Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Accepted Prejudice

If the film industry made dozens of movies about the evils of Jewish doctors, showing them killing patients so they may harvest their organs, this would rightly be viewed as prejudicial. The same standard would apply if these movies were about police officers, or gypsies, or even lawyers. Prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance are vices that are looked down upon by the culture at large.

Yet when the standards of enlightenment and understanding are dismissed when regarding another group, hardly anybody raises a fuss. This group is the businessmen, victims of some of the most ridiculous prejudice society and the media has to offer.

They are compared to Nazis (Jodie foster in the Inside Man). They are turned into ridicules villains in kid’s cartoons (Captain Planet). Special legislation is created that treats them as guilty until proven innocent (Sarbanes-Oxley.) Even school children are lectured today, in textbooks and by teachers, on the evils wrought by businessmen: including child labor and slavery.

It seems that those dastardly businessmen are always pooping up to cause trouble. They will even nuke L.A. in order to start a war for oil profits (second season of 24; same theme presented in Syriana). They can always be found destroying the environment and/or exploited innocent peoples (Hoot, 1970’s King Kong, The Constant Gardener, Blood Diamond,); And, of course, hurting the little guy (RENT, Dick and Jane).

When businessmen are not evil, they are pathetic, often neglecting there families and their happiness for the sake of profit.

In the last fifty years of film making, there are only a few examples of “good” businessmen. Villains are more likely to be businessmen then any other profession (including drug dealers and terrorists). And even those “good” businessmen are good for some other virtues, like being charitable.

If these were just a few isolated events, it could be seen as practically meaningless, but the overwhelming amount of negativity toward businessmen can not be seen as a fluke.

What is so frustrating is that unlike some clich├ęs, this has almost no bases in reality. Businessmen have an incredibly low rate of crime. Slavery was an institution that existed long before businessmen, and child labor no longer exists because of the wealth that production (the result of businessmen) created. Even Enron and WorldCom are incidents involving a relatively small number of people, yet people use this event to represent all businessmen. It is impossible to refute all of the charges here, sufficed to say, that all have been either grossly exaggerated or fabricated.

Even if these were true, would that justify the raw hatred in question? Let’s say that ninety-percent of all Japanese people were criminals, would that justify a person in treating all Japanese individuals as criminals? Of coarse not, that violates the very foundation of individuality and rationality. But like all bigotry, it can not be rationally justified.

In many cases, the pestilent hatred of businessmen probably has more to do with what businessmen represent then the businessmen themselves. Many attacks at businessmen (like in the movie Syriana, or Michael Moore’s documentary Roger and me) seem to be attacking more the ideals of free markets and capitalism, rather then the individual “villains.”

In other cases, the prejudice itself seems to have taken on a life of its own. People are so used to thinking that the businessman benefits when somebody else hurts that it seems like a natural thing for a businessman to be a villain. Statements like, “ The rich are getting richer, the middle class is paying the price”, have been so saturated into American culture that it is viewed as true, regardless of fact.

Envy and resentment are players in this game. A certain portion of the population will always resent what they do not posses, and not just material position, intelligence and work-ethic are a part of this. Some have bad experiences in their early careers and jobs, they feel humiliated by a an overbearing boss, or even the job itself; feeling like this can lead some to hate an entire population or people, to reject everything they thought made them feel that way.

In the end, it does no good to try to understand ignorance or this kind of prejudice; these concepts should be rejected, hands down. The fact that a group of people are exclusively treated this way is ridicules; and in the long run, bad ideas are rejected, and prejudice of this sort thrown away as the product of little minds.

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