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GET REAL: Never just business


GET REAL: Never just business

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I WAS DRIVING behind a ZR van with a sticker that read: “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” I was conflicted. Should I smile, or should I steupse?

So many times I’ve met public service vehicles on the road and got the feeling that the driver had come to work that day to inconvenience and upset me personally. Even if it is nothing personal, uncouth business practices on the road affect me in a very personal way. 

It’s never just business. Nothing ever is.

God bless ZRs. Heaven help those who have to depend on the Transport Board alone. The value ZRs provide is legendary. That is why the industry has grown even after the late chanter Ninja Man accused drivers of being licensed to kill. It’s because, paraphrasing Dub artist Ranking Ricky in his response tune: “If ya you don’t want to sit down waiting, a Maxi Taxi is the answer to your problems.” 

But we can all see that how a PSV crew operates is not just business. The social impact of so-called ZR culture is a favourite talking point.  It is a political issue used to score points, and several tragic accidents help to bring home the point that the transport business can result in deadly personal consequences. 

As columnist Corey Worrell tried to explain, there are other factors that push the culture of the ZR business to be the way it is. These are men and women who are hustling to make sometimes meagre earnings in a poorly regulated field. “It’s just business” is not an excuse or even a full explanation, but when people feel desperate they do strange things. If that desperation is allowed to continue it becomes the culture; the way of doing things.

Regulators are supposed to keep the culture from getting desperate. Some Governments, though, seem to deal in desperation. They thrive and feed on it. Desperation makes people easier to be bought. This is when politicians are more about profit and power than public service. Power is a drug. Politics can be like the drug-dealing business.

For the dealer in illegal narcotics, it is nothing personal, it is just business. He is targeted by the law because his business is deemed as deadly. But when that illegal businessman trades in a substance such as marijuana, which is becoming big business in other parts of the world and arguably less damaging than other legal substances like tobacco and alcohol, you can see why he might feel persecuted, like it is something personal.

It may have been. The prohibition of marijuana began in the US at a time when it was the drug of choice for Mexicans and blacks. It became a useful excuse to target those minorities. Marijuana prohibition was also a matter of business. The anti-marijuana lobby was led by the tobacco industry which saw it as a competitor. 

Mexicans and blacks have become a sore spot with businessman and President Donald J. Trump, and now Native Americans. Trump quickly signed permits for the building of oil pipelines, which were previously blocked by President Barack Obama. This is not just business for Native Americans. The pipelines will disturb sacred burial grounds and could contaminate water supplies. Business ordinarily keeps its eyes out of the sky and its ear to the ground so it can hear the bottom line. So religion and sacred burial grounds get trumped. 

When “it’s just business” is the motto of a small business like a ZR, it is bad. But when big business takes that position, it can be ecological, social or political disaster.

Regulating the operations of a few small business people is one thing. Regulating and policing multinational, billion-dollar corporations is another. I wish we could manage to regulate ZR exhaust. The exhaust fumes from a single ZR are enough to choke you. But Volkswagon and other large automobile manufacturers have recently been caught hiding from regulators the true level of poisonous and environmentally damaging fumes their vehicles emit. It’s scary to think that this may just be business internationally.

In the 70s and 80s increased awareness of the damaging fumes from cigarettes caused a decline in smoking in wealthy countries and led the cigarette industry to increase marketing in poorer countries. Tobacco company Phillip Morris devised a plan that took advantage of the fact that: “In general, little official governmental attention has been paid to smoking and health in Africa and the African Health Ministers, where they exist, have not taken a strong stand on this issue.”

We depend on government to keep watch on business. But successive governments have struggled to manage even PSVs. Increasingly, the call is coming for government to get further out of the way of business. Trumpeters of business have mythologised it as the art of bringing radical positive changes to society via the minds of revolutionary entrepreneurial visionaries. This is often true. But not as much as is advertised. And don’t get tie-up. 

When a big money business deal is moving in, someone has to move to make room for it. Those of us unable to afford high-priced lawyers and our own feasibility studies will have to lean on the understanding of Government and the morality of business to be assured the move will be in our interests. You have to be reasonably satisfied with how your Government ordinarily handles its business and that business is on the people’s side.

But as long as everything is just business, a matter of economics, business is like war and people are collateral damage.

Adrian Green is a creative communications specialist. Email: [email protected]