Ivanka Trump’s business has been the latest to get caught by accusations that her ethical standards did not meet consumer expectations. The sweatshop fire in Bangladesh, where over 1,100 people were killed, is probably the most recent and most dramatic example of how greed takes hold at the expense of quality, health and even human life.
Corporate Social Responsibility has been a catch phrase in the business world for a number of years. There is a growing expectation that corporates need to review how they treat staff and the environment and also look at the impact their products will have on consumers; these reviews and audits now cover entire supply and distribution chains.
Household brands, including the likes of Nike and Apple, have been forced to look at their behaviour and make changes along their supply chain. There has even been a campaign to boycott companies with links to former Nazi Germany.
Consumers have considerable power. In the game of supply and demand, the people with the demand have the most power. The market forces can have a sobering and tempering effect on a company’s behaviour – after all, if there is no demand, then there is no market to supply. The degree to which we exert this power and to what degree we are appeased with token gestures and platitudes is a deeper question for another time.
But if there is such a thing as consumer power, what happens when the Catholics have been found to have repeatedly covered up sexual abuse of children? What happens when it is uncovered in Ireland, America, Australia and many other countries? In fact, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse estimates that as much as 20% of the Catholic order has been alleged to be involved in child sexual abuse.
However, it is not just the Catholics – sixty percent of claims brought to the commission have been against faith-based institutions.
So the question is worth considering – What market forces are brought to bear on these ‘institutions’?
Indeed, these are institutions with an estimated wealth in the trillions of dollars per denomination. But they seem to be held to a different standard than other companies. The demand for what they supply seems to outstrip any concerns about the ethical practice of those institutions, whose core purpose is meant to reflect the highest ethical benchmark.
It is easy for consumers to see the links between wanting to buy a cheaper iPhone or Nike and their implicit responsibility in the supply chain that leads to the practices that are abhorrent. Yet consumers of religious services appear immune to the same logic.
So what is the demand that is felt so deeply that we are willing to hold these institutions to a different standard?
The common thread of the better known religions is that each offers a version of 'connection to divinity'. Some sweeten the deal with a dose of 'absolution' and 'a special place in heaven for the faithful'.
Yet, that 'connection to divinity' does not need a supply chain, an agent, an outlet store or a branding campaign. That connection is innate and intrinsically already available to everyone equally.
“The truest religion on Earth is the one that has you re-connecting to the Divineness you already are. If you don’t believe it? … do your homework on the true meaning of the word ‘religion’.” Serge BenhayonEsoteric Teachings & Revelations, p 639
Imagine that: something we have outsourced to institutionalised religion is actually something that we have access to within ourselves. But much like 'Big Tobacco', which was unwilling to reveal the truth that its products caused cancer, 'Big Religion' is likewise unwilling to reveal that the source of their power is the fear they elicit and not the freedom they offer. It was not until those inside 'Big Tobacco' spoke out and those who purchased the product began to question the value of their investment and the impact on their health; only when the supply model was targeted did the tobacco industry change and even then, it took a very long time at that.
But getting insiders to speak openly about institutional religion is much harder and the fear of not belonging, or 'not being saved' and the need for ‘unquestioning faith’, means that it is unlikely that the same pressure would be brought to bear on any religion – as has been rightfully applied to Ivanka Trump, Nike, Apple and many other corporates.
Until we reclaim our most fundamental authority, the connection to a power that is absolute, an ethic that is unshakable and a harmony that is for everyone, then we will forever be at the whim of fellow humans, whose priority is the survival of their institution and the so-called salvation of their flock.