The age of innocence is over

A long time ago, at the end of the last century,

When I was starting off in the world of work,

it was possible, even normal, when running a business,

to treat money and growth as the highest priority

and ignore the wider consequences.

That age of innocence is over.

We have seen what the heedless pursuit of growth can do and it is not pretty.

Drug companies bribe doctors to over-prescribe medication.

Food retailers treat animals and customers alike as mere commodities,

valued only for their contribution to the bottom line.

Car manufacturers pollute the air and lie about it.

And cynicism reigns.

Meanwhile, the workers — human “resources” — lead lives of quiet desperation,

fearing the boss who wields such power over their lives.

Meanwhile, away from the public eye,

living creatures and entire eco-systems are

exploited, polluted and destroyed.

There are still organisations where every morning

the tribe members swear allegiance to the God Mammon.

But their days are numbered, their hey-day long past.

The human beings who work there find it ever harder

to justify what they do, even to themselves.

Deep down, they know their work is meaningless at best

and predatory at worst.

Their “sustainability” initiatives mostly

do more harm than good, serving as a mask

to disguise deeper and darker motivations.

All that is left is denial and pretence.

Some will mourn the passing of the age of innocence,

yearning for the simpler days of yore.

But there’s no going back. Innocence lost cannot be recovered.

I know — I have been there.

The only way to go is forward,

towards acceptance.

Accept our failings, embrace our humanity,

all of it, the beautiful and the ugly,

and come together to build the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,

one business at a time.

barefoot lawyer. Co-founder of Human Organising Co. Writes about governance and the future of work and organisations. See barefootlawyer.uk

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