We do these things because they are necessary. While we hope that our words and our actions will bring positive results, it is our only reasoned, moral, conscious action that is required. At the very least, we can practice "Doing No Harm." It's a start.