When Mom Dies

[posted to corp-focus on June 1]


By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

We both lost our mothers over the past year.

Both to cancer.

They were both decent, loving, generous mothers.
Different in many ways.

But fundamentally decent human beings.

Like most Americans.

They cared about their fellow human beings.

On a personal level, they cared.

They saw their fellow human beings, not as objects, but as like them.


They both worked for a better world.

And yet, despite their decency, and the fundamental decency of the majority of the American people, ours is in many ways not a society of which we can be proud.

The decency of the American people is not moving up the ladder.

This troubled our mothers.

And it troubles us.

Even though we both knew that we were going to lose our mothers — with some cancers, the writing is on the wall — when it happens, it’s a blow like no other.

You will have noticed that over the past couple years, we have not kept up with our pace of one article a week — one from Robert and one from Russell.

We have been taking care of our moms.

And then mourning our loss.

And in our sorrow, we have pondered this question — why decency often doesn’t translate into policy.

We know that many of you are working hard to figure this one out.

But let us first admit it — we have not figured it out.

Our society has figured out how to get to the moon and back.

And we’ve figured out how to build weapons of mass destruction and use them.

And we have figured out how to pack 5,000 songs in a single I-Pod.

And plug it into a tape deck so we can listen to any or all of them on our car stereo.

And we have figured out how to build in the television into the back seat of the mini-van so the kids don’t bother us on our trips to the beach for vacation.

And we have figured out how to order any of thousands of DVDs off of Netflix — and have them delivered to our homes — with no late fees.

And we have figured out how to take pictures on our cell phones — and e-mail those pictures instantaneously halfway around the world so our friends and family can see them.

And get instant ESPN sports reports on those cell phones.

But we haven’t figured out how to translate our fundamental decency into policy.

So that we are all covered with one system of national health insurance.

So that war becomes a relic.

So that poverty is eradicated.

In honor of our moms, we dedicate our lives to figure this out.

It’s not brain surgery.

Or rocket science.

We should be able to find a way.

Here’s one thing we know: People in positions of power too often don’t let their decency inform their decisions and actions. And they don’t think seriously about the lives and families of those they harm. Polluters, cigarette marketers, executives that price life-saving drugs out of reach, human rights abusers and their ilk could not live with themselves, and would not do what they do, if they had to take responsibility for the pain they cause.

Not responsibility in a criminal sense, just a moral one. No one is hard-hearted enough to bear the pain.

Here’s to you mom.

Back to work.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and director of Essential Action . Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).