choosing battles

Anytime Dumpsters © Jim Korpi

“Sorry, it’s company policy,” the woman behind the counter recites as she pours a coffee into a styrofoam cup after I plead with her to fill the one I’ve brought. An argument ensues as I explain the savings her company would have on their bottom line if everyone brought their own cup. “Sorry, it’s company policy,” she rewinds and plays back to me. “Do you know where this cup goes next?” I question her. “In the trash,” she proudly answers. Exactly.
My watch broke and I sent it to three different places including the manufacturer. It came back in the mail with an “Unable to be fixed sticker” on its glass face. A new one of “equal value” accompanied it.
There is a tidal force behind the way our society functions that is impossible to swim against. Idealism acquiesces into “choosing battles.” How can one choose to accept something while knowing it to be wrong?

Posted October 19th, 2010 in Uncategorized. Tagged: , , , , , .


  1. Lau:

    gee, Jim, thats a difficult one. But unfortunately one needs to ask themselves this question sometimes. If not you’ll end up being angry and frustrated throughout the day, week, your life. This is not helping anybody, will not change anything, and it wont bring happiness…. Unfortunately. Ban Mc Donald’s from your life is easy, so is not going to places where they will only serve you coffee in foam or plastic. But not drinking anything during a concert in a stadium if they only have plastic cups for beer is more difficult already. Meat, cheese, olives all need packaging….

    I think i wouldnt have started a discussion with the girl at the counter i think, but simply would have said goodbye. Most likely she is not going to report anything to her superiors, she probably is not going to change anything in her personal life and all you end up with is frustration. A bit too practical maybe, but if i dont act this way i’ll just be angry-Lau…

    Maybe just fight or discuss when u feel you are talking to someone that matters, someone who is in charge to change something. On top of this, i find that being an example can make people think. At least some start asking questions. When at Niagara for work with 40 others, i was the only one following the sidewalk to the bus and not taking the shortcut crossing the lawn. Actually a few people were surprised and asked me why. Maybe, just maybe, the next time they will follow my path. At least they were thinking about it…..Not yet a victory, but it might be one in the future…

  2. admin:

    This is good advice Lau. You and I both know how frustrating and alienating it can be to constantly stand up for what you know to be inherently wrong. Besides, I don’t like angry-Lau.
    It’s funny you went right to McDonalds with your argument. This company has taken the brunt of humanities disgust with corporate failures. Before any of us go down that road, we first need to remember corporations, as Emerson said, are but the “shadow of a man.” This “company policy” is a symbol for a general passing of the responsibility and conscience on to someone or something and away from the individual. You should know about this. Your company exploits the cheap labor of the world in order to sell unnaturally low-priced wooden outdoor furniture to well paid Do-it-Yourselfers in the name of keeping profits high. I’m sure you don’t agree, but you are still the man behind the counter saying “sorry, it’s company policy.”
    I like what you said about talking to “someone that matters.” Not that the person behind the counter doesn’t matter, but that person is seemingly powerless in a society where their job is the result of a huge bureaucracy of corporate higher-ups who answer to other higher-ups who answer to other higher-ups… So in the end, they “just work there.” But that complacency in thinking and action gets us no where. Can’t the person behind the counter stand up for what they feel is right? Can’t they question the legitimacy of “company policy?” I know the answer to this questions. I’ve heard it. “They don’t want to lose their jobs over a styrofoam cup.”
    Where does that leave us? A country of employees reliant on a few employers to guide our actions and conscience. This is what I fear most. We all know the basic concept of a throwaway society to be innately wrong. Why is it that we’ve been convinced to quiet our intuition?

  3. Lau:

    Jimmy, i do agree… and thats the hardest part. I do know all that is wrong and that is my every day struggle. I dont know where to go yet or what to do to make things change. You know better than anybody else that my main drive to work myself up in my company is to be able talk to the people that matter, the people that can really make a difference, and i am lucky to have the brains and talent to get there. But now that I am here, I get frustrated again. Things go slow, so slow….People maybe listen and i can put things on the agenda that were not there before, but what…. To change a company that has its own drive, its own shared values and ideas, is not easy. Not at all…A company is not a person, but sometimes it acts like one.

    Yes the girl behind the counter should stand up, but she cant… She is indeed afraid to lose her job, but also she has no access to the people that make decisions and most of times she is not so well informed….

    And we could discuss if the company is exploiting the cheap labour , or the end consumer…. i could state that it would be the latter. Our main way to change things is by thinking when we consume and when we buy… Not just you and I Jim, but everybody…….Are we living in a socialist society where we blame the companies, government and everybody around us, and we hide in our group of people that are just like us? Or are we living in a more liberal society where we are individuals taking responsibility not only for our own deeds but also for how it could affect someone else?

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