The Buddhist way, if it is anything, is about not accommodating the extremes or excesses that life has to offer. For tax purposes Buddhism is a religion and on other accounts is a way to improve the human condition at a very personal level. The emphasis on moderation or “Good Enough” lends Buddhism to the reduction of stress through not being the first person to a nervous breakdown and the adoption of the middle path or way.
The received mantra is to veer away from extremes and to take a more considered path in terms of our indulgences in pleasure and pain. Often by analogy this is compared to the banks of a river. One bank symbolises hate and the other love. Alternatively the extremes to navigate are presented as the riverbanks being happiness and unhappiness. This is the middle way without excess in human endeavour.
The reality though is that in order to survive in the world it is viewed sometimes necessary to be selfish, brutal and to adopt an unfeeling approach whereby we push others aside and take advantage of their misfortunes. Abiding by the rules doesn’t provide that very necessary business advantage that will propel a company past the winning line ahead of the bunch. The oft chanted mantras, under the breath at least, are “win at all costs” and “the business comes first”. Like lemmings we accept collective actions that we would not normally endorse on a personal level. The business or company that an individual works for in affect becomes that person’s religion inviolate and above questioning. The myopic view of considering one’s own business first, regardless of the well-being of others is of paramount importance and consequently becomes the unacknowledged raison d’être for business existence.
These extremes are no more apparent than in the manner that banks have allegedly manipulated the Libor inter-bank lending rate. Barclays have already paid a fine of $450 million. UBS are in last-minute negotiations and is likely to settle with a fine as early as Monday in response to a similar allegation that the bank rigged the Libor benchmark rate.
By convention we have traditionally seen the Banks in soft focus largely as a consequence of their marketing activities. We have of late seen them as being too big to fail and certainly most of us mere mortals would see them as too complex to hold any meaningful opinion on their reform.
Businesses are the coalescence of a group of like-minded individuals expressing the need to attain a common business objective. So at the individual level mindfulness would be a good approach to adopt in the development of right ethical thinking in order to reduce collective suffering. More socially minded corporate ethical responsibility would afford advantage to the many and reduce suffering when business systems are allowed to become unharnessed from the overall well-being of society.
I would urge each person living a considered life to exercise mindfulness at the personal level and to not collude in business actions that by outcome brutalize the many through the insidious blot of poverty. Walk the middle path yourself and seek to navigate others, through your considerations, away from the excesses of human nature.
Each person can make a difference…