Capitalism in Crisis: Readers Respond

May 1, 2002

In this issue:

Newsbrief: New Paul Ray Essay Available for Review

Responses to April’s Editorial: Capitalism in Crisis: Readers Respond
Newsbriefs: John Planning Australia Trip in Late 2002
Spirit in Business Event a Huge Hit: Seven Companies Honored
Next Month’s Editorial: Who Are the Real Modern-Day “Tyrants”?


New Paul Ray Essay Available for Review

Social researcher Paul Ray, co-author of Cultural Creatives, has written an essay entitled “The New Political Compass” which he’s authorized for distribution and feedback; anyone wanting a copy of this 72 page document in PDF format.


Responses to April’s Editorial [due to the number of responses to last month’s editorial (“Course Correction: What’s Next After the Enron and 9-11 Tragedies?”) the topic planned for this month’s issue of Better Future NEWS has been postponed until next month]

Capitalism in Crisis: Readers Respond
by John Renesch

Last month’s BFN editorial – “Course Correction: What’s Next After the 9-11 and Enron Tragedies?” – generated plenty of responses, ranging from cyber “high fives” and “atta-boys” to desires for a formula – or action items – for restoring the system that is so far out of whack. Some wanted recommended actions that went beyond my call for Americans to end our chauvinistic nationalism and embrace a more conscious form of capitalism.

Other responses from outside the U.S. included some expressions of concern for me and my well-being. Phrases such as this one from Great Britain: “You do know what you’re setting yourself up for right? You will not
have the support of the majority of the people… the timing inside the USA
is very much “If you’re not with us… ‘yer agin us'” if you get my drift.”

Here are portions of two emails I received, and my response:

Reader #1: “…..Second, and most important … as I thought about the article,
it seems like you spend a lot of time telling us the system is wrong, flawed
or bad …. I think by this juncture that is generally accepted and
something in which both liberals and conservatives agree — however, like
many change articles it simply concludes by telling me that things must
change …. personally, it reminds me of a lot of the self help books that
are on the market … too much time spent telling me what is wrong … not
enough time dedicated to telling me what are your plans for fixing it …I
would think that a really good op-ed piece would do more to tell me your
plans for fixing this broken system than simply telling me how broken it is
and how events of the past prove it is broken …..”

Here’s part of another:

Reader #2: “I’m thinking is that sometimes some small positive action is needed in order to precipitate a change of mindset. I don’t think that if people are thinking chauvinistically that telling them that that they should stop doing so is necessarily going to work. So I suppose what I’m looking for are ideas like – have a conversation with someone who represents ‘the other side’; start a discussion group, hold a movie festival which represents different views.”

Here’s my response to the above comments: Frankly, this is where I get most of the criticism and it is a challenging professional ‘edge’ for me….the biggest need is to change our minds (what Willis Harman called “global mind change”), which doesn’t happen by “doing” things…it happens by shifting our consciousness. But people – particularly in the West – want to see a list of things to DO. It is easier to simply start doing something different (pass new laws, punish a few identified bad guys, build better security systems, etc.) than to do the deeper work of waking up and taking greater responsibility for the whole of humanity. Like race and gender issues, it won’t go away by simply ‘doing’ some things. National chauvinism has been ingrained in our American mindsets for generations and that is where the change needs to take place, just like Einstein told us over half a century ago.

Another reader wrote: ” ….I enjoyed your piece. A comment though. I found it a little short on the “how.” How do we prove our desire to have more compassion to a people living under a regime such as the Taliban that represses freedom and controls communication with the outside world? How can we express more tolerance and understanding to a society that fervently teaches its young people that it is not only okay, but noble and holy, to take your own life and the innocent lives of those around you? How can we provide aid to those less fortunate when our aid dollars are routed to Swiss bank accounts by unscrupulous despots?

“While I agree with your premise that we have an image problem and that the average American may be distant from the depths of despair of those in other parts of the world (and even in some parts of our own country), I still think that our free and far-reaching media infrastructure gives us the most accurate and unbiased picture of the world that exists anywhere. The Internet is expanded our view even further. However, that same media, through our movies and television programs, may be providing the rest of the world with the impression that all Americans are truly like the decadent, devious, and immoral characters they see on the screen.

“Looking deeper within to reconnect to that place in all of us that knows absolute truth and integrity is a noble journey that I wish everyone aspired to undertake. However, the successful completion of that journey often requires an unusual level of spiritual and mental fortitude that allows one to critically evaluate beliefs that have been inculcated by those you respect and hold to be dear, and then the wisdom to recognize the real truth when you find it. But that is a lot to ask of a young Palestinian or Israeli who has just lost his father or brother in a savage war, or even to ask of a Harvard MBA graduate working to make his family proud as he climbs through the corporate ranks of an Enron….”

And my response to him was similar to what I wrote above, except I added: I do know this: the answer partially lies in we humans talking to one another…having real dialogue – genuine engaging dialogue in the spirit of inquiry and vulnerability, not debate or defensive rhetoric or even “discussion” which usually includes preconceived thoughts rather than spontaneous conversation that goes deep to our mutual humanity. If our commitment to resolution and reconciliation is greater than our need to be “right” we may have a shot as learning from one another.

The second highest-ranked criticism I received was that some readers don’t see the connection between the 9-11 attacks on the U.S. and the Enron/Andersen scandals. I admit that while these acts originated from very different groups and the motives of the individuals involved were quite different, all the acts nonetheless were symptomatic of the larger system’s dysfunction and inability to sustain itself under the present circumstances. I realize that this perspective may not be popular. It may get me even more flak from my colleagues, but it is so clear to me that both events are generated by the same core set of assumptions and beliefs that underlie the Western, industrialized, material mindset that continues to get more and more perverse as time goes by.

If terrorism is defined by the affect it has on people – which is to terrorize them – then the corporate shenanigans carried out by the Enron/Andersen conspiracy certainly qualify. After all, they did terrorize a good number of people who saw their life savings disappear and their retirement funds evaporate. Both these assaults – the one seemingly from outside of our system (9-11) and the one from inside (Enron/Andersen) – were “adjustments” the system is trying to make to rectify things for its long-term sustainability. The same greed and abandonment of values that allowed the Enron/Andersen scandals to happen lie at the center of Islamic fundamentalists’ argument that we are an evil influence and should be eradicated.

As a result of the feedback I received from April’s editorial, I expanded the original op-ed piece and re-titled it “Capitalism in Crisis: An Eagle’s View.” Any BFN subscribers wishing copies of the ‘enriched’ article sent to them by email can request one by emailing me at It is approximately 3,000 words in its current form and you can feel free forwarding it to any friends or colleagues so long as it is sent in its entirety.

Author’s postscript: As I flew to New York City for the Spirit in Business conference sponsored by AmEx, Ruder Finn, Forbes, Verizon and others last week, I read a feature article in The Financial Times in which the author proposed that while capitalism was the best thing that ever happened to the world, corporations could join forces with anti-capitalists and “make common cause.” The article – “The Corporatist Manifesto” by Steve Hilton – concluded with, “If you want to change the world, then do it through business. And if you want to help your business, then help change the world.” Great synchronicity, don’t you think?

NEXT MONTH: June’s Editorial: Who Are the Real Modern-Day “Tyrants”?

MORE NEWSBRIEFS: [More Newsbriefs can be seen in the “Press Room” at]

John Planning Australia Trip in Late 2002
Plans are in the works for John to travel to Australia late this year – late November and early December; anyone knowing of people or organizations in Australia that might be interested in hosting John for part of his “down under” travels should contact him directly at

Spirit in Business Event a Huge Hit: Seven Companies Honored
The first Spirit in Business conference in New York City concluded on April 23rd, clearly a paradigm shift for the spirit at work / conscious business movement. Sponsored by the likes of American Express (who also sent their CFO to present at the gathering), Verizon, Forbes magazine, Ruder Finn and others, the conference attracted about 500 attendees, including executives from mainstream firms like Goldman Sachs, Honeywell, the New Delhi Police Academy, The Conference Board and Hewlett Packard. Included in the three day event was the honoring of seven companies that received the Willis Harman Spirit at Work Awards, which John emceed. The seven companies were The Body Shop, Medtronic, Wheaton Franciscan Services, Eileen Fisher, Embassy Graphics, Methodist Health Care System and Telus Mobility.

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach. John served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.

John is also an international keynote SPEAKER, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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