I just did something I thought I never would. I posted my final payment; I cut up the charge card, and canceled my account with a large retailer with whom I’d been a loyal customer for over 55 years.

I just did something I thought I never would. I posted my final payment; I cut up the charge card, and canceled my account with a large retailer with whom I’d been a loyal customer for over 55 years.  This may not sound like much, but it was a sad moment for me. I was raised with their appliances, their tools filled my tool-box, and their “softer side” clothed the women in my family.
To end my relationship was no small thing. But, I knew it had to be done. I had been abandoned. Recently I was charged $35 penalty because my monthly payment cleared my bank a few days after their due date. My objections were met with disdain and a curt reply that such punitive charges were the company policy and therefore, “valid.”  For decades I’d paid a payment every month, most often in amounts exceeding the minimum, and usually prior to any due date. But my record made no difference. The “Late Fee” was company policy and therefore valid.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was no longer a “customer,”;I had become a nameless “consumer” corralled by a credit card company whose “rules” were law.  I realized that this episode was simply a minuscule example of the steadily increasing dehumanization by business of those of us who buy from them. These large corporations no longer have “customers,” we’ve all become faceless, nameless, powerless, consumers to be manipulated and exploited by any means possible.
Yet as sad as this is, it must be emphasized that local merchants, the ones committed to our community, is where customer service continues to mean something. Local businesses remain small enough to care about the little guy.  It is to them that I will go for whatever I must purchase. Some of them even know us by name.
But the individual is not so important with mega-corps.  Hawker/Beechcraft, after playing trick-or-treat with the State of Kansas, and receiving lucrative incentives, made its continued Wichita presence dependent upon its faithful workers paying the price with pay cuts and increased insurance costs.  Hawker no longer has valued employees, they have become faceless workers.
Of course, there is BP who viewed the Gulf of Mexico as its private pond to violate and pollute; the Massey Energy Mining Company whose lax maintenance allowed 29 miners to perish; the energy giants who see the air we breathe as a dumping ground for their toxins, and all for more profits. There have been repeated recalls of defective, dangerous, and destructive products. From pain-medication, to corrupted eggs, to lethal automobiles, to poisonous toys, the big business bonus boys are dehumanizing all of us. We are simply consumers to be squeezed for more bonuses and benefits for executives and share-holders.  Warren Buffet at least admitted, that, “yes there is a class war, and we (the rich and powerful) are winning it!”
The most frightening possibility is that these bankers, brokers and business barons are about to buy the government. The Republican candidates have received and spent to get elected more than seven times that of their opposition.  This tsunami of dollars is coming from corporate powers. A vote for a Republican is a vote to make us all a solely owned subsidiary of whatever mega corporation owns them. To such politicians, we no longer are citizens to be served, but voters to be manipulated and purchased.
In The Hutchinson News of October 12, columnist Kathie Moore wrote a prophetic column titled “United Corporations of America.” Moore paraphrased the Preamble to the Constitution:  “We the CEO’s, in order to form more perfect Monopolies, establish control of Legislatures, and insure domestic servitude!” Sadly this prophecy is more a possibility than merely humorous fantasy. The coming election will show how prophetic is Moore. Next Tuesday, we’ll be voting whether “we the people,” or “we the CEO’s” will prevail.  The Democrats running for office are “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  I hope that a vast majority of the people will vote for the people, rather than be sold to some unknown corporate backer.  In case you haven’t noticed, when you try to contact one of those megalithic companies, and some talking recording tells you “your call is important to us”, it isn’t! They really don’t care about you or me. We’re just numbered consumers.

In hopes in the people…

Fr. Bob Layne (Episcopal Priest – retired)
McPherson, Kansas