The Corporation volunteer and guest blogger, Srinidhi, from India, writes about "The Escaper Principle" and how corporations tried to get away with the Bhopal disaster
As the tremors of economic instability continue worldwide, I often wonder: How did we get here? How is it that the so called intellectual "leaders" can't wrap their heads around the truth every layperson I meet seems to have figured out? Why is it that the same conventional wisdom that drove our economies off a cliff continues to proliferate? So I had to ask what the people in a MBA school, at the root of our financial institutions, are taught in the most famous and mandatory ‘Risk Management’ course.
The Escaper Principle, is the answer I found.
A few weeks ago, I learnt that risk management quite actually means ‘escaping’ the risk of getting the name of a corporation tainted. This is where the disconnect and, frankly, the delusional recipe for the modern day pandemic of corporate caused economic/environmental/social disasters stem from. 'Risk Management' certainly doesn’t mean reducing the risk the activities of a corporation pose on our Nations, our planet, or the health and welfare of our fellow human beings. It is the economic equivalent of Survival of the fittest. It's dehumanizing Social Darwinism as policy. Get yours and the consequences are someone else's problem. Displace the damage from your responsibility, never admit your crime, and deny any negative results from your company's actions.
This principle comes into play when a corporation screws up at any level. In case of a problem, the corporations are allowed to escape by this doctrine of denial. When there is a toxic gas leak that affects only the individuals in a factory, the information is kept from the local community. Furthermore, the boards that are required to monitor the gas leak are strategically bribed well in advance (risk management). The regulating body does not care about it as long as the top officials are paid well by the corporation.
When there is a big screw up that the corporation can and will make, and affects a large enough population that it can't be swept under the rug, the escapism evolves from just regulator purchasing to outright kleptocracy (a lot of lobbying with the bureaucrats to craft a system of law that doesn't count these as crimes). Take the Bhopal Gas Disaster which was caused by the plant's safety systems being switched off to save money.
The storage tanks used by the company emitted a deadly gas, MIC, and caused a cloud of death over the surrounding slums. The population awoke, exposed to a dense ground hugging toxic cloud and began vomiting, feeling suffocated, and panicked. Children, the elderly, and the poorest suffered most, and many of those were trampled trying to escape. Thousands died that first morning, necessitating cremations on a mass scale. Ultimately a population of more than half a million were displaced. Almost half of the affected numbers were children.
After the accident, the Indian government rushed to protect the company and hide the truth by closing off the plant to outsiders who wanted to investigate. It took until June of 2010, over a quarter of a century later, to convict seven ex-employees (including the former UCIL chairman) in Bhopal of causing death by negligence. They were sentenced to only two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law. This reflects the value of human life by these criminals in the starkest of terms. I'd value human beings at much more than two grand and two years in prison, wouldn't you?
That's why corporations aren't people, but a sociopathic enabling mechanism to displace guilt, remorse, and responsibility.
This is just one side of the strategy. The more difficult part of Risk Management involves shutting out the voices of the people. The Media has been consistently bought up by large transnational corporations over the last 50 years who knew controlling the information is key to Risk Management. If an article does get covered stating the facts, then the reporter who covered it would be faced with threats to their employment.
What happens to the impacted people? The corporation is remorseless and relentless, bigger and richer than its victims. In most cases they use their money to drown out and discredit the voices of its victims. This may not always work. So they swoop further down by creating a mass rift between the victim communities by paying up just one section of the victims, using force to suppress their voices, turning their government against them and so on.
Almost every land, labour, environmental and social justice struggle revolves around a corporate crime where the corporation pulls off this principle with ease.
Edited by Jennifer Slattery