Paula Deen, Kid Rock, and Walmart: A Discourse on the Unprincipled Businessman
A long while ago, while I was in college, I remember reading an interview in Maxim Magazine which featured Kid Rock. I remember at the time finding him interesting -- a man openly and fondly talking about crack-dealing and prostitution and such, a long-haired wild-man chasing his own lusts through an American wasteland, an entertainer of incontinent and imbecilic youths (such as I was) made rich and famous not by virtue, but by vice.
What I remember most vividly about the interview, though, was a portion in which he was asked if the title of his then-new album was a sexual innuendo, to which he replied, "that *expletive* don't fly at Walmart." "A businessman!" I thought. "Here's a man whose love is music, who revels in revelry and feels comfortable amongst the pimps and prostitutes -- yet here he markets his work not entirely according to who he is, but according to what he can get!" And years later, in reflection these last few days, I've come to realize that despite the overwhelming amount of filth he promotes, he scrubs a few swear-words clean, and Walmart -- a business supposedly catering to wholesome America -- carries his somewhat "edited" product.
But aside from the absurdity of Walmart's hypocritical promotion of Kid Rock and other such artists, I find another. I find it bizarre that someone like Kid Rock, a man who openly promotes evils of every kind, should remain on Walmart's shelves, in direct contradiction to the few remaining values of what's called "wholesome America," and yet Paula Deen, a woman who promotes nothing evil but diabetes (as far as I am aware), can be found in her private life to have said something offensive to one black person and be pulled from the entire chain.
If this can be said to be a statement of anything -- and a statement it is, not simply made by a store, but the dominant retail chain in the world, a store considered by middle America to be iconically American -- it is of two things. The first, that the open promotion and/or glorification of evils such as drunkenness, fornication, prostitution, and such are considered less offensive than private professions of racism. The second, that if Americans still believe in business ethics, their ethics are entirely connected to their profits.
The first issue is fairly obvious, and perhaps the most offensive: that Americans (and Walmart) can approve the sale of anything, from sexually perverted murder scenes on screens large and small, to consent and glorification of every kind of vice, but yet, digging their heels in the ground and testifying they will go no further, they stop at an issue which endorses nothing, and affects only one. If this is a testimony to anything, it is that Americans -- on some primal level -- have become so fundamentally irrational that they cannot distinguish between open moral assaults on their children and something which requires a private apology.
But the second issue, while directly connected with the first, is not quite so obvious. In Walmart's open declaration that they refuse the sale of Paula Deen merchandise, they openly admit that they believe themselves needful of moral stances -- that businesses have an obligation to refuse sales of merchandise openly harmful and offensive to persons public and private. By refusing sale of Paula Deen, those in charge of Walmart declare they hold to a standard -- but what kind of a standard it is has yet to be proven.
We may of course say, as above, that if Walmart and other businesses hold to the standards of the American public, the standard is irrational. But I believe the standard of the businessman is something far more rational than the public's, and that the business operates according to a law of another nature. For Walmart has had plenty of chances to align its business with traditional Christian values, yet we know they've done otherwise. So, knowing that Walmart operates neither according to Christian principles nor even entirely according to anything of what remains of "wholesome" America, we seek another principle supreme in its efforts: that of the dollar.
It is fairly obvious that the businessman is in business not out of charity: as Smith so aptly noted in The Wealth of Nations, what drives the businessman is self-interest, the furtherance of his own survival and happiness. But when a businessman makes mammon supreme, telling himself that business is for the making of money, and that people will buy whatever they want, and that he has little or no role in making people better or worse, but only to cater to as many as possible, he declares his business ethics to be based not upon actual ethics -- not upon doing objective good to one's neighbor, and receiving good in return (that is, the only moral definition of business), but upon his own personal greed. And taking this idea one step farther, we may say that if the businessman's greed is based upon anything, it is upon an almost unprincipled democracy: the idea that the majority leads, and that the majority alone dictates what must and mustn't be done. In his pursuit of economic liberty, the businessman becomes spiritually enslaved; instead of standing strong, like a free man convinced that even should death obstruct him, it is better to die nobly than to live in shame, he becomes something passive and cowardly, filling his stomach with the cannibalized souls of countrymen.
The American public, irrational and imbalanced, hasn't sought Kid Rock; hasn't asked for the directors of Saw VI or The Rocky Horror Picture Show; hasn't stormed the stores about all the other filth and depravity over which they've had decades to show indignation. Rather, turning arms upon a chef, the public fought for the head of Paula Deen -- and Walmart gave it to them. Walmart gave it not for Walmart's own principles (if Walmart truly has any), nor for God's, but for its own enrichment -- a modern businessman's principle, but not a man's! An animal's survival, but not a person's! Like a dog in heat, Walmart presents itself to as many as possible -- not discriminating, like a true woman, between good and bad partners; choosing to seek happiness never in the noble and morally celebrated, but rather in almost every thing and almost every way whoring itself out for its own bread and water while reining itself in just enough to keep the imbecilically "moral" silent. Ugly Walmart! Ugly businessmen! Ugly America!
But there exists another kind of businessman, good and true: who sells for his neighbor's benefit, and not for his corruption; who takes part only in righteousness, and never in filth; whose stances are real, and not in pretense; whose deeds are done in the Law and will of God -- not in the will of mobs, not for dollars alone, not simply to prolong a meaningless and pitiable existence in which death is inevitable anyway, but for the sake of immortal righteousness.
These men are businessmen. And what shall we call the rest?