One of the toughest speaking gigs I have ever had was at a facility working with kids who had dropped out of a government high school in a lower socio-economic area of Adelaide. I was talking about global poverty and some of the difficulties that we face in this world and these students were convinced that whatever was happening was the Australian government’s fault. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or how many times I suggested there was something that we, as individuals, could do, their opinion didn’t change.
It’s safe to say that they were using the government as a scapegoat, as a cop out so that they didn’t have to contemplate the reality that they could take some responsibility for our world. This is not uncommon with disengaged students, but they are not the only people who have ever done that, I have discovered. To be honest, it is probably something that we have all done from time to time – asked the question, ‘Why doesn’t the government do something about it?’
But perhaps the time for us to ask that question is over. We have lived in a world where governments have held most of the power – some elected, some not, and this power seemed so far from our own reach that it can make us feel like we have no control over what happens. That may have never been totally true, but it certainly is not true anymore.
Out of the top 100 richest entities in our world, 69 of them are corporations, not governments. Not elected, but also not answerable to a nationality. Corporations who have the ability to impact our world simply by the way that they work and how they provide their products or services. Corporations filled with people, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. People we know and people we have met. People like you and me. Individuals who have direct influence over the culture of their organisation and can steer things in such a way that if they wanted to fund some development work in a developing country, they could do it. If they wanted to provide free services to empower people living in poverty, they could do that. If they wanted to come up with a solution for homelessness, they could do that. If they wanted to hire newly arrived refugees, or the disabled, or the elderly, they could do that. People could insist on making a positive change in our world and by the sheer size of these corporations, these actions would echo throughout the entire world.
So, the government can’t help you anymore. But corporations can, and they might be a bit easier to influence to help create a better world, because they are filled with people who don’t need to seek re-election.