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R H
  • R H
  • Chicago, IL
  • United States

TEDCRED 30+

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Employer's 'Codes of Conduct' are violations of my civil rights

I recently worked with a Fortune 25 corp and had to sign a 'code of conduct' as a condition of employment. In it, it stated (effectively) 'employees conduct is a reflection of the company both on and off the job, therefore employees must conduct themselves in a manner representing the company at all times'. I felt this violated my civil rights. I felt that I was hired to perform a task, to a job, and that my life is my own. The employer (ostensibly) felt that to work there was a choice, not a demand, and this is their condition of employment if I should 'choose' to work there. My conduct is my business - especially 'off' the job. I am not a slave. I am not 'owned'. My actions are not 'owned', and I cannot be 'discarded' because I may or may not have personal values that mirror my employers. Employment is 'at will', I agree. But losing my job because of my conduct at home is a violation of my civil rights.

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    May 18 2013: First of all pick your fights, this ain't one of them.

    Second of all if I hire someone I want to determine that his goals are consistent with mine. If you want to conduct yourself in a manner unbecoming then I don't want to hire you. This is more a matter of agreement not rights.
    • May 19 2013: pat,

      Well said.
      This topic is trash.
      Show him the door.
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      R H 30+

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      May 19 2013: Hi Pat, please see response to Salim above and see if that clarify's.
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    • May 19 2013: Chris,

      In my opinion,
      You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.
      Thank you.

      Whiner was the word that first came to my mind as I read the Debate topic.
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        R H 30+

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        May 19 2013: HI Frank, thanks for responding. please see response to Chris...
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      R H 30+

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      May 19 2013: Alright. Thanks for responding. I absolutely take responsibility for my actions. And that's just it, they're my actions. How does exercising my privacy and personal freedom, that so many have died to protect, equal 'not taking responsibility'? A contract of employment is only that too - an agreement to perform a task for a certain return. My personal life is not beholden to the other party, nor does it have anything to do with our contractual relationship. So I take it you prefer that 'someone else' dictate your personal life. No whining now...
      • May 19 2013: R H in response to your response to Chris.
        The thing in the closet has had no say in your argument.
        The Employer.
        The other party who has standing in your argument.

        Since the contract was created by the Employer, and not yourself,
        the Employer can write requirements for employment that must be
        acceptable to potential Employees, and that acceptance certified
        by signature and date. If a potential Employee wishes to change
        the terms, he or she should do so before putting ink to paper.

        A morals clause is common enough in Employment Contracts.
        You will find also that other types of contracts to have within their
        terms, exclusions based upon conduct. The most common ones
        I can think of are Insurance Policies. Since I have written several
        of them from scratch, I know that the Insured must meet certain
        requirements before benefits can be paid.

        I wrote Contracts of Insurance. They are not Civil Rights contracts.
        Just My Contracts. ha ha ha

        Civil rights work both ways.
        Yours just haven't been violated, except in your singular opine.
        Sorry R H Take 2 Aspirin and call me in the morning.
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          R H 30+

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          May 19 2013: Alright, but 'puchasing insurance' is buying a product, not earning a livelyhood, and therefore carries different 'weight' and a different level of consideration. I do not deny, as is implied n the 'at will' comment in the debate explanation, that employers bave a right to state conditions of employment in offer agreements. I'm merely argueing that using my personal conduct - especially off the job - as evidence of dismissal should not be one of them, and that its in violation of my civil rights to deny me the right to earn a living via my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    • May 23 2013: Chris, I agree with you. But I also want to respond to RH's argument. First let me say that if the Company dismissed you for any reason because of you participation in protest for some unfairness about some policy or regulations that are completely irrelevant to the Company,s business, then you certainly could sue them for discrimination in employment, because the reason for dismissal was not contained in the employment contract. The definition of misconduct should not include the act of public protest. However, if the protest is for or against, say gay marriage, and if you are hired by the Boy Scout of America, then it does involve the "Company's policy or data information stated in the conduct clause of the contract.
      I am all for the freedom in civil rights, and your legal rights to sue against the employer's discrimination for your rights. But you must respect your employer's right if they forewarned about their stated policies of on involvement in public opinion about either positive or negative protest, including internet chat under your own name and you employer,s
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        R H 30+

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        May 24 2013: Hmmm. Very interesting. Thanks bart. I believe that not-for-profit agencies have to follow the same rules & reg's in employment as other for-profit employers - but I'm not 100% sure. Could the BSA exclude an applicant because they're gay? I don't think so anymore. Could they fire that same employee for participating in a 'gay marriage' protest, and call that 'against corp policy'? I believe, under your description, they could. Looking strictly academically, I would argue that 'forwarning' a new employee that involvement in public protests, on their personal time, that are against 'mission/vision' statements of the organization are grounds for dismissal, is against their civil rights to be gay and participate in protests. So let's play this out: The BSA (using your example) is against gay marriage. They have a 'most qualified applicant' and hire them - making it perfectly clear that participation in public protests that are against the mission/vision of the org, in this example 'gay marriage', are grounds for dismissal. But as the now employee, the law says participating in public protests are a civil right. Therefore, is not the org's demand 'overruled' by the law of the land? In other words, is it legal for my now employer to fire me for exercising my civil right, even though they notified me in advance of employment that it was their requirement? I would say the employer cannot have that as a requirement in the first place, and therefore would be in violation of civil rights law to require that in an employment agreement. Thanks again for the interesting contribution, and if you care to, let me know what you think because I'm exploring this point myself.
        • May 24 2013: I would gladly answer your question, but please be reminded that this is not a legal advice of any kind. I am not a lawyer by profession or academic training. I also don't intend to give you any advice even as a layman. But I have also no intention of criticizing your idea or conduct. This is just my observation on you legal position in this dispute.
          I have known 2 recent events that seem to have some bearing on your situation. First is the news that the BSA does make decisions of hiring/accepting membership of gay people. One of the voting just happened yesterday. The other event is that some decision was made that a CEO or other responsible officer of a company could post the policy or some financial information of a public company on the internet with his own name and title, which is legally allowed but also is legally responsible for its truth. So, in my interpretation, it is probably permissible for you to join a protest, waving a placard or a banner indicating what you are protesting for. (usually you won't be identified, especially connecting with your company affiliation). But you are a little out of line when you chat on the net with your name and company identity flashed on the screen because of the second recent news I cited above. Of course you likely are not the CEO of your company, but that is not really materially relevant.
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    • May 19 2013: Chris,
      I wouldn't go so far as to call Employment a privilege.
      You might have the State try to make you get a license for the privilege of digging dirt.

      The employer would not want to be 'represented' by an 'off the clock' employee.
      That is one step beyond. Liability issues appear for greedy attorneys.

      But, asking an employee to act responsibly 24/7/365 via contract, is not a bad idea.
      Provided the foolish applicant will sign such an agreement in the first place.

      That whiner thingy still seems to fit.
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      R H 30+

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      May 19 2013: Ah, there we go. 'Big boy pants', employment as a privileged, and realities of life. Now I get it. I should be 'grateful' that those companies want me to do something for them because I'm the best skilled candidate, so grateful that I relinquish my personal freedom, because it's a 'privileged' to have invested in my education and talents and be able to lay them 'at the altar' of my omnipotent employer, who claims control over my personal living, because this is the reality. And I am 'selfish, self-centered, and feel entitlement' because I wish to demand my freedom. Guilty as charged. I guess I'm fired, huh? I'm sure you'll have some excellent candidates who will live exactly as you prescribe - sir. "Yes sir, I'll do that at home sir. No, you're right sir, I won't do that at home sir.Thank you, sir. Thank you sir..."
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          R H 30+

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          May 24 2013: Very nice logo of 'Coexist'. So in the spirit of such fine public representation, I won't defend myself against your horribly inflammatory, unfounded, uninformed accusations and personal attack - which are dismissive conversation and debate tactics, by the way. I would only hope to find some common ground in the future, whether we differ or agree.
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    R H 30+

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    May 18 2013: Because employment is 'at will', employers do not need a 'reason' to terminate the employment relationship. Behavior can mean anything the employer wishes to interpret. I cannot debate specific employment positions, only as an employee, my personal life, choices, and actions are my own.
    • May 19 2013: R H

      Very good. I knew you were a wolf in sheep clothing. haha
      You're not a 'whiner' after all. You just like a great argument.
      I bet your Mom let you stir the cake batter, to mix it up.
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    May 23 2013: It probably isn't a violation of your rights as you sign the employment contract voluntarily. It doesn't make good business sense though. Anything that potentially limits the pool of possible employees for reasons not directly related to job performance wil in the end make your company less successful.
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      R H 30+

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      May 24 2013: Very interesting perspective, and one I'd agree with wholeheartedly. We can always find ways/reasons to be more 'comfortable' with colleagues, but more often than not a really great candidate for a specific position may not share our values and/or interests, and may even be personally active in them. This other point of 'voluntary' employment is echoed throughout the majority of the responses. I seem to be having trouble articulating my problem with this - strictly academically, so let me try again from another direction: If we transport ourselves back to the early 1900's, we could say that we have it as company policy that we don't hire minorities, women, orientals, jews/catholics/buddhists, homosexuals, etc. If someone claimed to be neither of those yet subsequently was discovered to be so, we could've fired them. We stated our policy upfront, and they effectively 'lied' on the application. This was justified as employment is 'voluntary'. Since then, the courts have determined that these are 'civil rights', that employment is a 'separate' consideration in freedom, and that denying employment based on such 'civil rights' is against the law. I am taking that 'train of thought' to the next step of 'what I do at home is also a civil right - to privacy and the 1st amendment' and should be against the law to consider in employment. 'Codes of Conduct' by major employers are too vague and arbitrary as to extend 'into this territory' of personal freedom - in my opinion. Although it's true and obvious that deciding to work for a particular employer is 'voluntary', my point is that, just like in the early 1900's, if I'm the most qualified candidate, 'excluding' my civil rights as described above should not be in the agreement in the first place, nor a justifiable consideration. Thank you for participating in this conversation debate.
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    May 22 2013: RH you making a mountain out of nothing, that is only in the contract for their protection.
    Yes you have the right to free speech, but shouldn’t a company have right to let go an employee that bad months them or their customers on their personal face-book page?
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      R H 30+

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      May 22 2013: Thanks Don. I don't feel I'm making 'a mountain'. It's a friendly debate. I'm merely debating the points, trying to keep 'emotion' out of it. Anything having to do with corp data, intel, customers, or statements of the company on social media should follow the normal rules of libel and slander - and yes, even 'loyalty'. I will cede that type of communication as not protected by civil rights, as that was not my intention and what everyone seems to be focusing on. But my private 'conduct as a reflection on the company' in off-hours is very real, and my livelihood is threatened by this arbitrary interpretation of what the corp feels is acceptable personal 'conduct' vs. what I am free to do by law as a citizen in a free society, all because employment is viewed as voluntary. I guess this is about corp 'image enforcement' on employees when they are not on the job, and whether or not it is legal. I happen to feel it is a violation of my rights as a citizen. No one has supported my side of this debate. Everyone seems to feel that the corp does have the right to fire someone if they disagree with their personal choices while not on the job - and this is currently true. I don't see it, but that's debate. Cheers!
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    May 21 2013: it can not possibly a violation of your rights, because you voluntarily sign the contract. if you don't want to comply, simply do not sign the contract, but either negotiate a new one, or just simply leave.

    putting limitations on what kind of contracts can be made by adult individuals, on the other hand, would be a violation of their civil rights. owners of the company as well as any employee candidate both have civil rights, and it includes the freedom of contract.
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      R H 30+

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      May 22 2013: Ok. I sign an employment agreement which includes a 'code of conduct' that says my 'conduct', both on and off of work (and that's the key here), is under corp scrutiny and could effect disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Is this not a contractual demand that 'over steps the bounds' of personal freedom? In other words, it's not whether or not I can refuse to participate in the agreement - that's a given. It's whether or not that part of the agreement is legal. Religion is a perfect example. There can be no clause in an employment agreement that makes religious preference a consideration in dismissal or denying employment, that religion is strictly a personal and private matter. Is not my personal and private conduct - outside of work - a similar argument? I agree that putting limitations on agreements between people/individuals/business orgs is unhealthy. But employment is another matter - we already have agreed upon employment limitations of exclusion such as: Race, Creed, Marital status, now Sexual Orientation, etc. These 'civil rights' cannot be considered as reasons for dismissal or denying employment. Do not my civil liberties - at home - fall under that same consideration? Let me state it another way: I can fire you because I discovered you do something at home, very arbitrarily, I don't like. Do you feel this is justified because you were told upfront that your conduct at home was under scrutiny and you signed? Or do you feel that 'at home conduct' clauses should not be allowed to be considered in your employment agreement?
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        May 22 2013: "There can be no clause in an employment agreement that makes religious preference a consideration in dismissal or denying employment"

        you see, that is a problem. that goes against the freedom of contract, and thus immoral. in any reasonable free society, employers can fire employees without giving a even a hint of a reason. if i feel uncomfortable with my employer controlling my private life, i leave. if i'm okay with it, i don't want the state or you to interfere.
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          R H 30+

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          May 22 2013: Krisztian, are you saying that having people protected from religious discrimination in employment 'is a problem' and 'immoral'? If so, I have nothing to respond. Thanks for participating.
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        May 22 2013: yes, i claim that. if an employer is so deeply religious that he does not want to work with atheists, it is perfectly fine. if an employer is so atheist and anti-religious that he does not want to work with religious people, it is also fine.
  • May 19 2013: R H
    Your conduct is your business as long as it is legal.
    When it becomes otherwise, it is subject to justice.
    In a sense you are indeed owned. Geographically
    you are owned by a powerful government who claims
    authority over you and the space you occupy. You
    are a slave. Plain and simple.

    When you find yourself well enough armed to dispute
    your status, do so, if you want to. Until then accept
    reality. Or find a Federal Judge to agree with you.
    When you do, please let us all know.

    R H, Please, no more responses. I am at home, alone. LOL
  • May 19 2013: TED

    Thank you TED for giving R H a platform to provide us all with his entertaining debate.
    I am still laughing, as I surmise R H is also.
    Sometimes we all take things a bit to seriously.
    Thank you R H. You made my day.
  • May 19 2013: R H
    For some reason, TED didn't put the little 'reply' thingy up there.
    So this is in response to your "That's the rub, isn't it?" response.

    Yes, you have a choice R H. That is your Civil Right. Your choice.
    Yes you can choose not to work for large successful profitable
    companies because they can exercise their right to, effectively,
    control your personal life. That is your Civil Right. Your choice.

    Now I see you are moving your argument to losing your 'civil liberties'.

    How is your livelihood threatened R H?

    Is this a ploy to keep a conversation going?
    Making it into an echo?
    Quit Whining.

    Accept defeat. Your Toast.
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    May 19 2013: Can you be a bit more specific ?
    What I know is that Code of Conduct of most BIG companies are aligned with UN Global Compact which covers many aspects like Human Rights, Women Empowerment, Child Labor, Minimum Wage, Responsibility to Environment etc ...keeping those aside lets talk about something very specific to individual company...
    Say any company expects "Data Privacy" of it's data from it's employee.
    Does it mean employee will protect it's data during her/his work time only , rest of the time being her/his private , s/he will use her Civil Right to disclose those ?
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      R H 30+

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      May 19 2013: Thanks for responding. I would respond by saying proprietary corporate data has nothing to do with civil rights. What is the interpretation of 'conduct'? Whatever the company wants to determine it is. Who I associate with, what groups I choose to join, what public protests I choose to participate in, what sexual proclivities I may have, whether or not I'm arrested for civil disobedience, what I say on 'Facebook' type private social networks, etc. Civil rights, my 'conduct' - especially on my personal time (it is not 'free' time, by the way. I'm always 'free') - is my business and has nothing to do with job performance. The 'UN Global Compact' are 'human' rights issues, not civil. in my opinion.
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        May 21 2013: You are welcome.
        Understand your point. While referring to "Data Privacy" my intention is not limited to Proprietary Data. Do you consider day to day business information to be proprietary ?

        Freedom of Speech falls in the domain of Civil Right in my opinion.....Corporate world is target of media and also legal professional. I am not saying that what corporate world is doing are all right. Corporate world is part of our greed based societal model no doubt about it. They don't want to fall prey with out a valid reason.

        Once a negative media or law suit is there in any court due to any of it's employee , the damage is already done. Later they can win the law suit or counter act negative media to explain their stand but what lost is lost. As a result corporate world instinctively wants to protect it from such exposure that's the reason of so many Code of Conduct kind of thing is in place.
        But it's individual's freedom whether to join there or not as already told my other posters here.
        Have a good day.
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          R H 30+

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          May 21 2013: Thank you again for a balanced reply. If you noted in my first reply, I gave some examples of the type of 'civil rights' I'm referring to. Anything having to do with divulging corp info would not fall under my definition of 'civil rights' protection. Only personal activities that could be interpreted as 'harming the reputation of the corp image' are suspect here, such as: participating in protests, entries on Facebook, minor arrests, sexual preferences, etc. These I would interpret as 'civil rights', and outside a company's right to threaten my employment. Now, in my opinion, the argument that I have a 'choice' whether or not to 'choose' to work with a particularly restrictive 'code of conduct' company is similar to saying (for example) I can 'choose' to change my religion to work with that same company - which of course is now a consideration that's against the law, but wasn't until very recently. I believe my personal 'choices' of living style and exercised liberties is a parallel argument. But again, this is a friendly debate, and I'm just trying to clarify my point. I have yet to see an argument that explains why the exercise of personal liberties, in similar categories I've described, should be considered 'not-civil rights', and a legitimate reason for dismissal from employment - other than I can choose to work there or not, which does not address the issue. I hope I'm not coming across as 'whining'. Oh brother.
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    May 18 2013: I wonder what interpretation of the contract is valid under the law. Surely there are behaviors that are outside the bounds of what employers have a right to demand and that it would depend on your role in the company. Lots of companies discontinue their relationships with people who commit crimes, for example, or perhaps even are under investigation for crimes. This seems to be legal.

    But it seems it ought also to matter whether you are the official spokesperson or official image of the company, like OJSimpson was for one of the rental car companies, or whether you are part of an internal department in which you as you walk down the street are not actually in the public eye a representative of the company.
  • May 18 2013: R H,
    let me first say, I really admire your conviction.

    Ok, getting into debate mode...

    Big companies have big secrets. God forbid their employers were to act in any way human, and share an opinion or possess a state of mind or anything during work hours! No, that kind of thing is not acceptable. If only robots would hurry up and get invented, they'd have no worries...

    Because, what do big companies fear most? Not bankruptcy, because someone will bail them out. No, they fear losing their 'edge', the thing that sets them apart. When their employees leave the office, there goes their Big Brother position. What will that employee say to someone else about what goes on in the office? Who knows how the other businesses are tapping into information... An employee will talk, if the price is right... Loyalty, shmoyalty.

    Once you sign that contract, you sign away your identity. No matter where you are, or what you're doing, your top priority is not you, not your family, not even your job - it's the all-seeing omnipresent thing called 'the place you work for'. You are where you work.
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      R H 30+

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      May 18 2013: This why it's a 'civil rights' issue. 'Loyalty' has become serfdom, and freedom, that so many have died to insure, is undermined. Yet, where are the patroits to defend us? Where are our 'representatives'? They are in the board rooms, strategizing for the next campaign fundraiser.
      • May 19 2013: R H
        I took the State of Arizona to Federal Court on a Civil Right's issue, and I won.
        They had cheated by treating me badly a number of different ways during their
        law suit with myself.

        Never got a dime back for my Attorney Fees from Arizona courts.
        They guard the money well. Once they have it, you don't get it.

        You will find it tough to find a Federal Judge to allow you into his courtroom
        with this kind of issue. Call it 'civil rights', but you are wrong.
      • May 19 2013: R H
        Next time you have a contract to sign. Read it, mull it over, then draw a line through
        those parts you disagree with. Initial and date the ends of the lines, sign it, if you
        were going to, and hand it back for the other party to sign. Make sure you get a
        signed copy, before you leave.

        The shock value is worth the deed.
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          R H 30+

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          May 19 2013: That's the rub, isn't it? Since employment is 'at will', we have 'a choice'. Our choice is not to work for large successful profitable companies because they can exercise their right to, effectively, control my personal life. So if I am qualified to get, and want, a great job, I potentially could lose civil liberties. And that's my 'choice', to have my livelihood threatened at the expense of civil liberty. Shouldn't that be against the law?
  • May 18 2013: When you say employment is "at will," you are not indicating that employment is the route to money income that is essential for food, shelter,....i.e., staying alive. Face it, the job market is a slave market. Sometimes there is nice office decor for distraction from the fact that you give up your freedom for wages that are necessary to buy the car that takes you to the place where hours of your life are sold for survival. Let's re-design ALL SOCIETAL SYSTEMS to cause a health, happy, fulfilling, self-actualizing life for all earthlings. The current systems are failing to provide sufficient health and happiness for the vast majority of the world's population. Anything positive is possible. HAPPY TODAY.
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      R H 30+

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      May 18 2013: I see your point. Well, i guess we could all ' live off the land', and excercise our choice of peaceful resistance. Yea right.
      • May 18 2013: Perhaps there are infinite alternatives. No need to settle for what is, if it is not working well. What percentage of the world's population lives in satisfactory circumstances under the current way of doing business? Why continue using methods proven not to work effectively and efficiently? Open, open, open to positive new possibilities for co-creating goods and services and a healthy, happy world population. We can do that. Let's just let go of the erroneous ways of our ancestors instead of repeating their mistakes. POWER TO THE POSITIVE!