Sunday, March 22, 2009

Habits of Thought

Habits are living things. What we do by habit means that we are not taking that action by choice. I refer specifically to habits of thinking although habitual conduct covers the entire spectrum of actions. In the past couple of years, we, all of us, have slipped into certain habits of thought on political and economic subjects. Conservatives deplore liberals because of the habitual conservative thinking that liberals are intent on having government take over control of all aspects of our lives. Liberals deplore conservative thinking precisely for the opposite reason; namely, that imposing the requirement that individuals be held responsible for their own conduct overlooks the fact that societal impacts create large discrepancies in abilities between haves and have-nots. One has only to sit down and read the various Supreme Court decisions regarding higher education and affirmative action, Bakke and its progeny, to appreciate the full bloom and spectrum of habitual thinking between conservative and liberal which serve as the current triggers to responses in our society. A perfect example of a current habitual knee jerk response is the Limbaugh-driven prayer that is based on the hope that Obama will fail in his quest to right the economic disaster our country is facing. In a sane world, unless one is living inside a bubble and cut off completely with contact from the outside world, how could anyone hope for such a thing? It is obvious that such a Limbaugh proclamation is not the result of clear and logical analysis, but the product of idealogic cut and paste squares of mindless thoughts trying to be forced into a round hole. Limbaugh was thrown off a network football show a couple of years back because of his proclamation that the NFL needed black quarterbacks to succeed (in spite of his implied insinuation that they would somehow be incapable of doing so). The black quarterback in his sights at that time went on to lead a team to a Super Bowl championship a couple of years later. Viewed through the prism of Limbaugh's demonstrated pattern of habitual thought, our current black quarterback (Obama) is doomed to fail and one can easily understand why Limbaugh said what he said. Other examples of conservative habit thoughts come to mind; trial lawyer, tax and spend, nuisance lawsuits, and Democrat. These words have come to generate a recognized pattern of habitual responses that are as predictable as saying the sun will always come up in the morning.

The upshot of all this is that I find I must force myself to think about my habitual response to corporate America. My knee jerk response is to lead with a notion that CEO-types only evaluate a corporate action in terms of dollars to be generated with minimal regard to the impact on the lives of people. As an example, I can cite half a dozen situations involving the testing and marketing of prescription drugs in which deaths of users were concealed to avoid loss of sales or FDA approval. Once that repeated pattern of observed conduct burned into my brain, I find it hard now to let it go and assume that some CEOs are behaving properly. The current economic crisis, in my view, is caused by predictable CEO-type activities in the economic sector akin to the patterns of conduct in the pharmaceutical sector. I had a pleasant lunch yesterday with a corporate bank official, an upper level guy with one of the banks receiving large amounts of bailout money. Although it was in a social context, Larry spoke passionately about his bank's plan to return every single penny of the bailout money within the coming year. He says that the bank's economic activities thus far will not only return the taxpayers' investment, but a tidy profit. All in all, it was the best news I've heard from the economic front in quite a few months. I want my habitual negative thinking about corporate America to be cast aside. I choose to think about the positive side. I want corporate America to win this battle. I also want Obama to win. I don't have to think about that.

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