The system we are in is based on competition. It’s all about profit and market share, getting the best deal, slashing prices and making a profit. It’s a system that is inherently exploitative. The success of one person depends on someone else not doing too well. It is not a system where environmental issues, human welfare, or ethics are given any kind of priority. Some companies pay lip service, but that’s about the best you can say. It’s a well established, international way of working, so ingrained that I think the majority of folks would not imagine you could approach life in different ways.
There is nothing wrong with competition when it’s about excellence and striving for quality. However, the kind of competition that stifles alternatives, and has a cut-throat mentality is not conducive to peace. People who have what they need are far less likely to take arms and attack each other. Desperate people with nothing to lose are more likely to try violent options. We have a system that allows the majority of people in the world to live in poverty while a minority are obscenely rich. The whole way in which we approach work and commerce is based on exploitation. We earn less than our work is worth, and pay more than goods and services are worth, and that’s where profits come from.
Systems based on fairness, on equal sharing of resources and opportunities, facilitate peace. Exploitation is not peaceful in and of itself, and is far more likely to breed unrest and violence. Peace and deprivation do not go together.
For most of us, scope to change the way in which the entire world operates is limited. What on earth can we do, as individuals, faced with whole cultures, financial systems and ways of working that are not conducive to peace or justice? There is no easy way to opt out or establish an alternative. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. We can talk about it. We can tell each other that the current way of life is not the only way. We can seek fairer options when they present themselves, the rise of fair trade goods is a testament to people power. We can imagine better ways of living and share those ideas. The more people think we can change the world for the better, the more chance there is of making it happen.
The world of commerce is the world of people. We are people. When you have enough people thinking the same way, change comes. We’ve moved from hereditary tyrannies to elected governments, from slavery to human rights laws. Nothing is unassailable. If we want peace, we need equality, and a total overhaul of priorities and how we go about getting things done. This is not impossible.