Please be patient with me. I don’t quite have all of this out of my system yet.
Here’s an interesting story. For every dollar earned by an average production worker, a corporate CEO will make $431. This is up from $100 to $1 a little over a decade ago.
Doesn’t that sound odd? Why would the person who actually produces the product be paid so little in comparison with a guy who – essentially – produces nothing?
The secret is that the CEO is someone who knows “how to get things done.” And if, by saying “getting things done,” you think I mean that he has demonstrated the unique ability to make sure that his company’s workers and the consumers of its products are living whole, spiritually fulfilling lives, you would be dead wrong.
As we have already seen, compassion has no real value – and the perception of compassion is only of marginal usefulness – in the most dehumanized sectors of the McCulture.
In the McCulture, “getting things done” means making sure that a company has a nice, healthy bottom line. There are two ways to do that: (1) keep costs as low as possible and (2) keep revenues as high as possible. Preferably, both. This means it is the CEO’s job to make sure that production workers are as few as possible and paid as little as possible. It also means that it is his job to try to sell products that are as inexpensive to produce (and, hence, as invaluable) as possible.
Am I being overly cynical if I say that the $431-an-hour trick is to make your workers and consumers alike think that you are giving them more than they really are? On the employee end of things, it is called “management.” Good “managers” are considered those who can get as much value out of employees for as little money as possible: the more hours, harder work, and less pay, the better.
On the consumer end of things, it is called “marketing.” The key here is to attach some value to your product that costs as little as possible (or better yet, nothing) to produce. Thus, grossly over-priced toys on QVC have greater value as a means to re-establish a relationship with estranged grandkids. An expensive package of diapers is worth twice the money because it makes you one of the “good mommys” who takes care of her baby’s precious bottom. Ordinary textiles and rubbers assume immense value when a designer label (or a swoosh) is attached. Very nice, but not noticably superior, MP3 players fly off the shelves when they are associated with the hip-ness of the IPod label.
In a best case scenario, the brand itself becomes the value. Coke. Starbucks. Nike. Disney. All of these “brands” have value not because of superior product but because somehow, along the way, the McCulture convinced the masses that they make you cooler or feel warmer or happier when you use them. It is the perceived “experience” of using the branded product that makes you think it is more valuable than competitive products that are otherwise equal in quality.
None of these observations are new, of course. That the McCulture whispers these deceptions has been understood by a wide sector of the population for some time.
But here is the thing that blows me away: even after we acknowledge to ourselves that these intangible added values are deceptive, most of us still buy products and services on that basis.
I’m still working on the answer to that question.