2014’s Unmentionable Event

Glasgow, Scribble, Wee scribbles

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Not long until the C*m**nw**l*h G***s start here in G*****w.

Exciting stuff isn’t it? Well, no not really and here’s why.

Local businesses have been warned that they may face legal proceedings if they use any official branding. Fair enough – it’s someone else’s copyrighted artwork. But they can also be prosecuted if, between the 23rd of July and the 3rd of August, they use, amongst other generic terms, 20*4, Glas***w, Go*d, Sil**r or Br*nz*.

A quote from Alan Matthew (a partner with Miller Hendry of Dundee) explains:

“…we expect to see many businesses and organisations attempting to take advantage of the incredible hype surrounding the Commonwealth Games…[they] are entitled to show support and enthusiasm for the Games so long as this is done in a way which does not associate promotion of the business or organisation with the Games.”

What does this mean? Well, several things. First of all it makes a nonsense of the claims that the purpose of the Unmentionable Event (UE) is, in part, to regenerate and revitalise local communities. Go to the UE’s website and you will find much talk of ‘legacy’. It describes its values thus:

“Ours is an inclusive organisation which epitomises the values of integrity, responsibility and endeavour and in which all our people are valued.”

‘All our people’ clearly not meaning the local tax-payers; be they individuals or businesses. If it were true, then they would behave with ‘integrity’ and ‘responsibility’ and would allow people to use the terms they have hijacked for a 2 week period. If they were ‘inclusive’, if they wanted to create a real ‘legacy’, then they wouldn’t even contemplate threatening local businesses with legal action for having the name of their city and the year in which we are living, written on a board outside their shop, while the UE is on. Making these threats is like supermarkets who throw out food, rather than giving it to hungry people. It is because it will not benefit them; they would suffer no loss from giving this food away, but the simple fact they will not gain, is reason enough not to engage in such practices.

This is a somewhat cynical take on things, you may think. But let me explain why it is nothing more than a simple, objective truth.

Profit

Corporations are required to put the interests of their shareholders before anything else. Shareholders, being what they are, are interested in one thing and one thing only – profit. So, when a corporation invests time, resources and money in doing something that is not increasing profit, it is breaking the contract it has with its shareholders.

You may have noticed over recent years, companies have become very interested in the environment, in sustainability, in recycling and so on. This is not because they suddenly saw the problems ahead of us all if we don’t take these things seriously; they have known this for decades. What has changed is that the balance has tipped; it is now more likely to be commercially advantageous for them to present an image of concern, than to be indifferent. That is to say, shareholders now require a certain amount of window-dressing, to avoid ‘bad press’ and thus boycotts, loss of sales, loss of value and ultimately loss of profit. It is ONLY when the threat of losing value occurs or is likely, that corporations are obliged to react.

This is not an opinion or a cynical, anti-capitalist, lefty view. In fact, if you imagine that the only thing that matters is your own business and its survival, it makes complete sense. Why would you spend money on something that will bring you no return and possibly reduce your profits?

Unfortunately/fortunately (depending on your point of view) there are many more things that do matter, than the survival of individuals; be they corporate or human. We share finite resources, finite land, air, sea etc. But, while increasing profit is the prominant aim of corporations (or indeed humans), the fact that the outcome of that aim damages us collectively, is of no concern. Once the customer base becomes so damaged or impoverished, that it can no longer afford to buy the product/goods that generate the profit, then (or just before then, if the corporation is clever enough) and only then, the company will act in order to ensure its own survival. This act would no doubt be dressed-up as actual, genuine concern for something external – but let us remember the obligation they have to shareholders. To increase profit. Until profit is threatened, they will not react.

So let’s get back to the Unmentionable Event. Why is all this relevant?

If we see the UE as a vehicle (a vehicle which we have paid for) then the ‘sponsors’ are the passengers. We bought the car. We paid for the fuel. We pay the road tax. And the insurance. We even fight amongst ourselves on the roadside waiting for the opportunity to clean the windscreen. In return, they paint their names on the side for all to see and sit back, sunning their right forearms, while their friends stretch out in the back.

In keeping with the tradition of the commonwealth, I have to give the UE credit. Just as the commonwealth has always done, they are using the common, to generate wealth with the threat of punitive measures to anyone that dares to ask for a slice of it.

Cynical? No. Why? For the reasons I have outlined.

Corporations – the likes of the Big Petrol company and the celibate media empire – do nothing unless it increases their profits. They pretend to be our friends. They use cartoon characters to get us on board. They line the streets with colourful flags. They know that doing so, fools enough of us in to buying their products.

“But they can’t be all that bad if they’re getting involved with such a positive event surely?” Nonsense. These are the kinds of institutions that would push your granny into the road if someone gave them a fiver. Not because they wanted to, but because they had an obligation to maximise profit.

The major car company sponsoring the UE, gives us one perfect example of this. In the early 1970s they discovered one of their cars had a potentially lethal defect. They did a cost/benefit analysis that determined it would cost more to recall the cars than it would to pay compensation in the event of injury or fatality. Why would they do this? Because of the obligation to shareholders to maximise profit. And what happened? People died. They paid the compensation. And carried on with business.

“But they create jobs”

But why shouldn’t they maximise their profits? A company that doesn’t make profit, is not a company for very long. And of course, “they create jobs”. Yes – this they do. I can’t argue with that. They create lots of jobs. But mainly ones with zero-hour contracts. Ones that take all the profits out of local communities and put them in to large tax-avoidance schemes. Doing this leaves communities vulnerable, because they then rely on large corporations for income. This of course strengthens the standing of the corporations, who are then able to bargain with governments for tax reliefs, improved trading conditions and so on. This means more of the money we earn, is taken from us in tax, to create an even friendlier environment for them to trade in. The UE taking place in G***g*w, like the UE in Brazil, the UE in London and all the rest of them, are free-rides dressed up as sporting events. Whatever benefits local communities do get from these mammoth events, pales in to insignificance, compared to the profits made by the sponsors. How do I know this? Simply because, they do nothing, ever, for us. They never will, because of that simple obligation to profit.

I am no party-pooper. I am all for encouraging people to get fit, to be healthy, to get involved with community and to unite as people. But, not as adverts.