Polly Chester is frustrated with the phony altruism orchestrated by trans and multi-national corporations.
Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed shortly after New Year’s Day 2014, I was ambivalent toward, if not completely unimpressed with most lists of resolutions I saw.
Except for one list in particular, written by one of my university lecturers. The highlight was this:
“(I will) Reduce my economic engagement with multi-national corporations and big business”
Right on, sister.
On a student budget it’s necessary for me to go for the cheaper options wherever possible when purchasing goods and services. But whenever I can, I too will be doing my best to reduce or disengage with trans-national corporations (TNC’s) and multi-national corporations (MNC’s) for this year and all the years afterward.
I’ll be making a particular effort to disengage with the ones that make people fat, sick and unhealthy, and who treat their employees like shit. No matter what my financial situation is like, I’d always rather eat baked beans than purchase fast food if I were looking for a quick, cheap meal. The humble baked bean is inexpensive, tasty and doesn’t conjure up images of my insides rotting when I eat it (Heinz does a lovely five bean mix, if anyone’s interested – it’s delicious and bloody good for you – or at least, better for you than fast food).
Aside from the sub-standard quality of the majority of products they flog us, what makes me really sick about TNC’s is that they attempt to disguise their morally and ethically reprehensible actions with do-gooding in the community.
Can anyone guess which company I might be thinking of?
Hint: Its name starts with M and ends with cDonalds.
I had many an interesting discussion after posting this article on social media a few weeks ago. A survey conducted with Australian adults reported a strong rejection of fast food companies’ (such as McDonalds and KFC) involvement in the sponsorship of kids’ sport.
I wouldn’t have predicted that a lot of the responses I got to this post would have been in favour of this kind of sponsorship. I was shocked and amazed. Many people seem to believe that kids’ sport is unsustainable without such support and that Macca’s sponsorship is a shining example of philanthropy resulting in community participation and healthy activity.
Now look, I’m not sure if this is right, but I’m fairly sure that during last century (before McDonalds was invented), kids played sport despite not having sponsorship? They were probably a lot skinnier, too, because they weren’t whizzing off to stuff in happy meals directly after playing sport; arguably counteracting any health benefits of the sport itself.
Eventually, I came to terms with the idea that not everyone shares my view that McDonalds’ sponsorship of junior sports is a grimy public relations tactic.
Or perhaps they secretly enjoy stuffing themselves with soft-serve cones on every day that ends in the letter ‘y’ and can’t bear the idea of being disloyal to the slop-trough ‘restaurant’ that supplies their beloved crutch.
Another populist rebuttal of my anti-McDonalds sponsorship stance uses ye olde Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) argument. This charity happens to do excellent work with children who have suffered serious illness. The charity has been supporting kids and their families since 1981, which is indeed fine and noble.
I suppose it’s up to the individual to decide at what point one set of morally sound actions neutralize a set of morally devoid ones. Sorry Macca’s, despite your considerable profits, my soul is still unaffordable for you. Here’s why.
I’m afraid that between sport sponsorship and activities within RMHC, I’m not convinced that McDonalds is really about facilitating warm fuzzy things. The fact that a purely capitalist venture broadcasts a public image that promotes charity and community spirit, yet can’t pay its employees enough to support themselves independently of welfare benefits is absolutely disgusting.
TNC’s such as McDonalds are a shining example of just how much neoliberalism hasn’t worked in terms of the promised ‘trickle down’ economic effect that was to come with capitalism and free markets. It pretty well dries up after the top few tiers.
Allowing big businesses to pay minimum wages ensures that the working poor will always stay that way, barely making ends meet. Conservative governments will add insult to injury by placing people who are struggling in an even more precarious situation, by reducing or withdrawing welfare support. This action is typically justified with the argument that welfare support isn’t required so much if more jobs are created.
This dazzlingly brilliant plan sounds fine on paper. But the reality of the situation is that there is no way to construct an interface between the neoliberal plan and contemporary social realities that allows it to benefit everyone involved.
Employment is not thought to be a route out of any kind of entrenched poverty – particularly intergenerational poverty (education is thought to be the route). Allowing socio-economic gaps to sustain and widen destroys hope of developing egalitarian cultures within all communities – local and global. Unfortunately, Maccas seems to have made its greasy mark in just about every one.
Every time you talk about a good deed that you have done, it diminishes a little bit. This is because the deed ceases to become about what you have actually done for someone else, and transcends into fishing for praise, reputation and social capital.
If you see the golden arches attached to a ‘philanthropic act’, you are being engaged by a subversive marketing trick.
Think realistically about sponsorship and charity – is the act of giving really altruistic if the donor will hardly miss the money, and the benefit to the reputation of the donating party is equal to that of the receiver?
You don’t fool me, Macca’s. Down with TNC’s.
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