This sickness, “The Customer Is King”!

“The Customer Is King”! This is an invitation to blind ignorance. This is a thinly disguised invitation to a culpable ignorance which leads straight to intolerance.

There can be no defence which says, for example, it is unnecessary to teach our young how to shop, on the grounds that we all turn a blind eye to what shopkeepers feel when we treat them as an object, as a yielding target for insults, or for unfair, degrading, and even malicious abuse.

I had a rude awakening to the scale of damage caused to society by ignorance and lack of self-critical awareness.

The fact of my waiting on one side of a shop counter to serve people coming to the other side of the counter unburies and releases vile impulses of bullying and physical aggression on the part of a large minority of “ordinary folk”.

When I worked in shops and department stores in Central London, I also found that almost any retail worker can recount gut-wrenching episodes of this behaviour.

If you wish to contribute your accounts of your own suffering in retail and customer service, I think it would be a useful way to open up the debate on this hidden sickness.

People turn a blind eye to such behaviour, or they assume it must be a sad but unavoidable fact of retail life.

What happens to fill the humanity void when we start out in the mornings and continue through our days ignorant of our ignorance, hardly giving a thought to our responsibility to act with awareness, kindness, tolerance and active compassion to the sensitivities of others, playing down or not caring about our duties care?

What happens is that the health of civil society becomes undermined and endangered.
The void of untutored ignorance and of willful ignorance is often filled by fear. Fear that breeds a wrong attachment to contempt, and by extension to hatred, in all aspects of human affairs.

In all homes, all families, and every workplace, in all districts, countries and continents, from the earliest age, “schooling” is slated to provide the next generation with the knowledge and equipment to become an acceptable unit of social conformity.

I asked once at secondary school what the difference was in university.

The answer I was given went along these lines. “You learn to do your own research, so you can think for yourself and teach yourself. A university education, regardless of the chosen course of study, should help to create a mind that is disciplined, able to make self-informed choices supported by logic and rational argument. Such skills are highly prized in the world of work.”

We could continue blindly to content ourselves to inculcate acceptance by our young of the old ways of handed down social norms.

If we go on accepting the status quo, then by the time the few are fortunate to become qualified auto-didacts, it becomes far too late for the many.

Too late to become aware of their state of ignorance concerning the depths and breadth of the needs of others we live and interact with in civil society.

And far too late for most of them to recognize and reverse their contribution to the damage to the health of the society we all belong to.

I believe with passion that important improvements in everyday human relations are waiting to be made by devoting time during the years of compulsory education to the subject of awareness training of our individual duty of care towards people in the places and on the occasions we necessarily interact.

I am speaking of everyday skills which are so taken for granted that they are assumed not to be valid subjects of study, and still less subjects for teaching.

I’m speaking of social interactions such as these –

student & teacher;

buyer & shopkeeper;

pedestrian & road user;

passenger & driver;

patient & doctor, nurse, first aid worker, or emergency services worker;

taxpayer & government official;

voter & representative.

Also, at one remove, I’m thinking of –

consumer & factory worker, consumer & farmer,

consumer & financial and legal services provider.

In short, all givers and receivers of the work and service of others.

Uncountable damage has been done to trust and mutual respect in society since the systematic and ruthless application of that dictum, “The Customer is King.”

“The Customer is King”, “The Customer is Always Right” is as outmoded, and as blatantly unjust as it is destructive. I want us to let it loosen its grip on us all, because with education we can come back to reclaim ourselves with self-respect.

We can again, every one of us, reclaim our individual rights as Kings and Queens in our own domains, and not divided unnaturally into customers and servants.

I owe a living to no one other than me. No other person owes me a living. I do not say, “Get a life”. I do my best to live my own, so I know when I meet and truly interact, my own best will be one more light by which to see each other more clearly.

I make no case for unattainable expensive changes to create a vague and fluffy utopia . I say, teach how to see and feel things from the other person’s view initially by simple role-play.

Don’t teach by saying, “How would you like it if someone did [something nasty] ?… “
Offer practical role-play exercises, and say, “Now swap places. Swap roles. See what resources you need to draw on to give. See how different it is to take.”

Discover a whole world in giving and taking. And then tell us how you can change the way you are, at home, in the street, at school, at work, everywhere.

… … …


SEE “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard 1957, the original inoculation against consumer manipulation.


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