Help Me Here!
Your turn to do the work!
While we were on vacation in Norway & Sweden, one evening's conversation took a serious turn. Susan questioned the propriety of a particular speech I was giving this Fall. It led to a sweeping & intense & lengthy family discussion of what it is I do and whether there are certain groups I should not talk to.
It subsequently led me to do a little writing to figure out what I thought about what she was arguing.* I will share it with you soon enough. But as I prepared to Post it today, I thought it would be useful to hold off and get your thoughts and biases on this all-important (to me) issue.
(*Back to my Principal Professional Bias in Life—and the topic of several pre-vacation Posts. Detailed planning vs Action First/Think-Do vs Do-Think. When confronted with an imponderable issue like this, I rarely or never "think about it," but always & immediately start writing—I figure the writing per se will be my path to action-clarity. CK Chesterton: "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" Reporter: "Mr Drucker, why are you still giving speeches at 90?" PD: "How else can I figure out what I'm thinking?")
The discussion included the sublime and the ridiculous. I say I'm a Health-Wellness-Obesity-Hospital quality nut, and I'm increasingly talking with religious zeal to participants in that industry. So must I refuse to talk to cigarette companies and fast-food outfits? (I've spoken to Philip Morris, KFC, Boston Pizza, and Dunkin' Donuts, among others, in the last couple of years.) (And obviously I'd turn down in a flash Ben & Jerry's, the so-called do-gooders who clog arteries for a living.)
My wife's biases leaned toward her deeply held views on War & Peace. Do I talk to weapons' contractors, the Military, nations run de facto or de jure by dictators, nations that support terrorists (I reminded her of U.S. citizens' sub rosa support for the IRA in the past—that didn't go over well)? Nations that, in the distant past, gleefully burned down the White House?
Oil companies came under scrutiny as well. I tossed in financial services companies just for the hell of it—usurious practices, etc. Companies with crappy environmental records? Companies that put you on hold for long periods when you try to do business with them? Companies, like Dell, with questionable commitment to customer service? Companies with very low quantities of Women in senior roles? Church leadership groups, because extreme religious beliefs are responsible for most human conflict over the Ages? Congress? Recreation-industry groups because I think time off is a Mortal Sin? Law firms because, you know, "First thing, let's kill ..."? The Tom Peters Company, because it serves some of the categories listed above?
Obviously, before the evening was over it was clear that retirement was the only option. I jest, of course, because the question is in fact a damn good one. And I'd like your serious input. It is true that if you apply incredibly tight definitions of holier-than-thou morality you end up on the beach and without influence. But it's also true that too plastic a definition of morality is also intolerable—unless you've got the insane belief that you are here to right all the world's wrongs and can turn the tide at will.
My glib rebuttal in this family mini-drama was that (1) I am always a goodwill ambassador for the United States; (2) the World is a nasty place; (3) I am an avowed Capitalist Pig and believe that light regulations (don't ban fast food) and hearty economic growth is the best way, or at least the best we can do, to help Humanity forward a bit;** (4) my core message is about Human Liberation and Human Potential; (5) etc; (6) etc.
(**E.g.: I just read an excellent piece on the insane death total due to rampant malaria that claims, with a ton of supporting evidence, that malaria eradication happens almost automatically as per capita income increases.)
So you tell me: Declaim to all comers? Follow a restrictive path in extreme cases? (What's extreme, please? Be specific!) Retire?
(As you can tell, summer "vacation" in the Peters-Sargent family is not just a day/s at the beach.)
(I've obviously been flippant upon occasion in this Post, but that's because Susan put me on the defensive—and the issue is indeed so serious.)