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Sometimes the abyss stares back at you

Some of us have been skeptical about the development of corporate mindfulness, suspecting that, just maybe, the corporations care more about keeping their workers productive than their genuine well-being.

Safe to say, the latest and greatest attempt by Amazon to support their workers’ “mindfulness” practice does not assuage such concerns. Meet the “ZenBooth”.

It’s basically a porta-potty with a couple of plants and a computer with some resources on mindfulness and wellness.

Here’s the promotional video, which Amazon removed from their twitter account after complaints. It’ll probably get pulled from YouTube too, so watch it while you can!

The whole thing is weirdly tone-deaf and dystopian, but the detail that struck me was actual text of the promo, delivered by a woman sitting, notably, not in the booth but outdoors.

The ZenBooth is an interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery.

It’s not about actually doing meditation or anything, but just browsing stuff. So weird, as if looking at wellness content is actually the point? Worse, it’s about “recharging the internal battery”: even here, they can’t stop referring to their employees as machines.

Amazon has a history going back many years of exploitation and oppression of workers, with dozens of workers and ex-workers testifying as to the cruel and harmful workplace practices, the “relentless misery of working at Amazon”.

While his workers are peeing in bottles, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is spending half a billion dollars on a yacht. I’m guessing it’s a lovely place to do some calming mindfulness practices.

Imagine we lived in a world—a completely fantasy world in an alternate reality—where the people were able to elect officials in order to enact any law they wanted. And they enacted a law to take away 99% of all wealth above ten million dollars. That seems like a lot! And imagine that the rich actually paid it. After paying 99% of his wealth in tax, Bezos would still have enough money to buy that yacht. Heck, he could buy it, and then just buy another one for fun. And even after that, he’d still be a billionaire!

Here’s an astonishing visualization of the scale of his wealth.

We really have to stop acting as if these people are going to save us.

Meanwhile, don’t buy stuff, any stuff, unless you really need it. Avoid Amazon wherever possible. You don’t need them: they need you. If you personally have a lot of money, give it away or better yet, just burn it before it consumes your soul.

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So… bizarre. It’s almost as if they were telling their employees, “Go on, do the thing, be happy, come on!” As if placing those porta-potties will somehow automatically spread calm.

Reminds me of this comic I saw once.

https://twitter.com/dorrismccomics/status/806918652716953600

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When I was in a position of being responsible for about 60 people, I did push back at higher-level meetings on the idea of “wellness” as a band-aid to help people cope. Clearly, “wellness” is better than nothing, but if people are stressed out, there needs to be an examination of their tasks, not just their “batteries”.

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Bhante,

Why is “a world where the people were able to elect officials in order to enact any law they wanted” necessary for “enacting a law to take away 99% of all wealth above ten million dollars”?

Also, I hope you remember how these kinds of changes happened in the past, empirically.

And why is “enacting a law to take away 99% of all wealth above ten million dollars” necessary for “the corporations care more about the genuine well being of their workers, rather then keeping them productive?”

Again, I hope you remember how such a thing worked out for the well being of workers in the past, empirically.

Finally, if calls for corporate to deliver worker well being has not delivered worker well being, but only PR… you might think that those who call for corporate to deliver worker well being also only care for PR.

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Well he doesn’t literally have $204 odd billion in his bank. Most of that will be value of shares, property and credit. In order to tax that away you essentially have to have the state confiscate his personal (note personal rather than private) property, plus interfere with a whole load of banks and their practices. Naturally to a Tory like I this is abhorrent, even if the wealth gap does seem excessive. However I doubt you will agree Bhante as we have very different views when it comes to such matters, and most people here will agree with you. And that’s fine of course.

Anyway just some thoughts from the other side as it were, how people like me see it. I’ll leave it there as I’m not looking to debate politics.

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Yes… even if you do confiscate his property, amazon still has to turn a profit in tune to it’s share value. The pressures that make it prioritize efficiency remain.

You could destroy amazon by making it unprofitable - but in that case, just directly say that this is your objective.

Sure, it’s the profit motive that drives the way corporations behave.

Various countries, including the USA, have use anti-monopoly legislation to break up corporations.

I saw this originally on Facebook in the Issues in the Mindfulness Movement Group:

  • [Michael Roe]
    Such a great example of McMindfulness, or worse. Maybe the Amazon board will feel better that the sweatshop nature of these distribution centers is being “addressed.” But, offering a phone booth for 5 minutes to stressed workers is putting lipstick on the pig, and in some ways, might only stress workers further, seeing that their employer is offering such an awkwardly punishing means to mitigate workplace stress. Amazon could adopt workplace protocols that would make work there more manageable, but employs nonsensical bypassing like this…very troubling…

  • Margery Harter

Kind of a slap in the face.

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This is honestly a better solution - Amazon subsidizes (or used to subsidize from it’s extremely profitable domains such as AWS) to expand into new domains and run them at a loss.

Be prepared to forever lose those less than consistently profitable industries, however.

There is the pain of unwanted association, the pain of seperation from wanted association & the pain of not getting what one wants.

If you want to move the pain of unwanted association - either you fail, or you succeed with losing something you love.

In this case - do you realise that behemoths like Amazon became necessary due to the way westernern govs soft insure it’s assets? If companies like Amazon do not exist - you will not be able to bail out the housing market or the student loan market.

I am reminded of the furor that erupted in the early 19th century when Andrew Carnegie, the then-richest man in the world announced that he would be giving away his entire fortune to charity…

Labor leaders condemned Carnegie for giving away money that did not rightfully belong to him. Prominent churchmen, including Methodist Bishop Hugh Price Hughes, characterized him as “an anti-Christian phenomenon, a social monstrosity, and a grave political peril.”

Hughes insisted that millionaires, even those who agreed to give away their fortunes, were “the unnatural product of artificial social regulations.” He believed that Carnegie’s accumulation of millions had come at the expense of his less fortunate countrymen. “Millionaires at one end of the scale involved paupers at the other end, and even so excellent a man as Mr. Carnegie is too dear at that price,” he argued.

Carnegie responded in a speech in Pittsburgh that he kept wages low to remain competitive, and that even had it been possible for him to share some of his profits with his workers, it would have been neither “justifiable or wise” to do so. “Trifling sums given to each every week or month … would be frittered away, nine times out of ten, in things which pertain to the body and not to the spirit; upon richer food and drink, better clothing, more extravagant living, which are beneficial neither to rich nor poor.” The lower the costs of labor, the higher the profits. Far better, in his view, to squeeze money from workers’ paychecks, aggregate it, and give back to the community in the form of public libraries and concert halls.

All in all, the wisest words belong to the Buddha…

AN7.7
Then Ugga the government minister went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing! Migāra of Rohaṇa is so rich, so very wealthy.”

“But Ugga, how rich is he?”

“He has a hundred thousand gold coins, not to mention the silver!”

“Well, Ugga, that is wealth, I can’t deny it. But fire, water, rulers, thieves, and unloved heirs all take a share of that wealth. There are these seven kinds of wealth that they can’t take a share of. What seven? The wealth of faith, ethical conduct, conscience, prudence, learning, generosity, and wisdom.

Nobody remembers Migara of Rohana. People have almost forgotten Carnegie. Bezos too shall soon be consigned to oblivion. But the words of Dhamma the Buddha spoke are eternal, timeless truths.

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Just some thoughts regarding taxation of the rich (in America) by people who have actually run the numbers: What could the US afford if it raised billionaires' taxes? We do the math | US taxation | The Guardian.

A few highlights:

Over the next 10 years, the richest 1% of American households will take home about another $22tn, after federal taxes. Their average annual post-tax income will be about $1.7m.
Right now they pay about 30% of their income in taxes. Increasing their overall average tax rate by about 10 percentage points would generate roughly $3tn in revenue over the next 10 years, while still leaving the 1% with an average post-tax annual income of more than $1.4m. (That new tax rate, by the way, would be about the same as the overall rate the richest 1% paid back in the 1940s and 1950s.)

and

We could also tax wealth. Whereas income is new money that comes in each year, wealth is the accumulated money that has built up over time. As of 2016, the wealthiest 1% of American households owned about $27tn in total, an average of about $23m per household.
A tax that took about 1% of that wealth each year would yield about $4tn over the next decade. To put that amount in perspective, $4tn is more than the federal government will spend over the next decade on foster care, school lunch, school breakfast, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, unemployment compensation, supplemental security income for the elderly, blind people and those with disabilities, and all the tax credits for working families combined.

So, while allowing the rich to continue being rich, many of the issues plaguing America (healthcare, education, etc.) could be solved.

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Indeed, though I wouldn’t get too complacent. Those words need advocates to survive.

And you can too, from the comfort of your own home!

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Your points regarding some governmental welfare schemes is noted, though I see that you are not proposing a fix to the rich poor divide, nor try explain how these welfare schemes will not increase this divide.

Why does this matter? The rhetoric of “let’s tax the rich!” depends on it’s existence on this very divide - therefore there is is a bias in the solver to not check if his solutions is not the real reason for the problem.

Your welfare schemes… how do they help it’s beneficiaries to obtain wealth for themselves?

Those that offer protection & assistance in return for an indefinite dependence - do not take their offers, for they have evil motives in their heart.

Those that offer protection & assistance eventually setting you free from reliance on them… their offers are good to take.

Very unlikely that extreme measures like taking away 99% of someone’s wealth is ever going to happen anytime soon in a liberal democracy.

A first step (easily accomplished with political will) would be to close tax loopholes and stop companies and individuals squirrelling away (more like bulldozing) their millions into offshore tax havens.

Pay your fair share for starters, like someone earning minimum wage does. :thinking:

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I hear what people are saying about a 99% wealth tax being unrealistic, which is a really important qualifier for those who, understandably, took my OP as a literal political platform.

But the important thing is, let’s not indulge ourselves in fantasy scenarios. The practical reality is that a 99% tax isn’t realistic, because it doesn’t really address the problem. After, Bezos would still be a billionaire, and the unsustainable inequality would still exist.

No, let’s talk about a wealth tax of 99.99%.

After paying that in tax, Bezos would still be able to buy a Bugatti:

And a nice yacht:

And this house in California to park his Bugatti and Tesla:

How can he afford a Tesla? No worries, he made enough money to buy a Tesla in the time it took you to read this post.

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But Bhante you will never get rid of wealth inequality, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to do so. If we had complete wealth equality then everyone would be paid the same, and you would have a monstrously powerful state to keep the balance (and with such a large state comes suffocating bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption). I think rather than dragging the wealthy down we should focus on policies which lift the poor up. Personally I prefer a rising tide of wealth, rather than forced equality of outcomes (which has an appalling track record). I know this will likely go down like a lead ballon with many here, but I think Mrs Thatcher makes a good point:

Inequality isn’t always a bad thing. Personally I’m glad to live in a society where people can generate a lot of wealth, since that society is free. Of course this doesn’t mean not having social services or welfare. You can have both.

For those still unhappy with my approach, I have to admit, sure, it’s too much. 99.99% is excessive. I mean, of course, it leaves Bezos with an excessive amount of wealth. Let’s take 99.999%!

Now he can’t afford a Bugatti, he’ll have to make do with a Porsche.

And a modest boat:

And a house on a nice property:

And he still gets to buy a Tesla with the money he earns while you read this post. It’ll be hard, but he’ll just have to get used to living with as little as five times as much wealth as the average American.

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Wouldn’t that leave a lot of working class people unemployed? How does boycotting help the working class or the poor? It seems to do the opposite. I’m not a fan of what I’ve heard about some of Amazon’s business practices, but there are other ways to encourage reform.

I did not press the love button on the Bhante’s post.

The direction this discussion has headed reminds of this snippet from South Park South Park: Not A Big Deal - YouTube

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