- In Cogitations
- Post 27 May 2006
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By: Matthew Bain
Media Lens is a UK media watch service which has just published a new book ‘Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media’. In this interview Media Lens discuss with computer network consultant and Buddhist practitioner Matthew Bain how they have been strongly influenced by the Buddhist ideal of compassion and the role model of the Bodhisattva – the hero who practices six great virtues known as ‘perfections’.
Bain: Please can you explain what Media Lens is?
Media Lens: Media Lens is an online, UK-based media watch project, set up in 2001, providing detailed and documented criticism of bias and omissions in the British media. The Media Lens team consists of two editors (David Edwards and David Cromwell) and a webmaster (Oliver Maw). Through our free email Media Alerts, we provide detailed analysis of news reporting in the UK media, concentrating on the ‘quality’ liberal print and broadcast media. Our aim is to expose bias, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, omissions and untruths. We challenge journalists and editors by email and invite their response. We then collate and analyse the material and distribute a Media Alert to members of the public who have signed up for the service. We urge our readers to adopt a polite, rational and respectful tone when emailing journalists – we strongly oppose all abuse and personal attack.
We often then follow up our alerts with updates containing analysis of and commentary on mainstream responses to our alerts, our readers’ emails, and so on. Media Alerts are archived at the Media Lens website (www.Media Lens.org). We also send out Cogitations to a separate list of subscribers – these explore related themes from more personal, psychological and philosophical perspectives.
Bain: How much success has Media Lens had?
Media Lens: This isn’t really for us to say. We try not to worry too much about results. The veteran Australian journalist and film-maker John Pilger wrote this in the foreword to our new book, Guardians of Power (Pluto Press, 2006):
“The creators and editors of Media Lens, David Edwards and David Cromwell, have had such influence in a short time that, by holding to account those who, it is said, write history’s draft, they may well have changed the course of modern historiography. They have certainly torn up the ‘ethical blank cheque’, which Richard Drayton referred to, and have exposed as morally corrupt ‘the right to bomb, to maim, to imprison without trial …’. Without Media Lens during the attack on and occupation of Iraq, the full gravity of that debacle might have been consigned to oblivion, and to bad history."
On the other hand, the BBC's Andrew Marr said (when he was still political editor):
"I'm afraid I think it is just pernicious and anti-journalistic. I note that you advertise an organisation called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting so I guess at least you have a sense of humour. But I don't think I will bother with 'Media Lens' next time, if you don't mind."
So take your pick!
Bain: You have said that you intend compassion to be the basis and motivating force behind the Media Lens project. How does this work in practice?
Media Lens: We try to do whatever we believe is most likely to relieve suffering. There are several aspects to this. We try to focus on the most urgent issues of the day. If our government is trying to persuade the public to support a war against Iraq, we try to publicise arguments against mass violence as a solution to human problems. We point out the costs of violence and the benefits of responses rooted in restraint and compassion. Before the March 2003 invasion, we referred readers to credible estimates of the likely disastrous consequences for the civilian population of Iraq.
We indicated the deep flaws in US-UK government arguments to show that war in fact was not at all necessary, that genuine peaceful alternatives existed. Basically, we tried to encourage peaceful opposition to our government's determination to wage war for profit. The same with climate change – it now threatens unprecedented catastrophe, the destruction of billions of human and animal lives. So we encourage readers to challenge newspapers on their promotion of cheap flights and mass consumerism generally.
But in discussing specific issues we are hoping to raise awareness of deeper systemic problems inherent to political and economic systems rooted in the pursuit of unlimited profits. For example, how honest can a newspaper really be about the root causes of climate change when it depends for 75% of its revenue on big business advertising – on precisely the companies selling the cheap flights, the new cars and so on – in its own pages?
We believe that we all need to acquire the tools of intellectual self-defence so that we can resist propaganda provoking hatred of foreign and domestic ‘enemies’, and adverts stimulating greed, so that we can trust our own capacity for independent, critical thought. Our society encourages passivity and childlike dependence on authority. We encourage people to challenge authority, to have faith and confidence in themselves. We encourage people to challenge us, too – nothing should be taken on blind trust.
A third theme is that we encourage people to seek confidence and rationality in compassion, rather than in anger, say, or conformity. We emphasise peaceful challenges to authority. We reject not only violence, but also anger. Given that compassion, tolerance and patience are great virtues, then leaders promoting violence and greed are ideal objects for meditation. We can use them to strengthen our compassion and wisdom.
Bain: Why are leaders promoting violence and greed ideal objects for meditation?
Media Lens: In our view, Tony Blair, for example, has consciously deceived parliament and public in pursuit of a war of aggression – the supreme war crime according to the Nuremberg tribunals. Blair’s actions have resulted in the deaths of several hundred thousand innocent people, as well as almost limitless pain, injury, anxiety, grief and other physical and mental torments. The motive, we also believe, is rooted in Western greed for control of natural resources in Iraq and in the Gulf. Is it possible to feel compassion for this man?
We can reflect that Blair is a product of conditions – he sees the world in a way dominated by his education, upbringing, friends, family and colleagues. Would he think and act the same way if he had been exposed to different conditions? Is he to blame for the conditions that influenced him? Is he the sole destructive actor or condition, or is he merely one tiny link in a vast chain of cause and effect that precedes and transcends him? We can argue, for example, that what has been done to Iraq is actually the culmination of billions of selfish thoughts in limitless individuals over decades, even centuries. After all, where does corporate greed for oil come from? Where does militarism come from? Does it come from Blair? Hardly.
We can reflect on Blair’s lack of inherent existence – who or what actually is Tony Blair? Is he his mind? Which part of his mind – which thought? Is he any particular thought? Is there a creator of thoughts that we can call ‘Blair’, or do thoughts merely arise from conditions beyond the control of some creator in the background (and would the ‘creator’s’ decisions and thoughts simply arise from conditions?), like bubbles forming and rising in a glass of lemonade? We can imagine the suffering Blair will undergo as a result of his uncompassionate actions and as a result of ageing, sickness and death. We can reflect that if we can muster some compassion for him then this strengthens our compassion for other people who appear less guilty of terrible crimes, less harmful. We visit a gym to lift weights to become stronger, do we not? If we can compassionately ‘lift’ Blair in our minds, then our compassion will surely be untroubled by most other tests in life.
Bain: Your compassionate approach is inspired by Mahayana Buddhism, which offers the role model of the Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, continuously wishes to achieve the enlightened state of a Buddha in order to benefit all living beings without exception. The way of life of the Bodhisattva is the six perfections, the great virtues of generosity, moral discipline, patience, effort, mental stabilisation and wisdom. You have said that you aspire for your Media Alerts to embody these six perfections. Is such an aspiration achievable?
Media Lens: The aspiration is certainly achievable although even to aspire to attain an enlightened state is an awesome achievement. Can we actually embody the six perfections in our work? Definitely not, at present. We are complete beginners who are far, far away from being able to embody these exalted mind states. However, we do aspire to value compassion, generosity and patience; and we do try to be motivated by concern for others rather than concern for our own welfare.
We feel it is appalling for any journalist to compromise what he or she writes out of concern for career, status or the health of a bank account when real people like us are being killed in their tens of thousands, for example, in Iraq. Particularly when one reflects that if the media had done their job in 2002-2003, war would not have been possible. We believe that by aspiring to be more compassionate it is possible to make some small improvement and perhaps help others. But we are constantly aware that we may even be doing more harm than good – making people more angry, more critical of others and less compassionate – we keep this possibility very much in mind.
Bain: One of the aspects of the perfection of generosity is giving fearlessness, in other words protecting other living beings from fear or danger. Your Media Alerts point out that mainstream news organisations cover some of the world’s most serious problems while obscuring their causes, and that as a result media consumers find themselves filled with feelings of anxiety and fear, not to mention powerlessness and apathy. Are you deliberately trying to release people from this state – to give fearlessness?
Media Lens: As you know, the roots of fearlessness also lie in a realistic appraisal of the situation we are in. If we think it’s safe to abuse, exploit and kill other beings, it is no bad thing to be made aware of the terrifying consequences of such actions. This dis-illusionment can lead from ignorance through fear to fearlessness. Similarly, we are quite happy to discuss the terrifying realities of climate change, war, and the compromise that makes these possible.
But a major aim of what we’re doing is to address people’s confusion. The media is deeply bewildering – the reality is summed up by the title of media analyst Danny Schecter’s book The More You Watch The Less You Know. Providing rational frameworks for understanding specific issues – Haiti, Kosovo, East Timor, climate change – and broader issues – how the media works, the motives driving foreign policy – surely gives people greater confidence that they can make sense of the world, and that they can therefore rely on their own judgement. We also try to explain the advantages of concern for others over self-cherishing. We don’t want people to feel dependent on us, we want them to feel that the issues are really not that complicated, and that anyone can form sensible judgements with a modicum of hard work.
We also try to promote fearlessness by encouraging compassionate rather than angry responses to problems. We believe that anger is deeply demotivating, in fact crippling, whereas great compassion provides an inexhaustible, and in fact increasing, source of energy and inspiration.
Bain: One of the aspects of a Bodhisattva’s moral discipline is not to criticise others, but to focus on his or her own faults instead. The Buddhist master Atisha said: “Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood. Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.” (Quoted, Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Tharpa Publications, 2000, p.261). Some of your Media Alerts are very critical of the work of individual journalists. Aren’t you breaking the Bodhisattva’s moral code by criticising others in this way?
Media Lens: This is a question that concerns us greatly. We try to make clear that our focus is on faults in the arguments of journalists rather than in the journalists themselves. Typically, we will present a mainstream journalist’s arguments, contrast these with an alternative range of arguments based on verifiable facts and multiple credible sources, and invite readers to decide which arguments are more or less credible. Often we point out that an erroneous argument is actually part of a pattern that stretches right across the media, so that we are pointing to institutionalised bias rather than individual ‘bad apples’.
We often point out that the vast majority of journalists are not deliberately deceitful – it’s not that they’re bad people, liars and so on – there is no wicked conspiracy. We encourage readers to understand the systemic factors behind individual performance: journalists are selected because they have been educated to hold the right views by corporate media that are designed to maximise profits. The whole cultural, political and social system puts immense pressure on privileged journalists to hold ‘the right’ views about the world – it is not their fault that they have little or no access to alternative arguments. On another level, one can even argue that it is not really their fault that they believe it is ‘realistic’ to prioritise their own self-interest above the interests of others – that’s what the whole culture tells them to do.
There are a couple of other considerations. Journalists who advanced arguments for war against Iraq in 2002-2003 were vital parts of a media-military machine that resulted in the deaths of well over 100,000 (perhaps as many as 300,000) Iraqi civilians and the devastation of an entire country. By themselves promoting mass violence as a solution to human problems, by persuading others to take those arguments seriously, they were causing immense harm to themselves and others. In his book, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, Peter Harvey writes:
“Asanga says that a Bodhisattva will lie so as to protect others from death or mutilation, though he will not lie to save his own life. He will slander an unwholesome adviser of a person, and use harsh, severe words to move someone from unwholesome to wholesome action.” (Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p.139)
In the Commentary on Dharmaraksita's The Poison-Destroying Peacock Mind Training, Geshe Lhundub Sopa writes:
“If you should encounter some erroneous teaching that leads other beings into great suffering, such as rebirth in hell, you should not be indifferent. Rather, you should take action to combat such a harmful teaching. If you do this, you will be acting with a form of jealousy. This is not like ordinary jealousy, which is just the desire to ruin someone’s happiness, rather it is the desire to root out the wrong teaching so that the correct teaching will endure. While it appears to be jealousy, it is actually different; it is motivated by the concern that the source of happiness will be destroyed if the correct teaching disappears.” (Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Peacock In The Poison Grove, Wisdom Books, 2001, pp.254-5)
In The Six Perfections, Geshe Sonam Rinchen writes:
"The tenth [way of assisting others] consists of giving support by castigating those who are engaged in detrimental activities. This may entail taking stern measures to stop them, since one should not condone or indulge others’ fondness for harmful actions." (Geshe Sonam Rinchen, The Six Perfections, Snow Lion, 1998, p.40)
So although it is unpleasant to criticise journalists, and is risky both for their psychological welfare and our own – it’s easy to become habitually negative, cynical and even angry in this work – we believe it is important to do so.
Bain: One of the aspects of the perfection of patience is not retaliating. Some of the journalists you have singled out for criticism have responded harshly – basically they have retaliated. Isn’t this a natural response? Have you retaliated in return?
Media Lens: If it was a natural response it would occur invariably in all people and cultures around the world. This is not the case. In her book, Ancient Futures, the linguist Helena Norberg-Hodge reported a remarkable absence of retaliation in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh, even amongst children. We believe that Buddhist practitioners meditating on the benefits of patience, the faults of anger, and the lack of inherent existence of the targets of anger, can completely remove the impulse to retaliation.
We worry very much that by generating anger in journalists we are inadvertently causing harm. This may well be exacerbated by our encouraging members of the public to write to journalists. At the end of every email we append these words:
“The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.”
People do not always heed these words and sometimes send angry abuse to journalists. This is a source of real concern to us; it’s something we strongly discourage. Is it outweighed by the fact that receiving large number of mostly polite and rational emails can persuade journalists and newspapers to reconsider their stand on war, on the impact of rampant consumerism on climate change, as we believe has sometimes happened to some extent? We hope so.
We do occasionally get angry, but generally we try to respond to abuse without anger, with restrained and polite emails. This emphasis on self-restraint is unusual in left-leaning political debate. We’ve noticed that this seems to have had quite an impact on both journalists and readers. Even journalists who have to deal with large numbers of emails – which is not something anyone enjoys – have responded positively to our work. In recent months senior journalists like Peter Barron (editor of Newsnight), Peter Wilby (former editor of the New Statesman) and film-maker John Pilger have all commented on our restraint and politeness. This is not normally something senior players in the rough and tumble world of journalism would focus on – this is encouraging. For example, the Newsnight editor, Peter Barron, wrote on the BBC’s website last November:
“One of Media Lens’ less ingratiating habits is to suggest to their readers that they contact me to complain about things we’ve done. They’re a website whose rather grand aim is to “correct the distorted vision of the corporate media”. They prolifically let us know what they think of our coverage, mainly on Iraq, George Bush and the Middle East, from a Chomskyist perspective. In fact I rather like them. David Cromwell and David Edwards, who run the site, are unfailingly polite, their points are well-argued and sometimes they’re plain right.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4426334.stm)
Bain: One of the aspects of the perfection of effort is overcoming discouragement. Do you ever get discouraged and, if so, how do you overcome it?
Media Lens: Discouragement is often a sign that a compassionate motivation has given way to some kind of self-centred concern – perhaps anger, or frustration at the lack of some kind of reward (recognition or praise, for example).
We also sometimes feel discouraged when we read the latest news indicating that climate change has already reached the point of no return – that we are guaranteed environmental catastrophe on a massive scale regardless of any actions we now take. We try to put that out of our minds and just keep going. We tell ourselves that human beings are amazingly resourceful – maybe we can do something unexpected. Maybe the lessons we’re receiving in terms of the consequences of selfishness can shatter our conceits about inherent existence, the exaggerated value of selfishness, the under-rated value of compassion, and so on.
The wider point, though, to reiterate, is that discouragement is often a sign that compassion has given way to self-cherishing, particularly to anger. Then we need to reflect that our job is to work for the benefit of others – anger is an indulgence neither they, nor we, can afford.
Bain: Traditionally the perfection of mental stabilisation means meditation. In your work you quote stories of Buddhist meditators who spend years meditating on compassion. Would they be better off campaigning like you, or would you be better off meditating like them?
Media Lens: We can’t think of a more remarkable or important achievement than being willing and able to meditate single-mindedly on compassion for years. In our opinion, people able to do this are a real cause for hope. If political activism has any meaning, it is because it is rooted in compassion. But that compassion must be rooted in an authentic, profound and living tradition – something that requires the realisations of individuals able to travel to the far reaches of understanding and to return with the personally experienced truth of the power and importance of compassion.
This is really vital work. No one able to devote themselves to this kind of thing should abandon it for the kind of work we’re doing. We see our work almost as an attempt to make use of the compassionate raw materials mined by these people.
On the other hand, we feel we need to do as much as we can to develop compassion and wisdom in ourselves. There are two ways of doing this: first, our political activism should be rooted in compassion, it should be an expression of compassion, not something separate. Second, activism should be supported by a serious commitment to developing compassion and wisdom in ourselves through meditation, reading, discussion, study and so on.
Should Buddhists spend more time in understanding the insitutionalisation of greed, hatred and ignorance in modern society? Stephen Batchelor writes:
“The contemporary social engagement of dharma practice is rooted in awareness of how self-centred confusion and craving can no longer be adequately understood only as psychological drives that manifest themselves in subjective states of anguish. We find these drives embodied in the very economic, military, and political structures that influence the lives of the majority of people on earth.” (Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs – A Contemporary Guide To Awakening, Bloomsbury, 1997, p.112)
We agree. While we understand that Dharma traditionally focuses on removing the obscuring afflictions in individuals, the problem today is that institutionalised psychological ‘pollution’ is making it extremely hard for individuals to even +consider+ the need to work on such issues – quite the reverse. As Noam Chomsky has observed, the corporate goal “is to ensure that the human beings who [it is] interacting with, you and me, also become inhuman. You have to drive out of people’s heads natural sentiments like care about others, or sympathy, or solidarity... The ideal is to have individuals who are totally disassociated from one another, who don’t care about anyone else... whose conception of themselves, their sense of value, is ‘Just how many created wants can I satisfy?’” (Quoted, Joel Bakan, The Corporation, Constable, 2004, pp.134-135)
How can that not be an issue for anyone who cares about human suffering? If it’s for strategic reasons – Buddhists know they will be labelled as ‘political agitators’ and ‘troublemakers’ and targeted by the propaganda system – that’s one thing. If the issue isn’t even acknowledged or discussed, that’s something else again. We can’t imagine how that can be justified.
Bain: The perfection of wisdom means understanding the ultimate nature of reality. It is the supreme attainment of a Bodhisattva and can only be achieved by abandoning attachment to wealth, reputation, praise and pleasure. Although you are a writer and journalist, your Media Lens project means that you have little chance of ever making a living from or having a position of respect within the mainstream media. Is the sacrifice worth it?
Media Lens: Remarkably, exactly the opposite is the case. You've probably heard this famous story:
“I used to hold up people by day and rob villages at night; but even so, food and clothes were scarce. Now that I practise Dharma, I am short of neither food nor clothing, and my enemies leave me in peace.” (Quoted, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, Pabongka Rinpoche, Wisdom Books, 1997, p.336)
When we started Media Lens, we both had fledgling careers in the media – we had both published books, had both published articles in a few mainstream newspapers and smaller magazines. It’s possible we could have developed careers as freelance writers or as media journalists. The question behind Media Lens was this:
‘What happens if we no longer give any thought to being published, being paid, being respectable, being liked by commissioning editors? What happens if we just tell the truth as we see it about suffering and the causes of suffering?’
It seemed to us few media analysts had ever really tried it – people are generally hoping to make money from this kind of thing – and before the internet they couldn’t reach anyone anyway. So we thought this would be a great experiment and it fitted perfectly with what is, for us, the absolutely central proposal of Mahayana Buddhism. Here are two versions that have inspired us greatly:
“Come to an understanding that no matter how it may seem, the root of all suffering is in actuality the desire to accomplish our own benefit and our own aims, and the root of all happiness is the relinquishment of that concern and the desire to accomplish the benefit of others.” (Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche)
“As much as you can, cherish all the beings – human and animal – around you with a good heart, and try to benefit them by giving them whatever help they need. Give them every single thing you can to make them happy: even a few sweet words or some interesting conversation that benefits their minds, that stops their problems and makes them happy. Use every opportunity, every action of your body, speech, and mind, to increase your virtue.” (Lama Zopa Rinpoche)
We also had an increasing sense of outrage at the fact that journalists, ourselves included, would be willing to subordinate the welfare of others to career concern. How can we be willing to cooperate so meekly with this compromised, corporate system of media power when the consequences are so horrendous for living beings? It seemed so cruel, so narrow-minded – even if the attempt was a laughable failure, it felt like a good idea to at least try to rebel against the selfishness in ourselves and as entrenched in the media system itself.
The satisfaction of writing out of this motivation is incomparably greater than that of writing in hope of respectability, status and financial reward. Everything we send out is free, it’s intended as an act of generosity and support. The responses we’ve had have been amazing – messages of love (there’s no other word to use) from all corners of the world. It’s been really astonishing. We’ve had criticism too, of course, but people are clearly very eager to read media analysis uncompromised by corporate control, career concerns, and the like. And of course the irony is that because they appreciate what we’re doing we have received financial support that has helped us keep going.
On respect, the curious thing is we do seem to have won some respect in the mainstream. A very credible media insider told us that there is an undercurrent of impassioned dissent in the BBC – journalists who are deeply unhappy at the way they are being used as a mouthpiece for government propaganda – for whom Media Lens acts as “a rallying point”. Journalists who care about honesty in the media, who recognise the massive constraints on freedom of speech, strongly support what we’re doing – they have often sent us private messages of support. They are frightened to speak out, much less to be associated with us, but they do respect what we’re doing. One journalist working for the Observer (a paper we have heavily criticised), told us:
“Thanks very much. It goes without saying, many thanks for providing the inspiration/facts and for all your and DC’s [David Cromwell] good work. You are a constant needle, comfort and inspiration. Great stuff.”
Bain: The ultimate reality understood by the perfection of wisdom is that everything is empty of inherent existence. In this discussion you have talked of the importance of “shatter[ing] our conceits about inherent existence”. Yet the passage from Stephen Batchelor which you quote above implies that negative states of mind ‘inhere’ in our political and economic institutions, making them inherently bad. Traditionally, kindness is the main quality that Buddhists are encouraged to see in economic and political institutions – or at least in the people who work in them – because they provide us with vital services or because they give us problems which enable us to develop such virtues as non-attachment, patience and compassion. Do you think that our present economic and political system is inherently bad?
Media Lens: The Canadian lawyer, Joel Bakan, describes how corporations are abstract concepts that are legally obliged to subordinate the welfare of people and planet to profit. Because charity and compassion are illegal under corporate law, except insofar as these increase profits, Bakan argues that corporations are essentially psychopathic in nature. Bakan quotes a key 19th century pronouncement by an English law lord, Lord Bowen: “...charity has no business to sit at boards of directors +qua+ charity. There is, however, a kind of charitable dealing which is for the interest of those who practise it, and to that extent and in that garb (I admit not a very philanthropic garb) charity may sit at the board, but for no other purpose”. (Lord Bowen, quoted, Bakan, The Corporation, Constable, 2004, pp.38-39)
According to The Body Shop founder, Anita Roddick, the corporation “stops people from having a sense of empathy with the human condition”; it “separate[s] us from who we are... The language of business is not the language of the soul or the language of humanity. It’s a language of indifference; it’s a language of separation, of secrecy, of hierarchy”. (Ibid, pp.55-56)
So what should our response be? Insofar as this system benefits us, we can recognise its kindness, as you say. Insofar as it harms us, we can practice patience. This isn’t so hard. It is far easier to understand that a corporation is an abstract, non-inherently existent entity than it is to understand the same of an individual person. It’s clear that a corporation is just a label applied to a large number of buildings, constantly changing personnel, bank accounts, business principles and so on. We know General Motors isn’t a person with a personality that we can hate. People might hate the chairman or CEO – although their hands are tied by shareholders, corporate law, and so on – but we can’t hate a label.
But insofar as the corporation is harming others we should work with all our might to prevent that harm. We need to raise awareness amongst the public of the extraordinary costs of the unlimited pursuit of corporate greed for people and planet. We need to work to rein in the worst destructiveness and then work to reform the political and economic systems that make this possible. This means democratic movements rooted in compassion and respect for life, movements that promote freedom, equality and justice. All of this should be rooted in compassion for suffering, not anger.
Our guide in reforming the system can be our awareness that selfish greed is inherently harmful. We need only reflect that corporate law enshrines not just greed, but infinite, unrestrained greed as a legal principle that must not be compromised. This is the cause of many of the problems facing us today. The root of that, in turn, is that selfish individuals have created these laws to protect their interests. As ever, positive change begins with a recognition of the negative consequences of self-cherishing and the benefits of caring for others.