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Monday, March 23, 2015

Strategic CSR - Society

The article in the url below uses some recent reports of bad behavior on planes to discuss what the author sees are broader trends in society at large:
"… there are few better showcases of Americans' worst impulses, circa 2014, than a 757 bound from New York to Los Angeles or from Sacramento to St. Louis. It's a mile-high mirror of our talent for pettiness, our tendency toward selfishness, our disconnection from one another and our increasing demarcation of castes. It's a microcosm at 30,000 to 45,000 feet."
The article is well-written and funny (easier to laugh when you are safely on the ground), but also highly insightful:
"Courtesy is dead. The plane is its graveyard. There's a scrum at the gate and then another scrum in the aisle that defy any of the airline's attempts at an orderly boarding process. There's no restraint in the person who keeps smacking the back of your chair; no apology from the parent whose child keeps kicking it; no awareness that certain foods, unwrapped in a tight space, turn one traveler's lunch into every traveler's olfactory reality. And nobody really communicates. Conversation between strangers becomes rarer as gadgets get better, enabling everyone to hunker down with his or her own music and own movies and own video games, to shrink the world to the dimensions of a smartphone's or tablet's screen, to disappear into a personalized bubble of ceaseless entertainment and scant enlightenment."
Of course, it is important to remember that exceptions do not make the rule. I fly quite often and, while I would not call human behavior at 36,000 feet exemplary, I rarely see the kind of behavior that the author highlights. Given the logistical complexities of moving as many people as we do every day, as well as the stresses and strains involved in being one of those people, I find it amazing that the commercial airline industry infrastructure functions at all, let alone functions as well as it does. Nevertheless, the article raises a number of questions that I think resonate in the context of the broader CSR debate and how our society is structured, particularly here in the U.S., to place the interests of the individual before those of the group:
"There's little sense of a common good, no rules that everybody follows so that nobody gets a raw deal. Instead there's an ethic of every passenger for himself or herself. The existence of, and market for, the Knee Defender, that device that prohibits the person in front of you from reclining, says it all. On second thought, no, this does: Immediately following news coverage of a flight that had to be diverted when two passengers scuffled over a Knee Defender's use, sales of the device reportedly increased."
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Just Plane Ugly
By Frank Bruni
November 30, 2014
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final